Tutorful logo
Become a tutor Login
Back to Blog
Ace the 11+: When to Begin? Timing & Prep Tips

Ace the 11+: When to Begin? Timing & Prep Tips

Navigating the 11+ exams can be a daunting task for parents and students alike. The key to success lies in a combination of thorough preparation, understanding the exam structure, and leveraging resources effectively. Here's your roadmap to mastering the 11+ exams.

Understanding the 11+ Exams:

The 11+ exam, commonly taken by students in Year 6, is a gateway to grammar and independent secondary schools. Its primary focus is to gauge a student's aptitude in core subjects like Maths, English, Verbal Reasoning, and Non-Verbal Reasoning. Each subject demands a unique approach and set of skills, making it crucial to tailor your preparation accordingly.

When are the 11+ exams?

The 11+ exams are typically taken at the beginning of Year 6, when students are aged 10 or 11. The exact timing can vary slightly based on the region and the specific school, but most exams are sat in September. However, some schools might have their exams in late summer or even as late as January.

Here's a general breakdown:

Late Summer (end of Year 5): Some regions or independent schools might conduct their exams during this period.

September (start of Year 6): This is the most common time for grammar schools across various regions.

January (during Year 6): A few schools, especially some independent ones, might opt for a post-Christmas exam.

It's essential to note that registration for these exams often closes well in advance, sometimes as early as the summer term of Year 5. Therefore, parents are advised to check the specific dates for their chosen schools and regions to ensure they don't miss out on important deadlines.

September is our busiest time of year, so make sure you book a tutor well in advance to give your child the best shot in their 11+ exams.

Young boy studying on his laptop at a desk

Understanding the 11+ Exam Subjects: Here’s What to Expect

Maths: This section evaluates a student's numerical abilities and understanding of mathematical concepts.

English: From comprehension tasks to creative writing, this part tests the grasp of the English language.

Verbal Reasoning: This component assesses the ability to analyse textual information and solve problems using language.

Non-Verbal Reasoning: Here, the focus is on understanding and interpreting visual information, often in the form of patterns or sequences.

Which Exam Board is Used For the 11+ Exams?

Different regions or schools might use different exam boards for the 11+ (such as GL or CEM). Each board has its specific style and emphasis. Familiarising yourself with the particular board your child will be assessed by can offer insights into the exam's nuances and help tailor the preparation.

When and How to Start Preparing For the 11+ Exams

  • Early Exploration (2 years before the exam): Start with light introductions. Think of it as laying the foundation. Encourage advanced reading, and discuss topics during family times to nurture curiosity.

  • Structured Learning (18 months before the exam): Now, we're setting the path. Introduce a study routine. This could be 20-30 minutes daily or 2-3 times a week, focusing on one subject at a time. A little focused effort each day, combined with specific 11+ materials, can lead to significant progress.

  • Practice and Mastery (1 year before the exam): If you notice certain areas are particularly challenging for your child, this is the time to focus on them, you can extend study sessions to 40 - 50 minutes with breaks.

  • Mock Examinations (6-8 months before the exam): Practice makes perfect. Familiarise your child with the exam format and environment using practice papers. This helps in reducing anxiety on the actual day.

  • Revision and Reinforcement (3-4 months before the exam): Revisit. Reinforce. Ensure your child is comfortable with all topics including the ones they found challenging, using interactive tools like videos for better understanding.

  • Relax and Stay Positive (1 month before the exam): It's essential. Reducing stress and ensuring your child is mentally prepared can be as crucial as the study itself.

Check out our article if you need some tips on creating a revision timetable.

Finding the Right 11+ Exam Strategy For Your Child

Every child is unique, and preparing for the 11+ is no different. It's about finding the right approach that suits your child's individual strengths and areas for development.

Young girl answering questions in a workbook

Starting with the Initial Assessment:

Before diving into a study plan, it helps to know where your child currently stands. Think of an initial assessment like a study roadmap—it showcases strengths and pinpoints where a little more attention might be needed.

The Big Question: Tutor or Self-Study?

Private Tuition:

Considering a tutor? Hiring an 11+ tutor offers personalised guidance tailored just for your child. Regular sessions can provide structured learning, timely feedback, and tailored support to meet your child's specific needs.


If you're thinking about the self-study route, it's a commendable choice. It's all about fostering independence and discipline. With the right tools and resources, your child can navigate their 11+ preparation effectively.

Speaking of Resources:

Starting with workbooks and online tools is a great first step, but there's more out there. Dive into recommended books and highly-rated online platforms to offer a diverse range of study materials.

📔A Note for Parents:

Your role isn't just about finding study materials. Being there as a pillar of support, to listen, and to motivate, is invaluable. Keep the lines of communication open, understand their concerns, and offer reassurance as they gear up for the exam.

Exam Day Tips:

  • On the day, remind your child of these essentials:

  • Stay Calm: It's natural to have jitters, but a calm mind can make a significant difference.

  • Time Management: It's about pacing. Not getting stuck and ensuring every question gets its due time.

Review: If there's time left, a quick review can catch any oversights.

After the 11+ Exam: What's Next?

Dealing with Post-Exam Feelings:

  • Once the exam is done, give your child a well-deserved break and focus on their well-being.

  • Celebrate the effort they put in, regardless of the outcome.

  • When results arrive, use it as an opportunity to praise their achievements and discuss areas of growth.

Understanding the Results:

  • Every result is a step forward. Celebrate successes and view challenges as areas for growth.

  • Remember: One exam doesn't determine a child's entire academic future.

Considering Alternatives if Results Don't Align:

  • The 11+ is a primary entry point to grammar schools, but if results aren't as expected, it's not the end of the road. There are numerous other reputable educational opportunities and institutions to explore that may be a great fit for your child's talents and aspirations.

Balancing Academics with Personal Growth:

  • While academics are crucial, ensure your child continues with hobbies, sports, and other activities they love. It's about creating a well-rounded individual ready for any challenge

The 11+ exams are a pivotal point in a child's academic journey. With the right guidance, resources, and mindset, they can tackle this challenge with confidence. The journey might be challenging, but with dedication, understanding, and support, success is within reach.

Promotional banner offering £25 credit for a first tutoring session. Instructions to register and find a tutor, with icons symbolizing learning and connection.

Hannah C

Hannah C

1st Sep 2023