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Your 11 Plus Preparation Guide

Your 11 Plus Preparation Guide

Thorough preparation is key to helping your child to fulfil their potential in the 11 Plus – or 11+ – exams. In this 11 Plus preparation guide, we’ll break down all you need to know about preparing for the exams – from when to start to whether tutoring is really necessary. 

How do I prepare my child for the 11+?

The 11 Plus exams are extensive and challenging. So, there are many different aspects you’ll need to cover when it comes to helping your child to pass the 11 Plus.

Here’s how to prepare.

Encourage reading

First things first, don’t underestimate the importance of reading.

Encourage your child to read as much and as broad a range of materials as possible. Where you can, listen to them read and discuss the text with them. This can be invaluable to help with the English comprehension section of the exam.

“I encourage reading, reading and more reading - most students find the Comprehension part difficult."

- Lynne H, experienced 11+ and entrance exam tutor

Cover the whole syllabus

Make sure to find out exactly what will be covered in your child’s exam – different schools and regions will use different exam boards, while some may even write their own test papers.

Although there will be slight differences, your child’s exam will usually cover:

  • English

  • Maths

  • Verbal reasoning

  • Non-verbal reasoning

It’s important to address all of these areas in your child’s 11 Plus exam preparation, to make sure they’re ready for everything they’re likely to face.

Find 11 Plus preparation opportunities

Not all of your child’s 11 Plus preparation has to involve formal learning.

Rather, there are opportunities to prepare your child for the 11 Plus exams everywhere – whether it’s through games of Scrabble, completing a crossword or asking your child to tally up the value of your shopping on a trip to the supermarket!

Remember, your child will learn best if you make an effort to really engage them and make learning fun.

"One activity I would always suggest a parent to do with a child that can benefit them is to put a photo of a logo and then get the students to not only guess where the logo’s from (for a bit of fun) but to draw the logo rotated 90 degrees clockwise and draw it again rotated 180 degrees.

"A student’s ability to successfully rotate can be very pivotal, especially for the NVR.”

- Matthew B, tutor and qualified primary school teacher

Introduce practice papers

Introducing your child to 11 Plus past papers will help them to become familiar with the format of the exam, and will also highlight areas that they need to work on further.

Make sure to give them plenty of opportunities to complete practice papers under timed conditions. This way, your child will get used to answering questions as if it were the real thing, which can help to boost their confidence and prevent exam fear on the day.

It will also give them lots of time to work on exam techniques like time management, which will give them the best chance of passing the 11 Plus.

Get the help of a tutor

11 Plus tuition can help to give your child the best possible chance of passing the exams and getting into their top-choice school.

An 11 Plus tutor is an experienced professional who will assess your child and create a tailored learning plan to help them reach their full potential.

They’ll give your child one-on-one attention, working with their strengths, weaknesses and learning style to make sure they’re fully prepared for the 11 Plus with plenty of time to spare.

“I’ve been tutoring 11+ students for 7 years now, and every student I’ve worked with has achieved an offer from their chosen school/s.

“I work with your child on their strengths and their weaknesses using a variety of past papers, self-made materials, quizzes, and games."

- Rachel B, qualified tutor and examiner

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When to start 11 Plus preparation

As a general guide, it’s best to start 11 Plus preparation at least a year before the exam.

Most children take the exams in Year 6. So, in an ideal world, this means starting preparation from Year 4 or the beginning of Year 5 at the latest.

However, in reality, the earlier you start the better.

It’s never too soon to encourage your child to build the core skills needed to succeed in the 11 Plus exams – such as a love of reading and a strong foundation in core subjects. These can then be built on nearer the time.

Your 11 Plus exam preparation timeline

Here’s a rough timeline to help you understand what you can do to help prepare your child for the 11 Plus throughout Key Stage 2.

11 Plus preparation Year 3

Year 3 11 Plus preparation is all about building the foundations your child will need to be successful in the exams.

This includes:

  • Fostering a love of reading

  • Securing the core basics of maths

  • Building vocabulary

It’s also a good time to address any weaknesses in core areas like maths and English. For instance, some parents choose to hire a subject tutor at this early stage to help their child master the core curriculum.

By addressing weaker areas early, you can set your child up for success and give them a solid foundation to work from.

Girl studying for the 11+ online

11 Plus preparation Year 4

Year 4 11 Plus preparation should help your child to build on the skills they’ve been learning in Year 3.

However, as the year progresses, it can also be a good time to start introducing more formal 11 Plus preparation.

