Effective 11+ Exam Preparation: What You and Your Child Need to Know

11+ exam preparation tips

Do you have your sights set on sending your child to a selective school? The question of preparation for the 11+ exam can’t be far from your mind, however old they currently are.  

If you feel your child is an academically-gifted overachiever, there is no reason why they couldn’t make it into that dream school. But the 11+ exam can be a challenging process for even the most talented children. That’s why you need a proper strategy for how you prepare.  

Here are a few things you and your child need to take into consideration in how you approach preparation for the 11+ exam.  


1. What are the 11+ exam arrangements in your area? 

There is no set curriculum for the 11+ exam, and its provision varies by region. Only a minority of UK counties still host grammar schools. Even within these counties, examination protocols for these schools can vary.  

For instance, some boroughs and councils like KentGloucestershire and Redbridge set their own 11+ tests for grammar schools within their areas. However, other regions like Devon see tests varying between different Local Authorities and ‘consortiums’ of grammar schools.  

Many independent schools will set their own 11+ admissions tests, so you should do some research into the priorities of your target schools.  

These exams will largely be testing the same skills. Yet the way they work, and the way you should best prepare for them, can differ substantially. Generally speaking, 11+ exams will be assessed by one of two external boards: the CEM and the GL Assessment. Check your local authority to see which particular assessment you need to get ready for.


2. Seed the right skill set early  

Generally speaking, the 11+ exam tests four core areas: MathsEnglishVerbal Reasoning (VR) and Non-Verbal Reasoning (NVR). These are the fundamental skills that your child develops over the course of their primary education.  

This is why building the groundwork for the 11+ exam starts a lot earlier than Year 5. During the first years of Key Stage 2, parents should seek to proactively supplement their child’s school education and develop these fundamental abilities.  

For English and VR, this might mean encouraging lots of extracurricular reading, with parents sitting down with their children to discuss what they’ve read. For Maths and NVR, we would recommend parents take an engaged approach from Year 3 onwards to reinforce classroom learning of baseline skills like times tables. This is where the involvement of a private tutor could be transformative.  

This early core preparation will instil a fluency that, over the course of a few years, is likely to translate into 11+ exam success.  


3. Don’t start the harder work too early  

11+ exam preparation should be regarded as a marathon, not a sprint. The exams are designed to sniff out above-average capability in the staple functions of the curriculum up to this point. As a parent, you can help by judiciously adding value to your child’s school education where possible.  

Pace is the trick here. Overstretching your child too early could damage their progress. We would strongly recommend against pushing your child to do past papers and other timed, formal practice tests at any point other than the immediate run-up to the exam itself.  

Such an approach would not even correspond to the nature of the assessment. The 11+ exams test for skills that children cultivate over a series of years. Forcing them to trial these skills prematurely could be catastrophic for their confidence.  

Nurture your child’s abilities by providing support and encouraging smarter study skills, rather than through relentless evaluation.  


4. Private tutoring can help you prepare for the 11+ exam 

Preparation for these exams requires a phased, holistic and patient approach that complements your child’s classroom learning. But many parents find it hard to make enough time to deliver all this themselves.  

Education professionals are well-versed in this kind of gradual approach to developing kids’ core capabilities. This is why many parents enlist the help of private tutors to ready their children for the 11+ assessments.  

One-on-one teaching allows private tutors to produce a precise picture of a child’s strengths and weaknesses in core subjects. They can then build a lesson plan leading towards the 11+ exam, zeroing in on areas of difficulty and tackling them effectively. This kind of individualised attention is simply not on offer in a class of over 30 other children.  


TuitionWorks is here to help your child 

TuitionWorks connects pupils with qualified teachers for Maths and English lessons on our state-of-the-art online platform. Our tutors devise and teach bespoke lesson plans tailored around all pupils’ major examinations, including the 11+.  

We provide everyone interested with a free online assessment that gauges your child’s current abilities. We then arrange a free consultation with your chosen tutor to discuss the results and plan a successful series of one-on-one lessons.  

Our tutors can prepare your child for the 11+ exam with a well-paced, in-depth course that builds essential skills in Maths and English. To get started, get in touch and arrange your free assessment now.  

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