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How to Pass The 11 Plus Exams

How to Pass The 11 Plus Exams

Passing the Eleven Plus (or 11+) can open up all sorts of doors for your child – whether it’s getting into your local grammar school or gaining a place at a selective independent. But how can you get your child to pass the 11 Plus?

Here are our top tips on how to pass the 11 Plus exams, so you can help your child get into their top choice secondary school and unlock the bright future they deserve.

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How can I get my child to pass the 11 Plus?

Although there’s never a guarantee your child will pass the 11 Plus, there are tons of things you can do to help them ace the exams. 

Here’s the lowdown.

1. Scope out your child’s exam board

First things first, it’s important to know exactly what your child is going to come up against in the exams.

There are two exam boards for the 11 Plus – the Centre for Evaluation and Monitoring (CEM) and Granada Learning (GL). 

Which exam your child sits will depend on their location. Some regions use a mix of both exam boards, while grammar schools in Surrey write their own test papers using the Selective Eligibility Test (SET).

Meanwhile, many independent schools use the The Independent Schools Examinations Board (ISEB).

Although the exam formats for each are very similar, there are some differences that will affect what your child needs to prepare. So, take the time to understand exactly what will be covered in your child’s exam.

2. Prepare your child for the 11 Plus exams early

It’s never too early to start preparing your child for the 11 Plus exams. The phrase ‘slow and steady wins the race’ definitely applies here.

Most experts recommend starting to prepare for the 11 Plus from Year 4, and no later than the beginning of Year 5. Why?

Well, the 11 Plus exams are extensive and designed to encourage your child to tackle challenging topics that aren’t covered at school. 

Preparing your child early will give them the best chance to master new topics and skills. It’s also the best way to improve their confidence so that they can feel positive walking into the exams when the time comes.

Child starting 11 Plus exam preparation early

3. Get a tutor to help prepare for the 11 Plus

One great way of helping your child to pass the 11 Plus is to enlist the support of an experienced 11+ tutor.

The right tutor will be able to support you and your child every step of the way when it comes to 11 Plus preparation. This includes helping your child to:

  • Understand exactly what’s involved in the exams

  • Understand and practise specialist skills, such as verbal and non-verbal reasoning

  • Cover the topics in Key Stage 2 in greater depth for the exams

  • Build confidence and resilience under pressure

  • Practise the exact questions, formats and skills required for the exam

  • Stay motivated and focused on learning

  • Understand their strengths and weaknesses and tailor their learning plan accordingly

  • Take regular mock tests

  • Learn the specific test strategies that will help them stand out

  • Access the right resources to support them when they’re not being tutored

Of course, there are things you can do yourself to help prepare your child for the 11 Plus. But there are likely some areas of weakness where you might struggle to support your child – whether that’s non-verbal reasoning or marking mock tests.

A tutor is an experienced professional who knows what they’re doing. They’ll be able to fill the gaps for you, giving your child dedicated one-on-one time so that they’re ready and equipped for the real thing when the big day rolls around!

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4. Prepare for every element of the exams

Whichever exam board your child has, the 11+ exams will usually cover:

  • English

  • Maths

  • Verbal reasoning

  • Non-verbal reasoning

In the English section of the exam, your child will be tested on spelling, punctuation, grammar, comprehension, sentence structure, vocabulary and literacy.

Meanwhile, the non-verbal reasoning section will test your child on shapes and spatial awareness.

It’s important to include all of these topics in your child’s 11 Plus exam preparation, to make sure they’re fully prepared.

Mother helping her child to pass the 11 Plus

5. Make learning exciting

When it comes to actually learning and practising the skills needed to pass the 11 Plus, try to use techniques that are engaging and memorable.

The best way to prepare for the English comprehension section of the exam is through reading and discussion.

If your child isn’t keen on reading, try to get them excited about it by reading a book together. Then, spend time discussing new vocabulary and interesting descriptive language with them.

The more texts and genres they’re exposed to, the better!

Similarly, you can help your child to pass the non-verbal reasoning section of the exams by using fun maths games. You could also study mirror images and use objects to work on addition and subtraction.