For example, you might:

  • Explain the different question types for verbal and non verbal reasoning

  • Use practice questions and examples

  • Introduce vocabulary lists and lists of Maths definitions

But this doesn’t mean that you can’t continue to make learning fun. For instance, maths games, mirror images and using objects to work on addition and subtraction can all help your child to gain the skills needed.

Most experts recommend that if your child starts 11 Plus tuition, they do so from Year 4 – or at the latest, the beginning of Year 5. Which brings us onto…

11 Plus preparation Year 5

As your child enters Year 5, this is when your 11 Plus preparation will generally step up a gear. 

Most children who end up getting 11 Plus tuition tend to start this in September or January of Year 5. After all, most children sit the exams in Year 6 – so, there’s only a year to go and every week counts!

This is the time to put all the skills your child has built into practice, and help them understand how to translate their knowledge and skills into marks in the exam.

This includes:

  • Working on exam techniques

  • Practising on the answer sheet

  • Doing practice papers under exam conditions

It’s also important to regularly assess where your child is at and what areas they need to work on with plenty of time to practise and improve ahead of the big day.

Last minute 11 Plus preparation

As the big day draws nearer, you might be wondering how best to prepare your child with the remaining time you have available.

As a general rule, it’s a good idea to increase the amount of exam practice that you do with your child at this point.

This will help them to manage their nerves and practise for the real deal.

It will also allow you to see where they’re losing marks, and support them in improving in those areas.

If you haven’t already got an 11 Plus tutor onboard, now is your last chance to do so. A tutor will be able to address any areas where your child is consistently losing marks, and help them to wrap their head around any key concepts they’re struggling with to help them improve as much as possible before the big day.

Remember, at this late stage in the day, it’s all about focusing on the areas where you can make the most difference – whether that’s non-verbal reasoning, time management or simply giving your child that confidence boost they need!

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How much should I prepare for the 11+?

The 11 Plus exams are extensive and challenging. So, your 11 Plus preparation should be too!

It’s important to make sure that you leave no stone unturned and that you cover every element of the exams.

It’s also important that you give your child plenty of time to adjust to the different facets of the 11 Plus, and to practise answering the questions under exam conditions.

However, you mustn’t overdo it either, as the last thing you want is to burn your child out.

Rather, divide your 11 Plus preparation into bite-sized chunks and focus on consistency over quantity.

Remember, a 10 or 11-year-old can usually only concentrate for around half an hour before they start to lose focus. Encouraging them to prepare little and often will ensure that they’re covering everything they need to while maintaining focus and motivation.

As a rough guide, an hour or two of preparation a week should be about right for most children. Just bear in mind that every child is different and the earlier you start, the less you’ll need to cram!

Can a child pass the 11 Plus without tutoring?

Yes, it’s certainly possible for a child to pass the 11 Plus without tutoring. This is especially the case if:

  • The schools in your area are less competitive

  • Your child is highly academic

  • Your child is motivated to put in the work

However, there are no guarantees that your child will pass the 11 Plus. Even if they’re good at English and maths at school, they won’t necessarily find the exam easy as the questions can be written in a way that takes practice to understand.

With that in mind, 11 Plus tuition will give your child the best possible chance of being fully prepared and fulfilling their potential on the day.

An 11 Plus tutor is a dedicated professional who has experience getting pupils into their top-choice schools, and will have a range of techniques up their sleeve to help your child get the results they’re after. 

Find a tutor to help with preparation for the 11 Plus exams

As a parent, we understand that you want the best for your child. But you don’t have to tackle 11 Plus exam preparation alone.

Rather, an experienced 11 Plus tutor will be able to take the pressure off yourself and your child with one-to-one, targeted 11 Plus exam preparation.

From week-by-week plans, to practice exams, our handpicked tutors will support your child every step of the way, with personalised learning to help them get into their first-choice school.

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When should you start preparing for 11 Plus?

It’s never too early to start preparing for the 11 Plus. We’d recommend starting informal 11 Plus preparation as early as Year 3 by encouraging your child to read extensively and making sure they have a solid understanding of core subjects like English and maths.

What age to start tutoring for the 11+?

Most experts recommend you start tutoring for the 11+ from Year 4 or, at the latest, the beginning of Year 5. This usually means starting between the ages of 8 and 10.

How hard is it to pass the 11 Plus?

The 11 Plus is hard – after all, it’s designed to identify the pupils who are performing at the top of their age group.

Around 30% of pupils pass the 11 Plus each year, but this can vary depending on your location. For instance, in some areas of London where there is a high population but fewer grammar schools, around 30 pupils typically compete for just one place!

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Imogen Beech

Imogen Beech

24th Jun 2024