Ultimately, try to work out what learning techniques your child engages with, and prioritise those.

"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

6. Find what motivates your child

Preparing for the 11 Plus is a marathon, not a sprint. But how do you keep your child motivated and engaged for the duration?

Every child is different. So, it’s all about finding the right motivation for them.

A few ideas include reward systems, teaming them up with a study partner and splitting their learning into small chunks.

A 10 or 11-year-old can usually only concentrate for around half an hour before they start to lose focus. So, divide up their learning into half-an-hour chunks to make sure you’re not overdoing it.

Remember, a tutor can also help to motivate your child – they can act as your child’s own personal cheerleader, celebrating their successes and boosting their confidence and motivation every time.

“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.

“When you choose the right 11+ tutor, your child will benefit from a mentor as much as an educator.”

- Rachel B, qualified tutor and examiner

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7. Use 11 Plus practice papers

Practice papers are a great way to help your child get familiar with the layout of the exam.

They’re also handy for helping your child to understand how to manage their time in an exam setting. And they give you a clear picture of where your child’s strengths and weaknesses are, so you can focus more of your time on the areas they’re struggling with.

It’s a good idea to introduce regular practice papers under timed conditions around halfway through your child’s study schedule. 

This way, they’ll have plenty of time to get used to answering the questions under exam conditions – which can help to reduce exam fear and anxiety in the run up to the big day.

8. Don’t pile on the stress

No matter how well prepared your child is, exam situations can be stressful.

The last thing you want is to add more stress and anxiety to their plate by pressuring them to do well. Not only is pressure going to negatively affect your child’s mental health, but it can also affect their ability to do well!

So, despite how you might be feeling, try to avoid passing on your anxiety to your child.

Give them plenty of breaks from studying and spend time having fun.

Although the 11 Plus exams are important, whatever happens, life will go on! The most important thing is that your child is well prepared so they can show the exam board what they can do. The rest is out of your control.

Find a tutor to help your child pass the 11 Plus exams

Take the pressure off yourself and your child, with one-to-one 11 Plus tuition from our experienced tutors.

From week-by-week plans, to practice exams, our handpicked tutors will support your child every step of the way, with a personalised teaching plan to help them get into the school they want.

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How do you pass the 11+ easily?

The best way to pass the 11 Plus without breaking a sweat is to start early. Most experts recommend starting in Year 4, or at the latest the beginning of Year 5.

How hard is the 11 Plus exam?

The 11 Plus exam is extensive and challenging. After all, it’s designed to spot children who are working at the top of their age group.

What is the pass rate for the 11+?

The pass rate for the 11 Plus is estimated to be around 30%. However, this can change depending on the location of the school, as some regions are more difficult than others. 

Read our article on whether your child will pass the 11 Plus to learn more.

How can I help my child pass the 11 Plus?

You can help your child to pass the 11 Plus by going through the syllabus strategically with them. 

It can be useful to build their skills through reading, discussion and maths games. Plus, regular practice papers will help them to get used to answering questions in exam conditions. 

An experienced 11 Plus tutor will be able to create a tailored learning plan for your child to help them pass.

What to do if your child fails the 11 Plus?

If your child fails the 11 Plus, reassure them that it’s not the end of the world, and that there’s a plan B.

If you think there might have been a mistake, you can sometimes appeal their 11 Plus exam result. Just bear in mind that most appeals aren’t successful.

Usually, an appeal will only be granted if the exam board hasn’t followed the right procedures, or if there’s proof that your child will be at harm from not attending their top choice of school.

Can a child pass 11 Plus without tutoring?

Some children are able to pass the 11 Plus without tutoring, especially in areas that are less competitive. However, getting a tutor is worth it, especially if your child’s school doesn’t offer much 11 Plus support. 

A tutor will give your child the best possible chance of fulfilling their potential in the exams, with one-on-one attention and support tailored to their strengths and weaknesses.

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Imogen Beech

Imogen Beech

12th Jun 2024