11 Plus Exam Preparation Guide and Tips

If you’re a parent seeking guidance on helping your child excel in the 11 Plus exam or a primary school student preparing for the challenge ahead, this guide is tailored to provide you with essential information, strategies, and practical advice on 11 Plus preparation and more.

Let’s discover how to make this 11 Plus exam preparation journey a breeze. 

What Is the 11 Plus Exam For?

1 Plus Exam Preparation Guide and Tips

The 11 Plus Exam is an entrance exam that determines the admission of a child, aged 10-11, to state-funded secondary schools such as grammar schools based on academic proficiency. Conducted in September of Year 6, it assesses a child’s ability on core subjects in line with Key Stage 2 national curriculum objectives, including Year 6 level content not yet covered in school. 

GL Assessment is the major exam board. CEM, known for posing challenging questions, is also widely used for 11 Plus exams. 

There isn’t a universal pass mark for the 11 Plus, as it depends on the local authority or target school admissions criteria and exam performance. Usually, the score is age-standardised to remove any disadvantage for younger children taking the exam.

While about 85% of children may not secure school places in their target schools, early 11 Plus preparation with appropriate tools and support can enhance a child’s chances.

But, deciding if your child sits the 11 Plus is a personal choice. Consider their grades and school reports. Are your child’s results above average or do they do well academically? Can they handle the test without too much extra help? Also, talk to the teachers to help understand your child’s challenges and strengths.

Why Should My Child Prepare for the 11 Plus Exam?

The 11 Plus is challenging and designed to identify students who excel in an academically demanding environment. By preparing, you’re essentially tailoring your child’s education to suit their abilities and creating a strong learning path for them.

Success in the 11 Plus preparation can open doors to future academic and career opportunities. The 11 plus exam is the gateway to selective schools such as grammar schools and independent schools which are renowned for their rigorous academic standards and enriched learning environments.

Getting into a grammar school means your child can access an education tailored to their academic ability. Many parents see it as a chance to provide a solid foundation for their child’s educational journey.

In short, 11 Plus exam preparation ensures your child is well-equipped for the challenges of secondary school and beyond. Start preparing with the unwavering support of parents, who play a pivotal role in creating a conducive study environment for their children.

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How Can My Child Prepare for the 11 Plus Exam at Home?

1 Plus Exam Preparation Guide and Tips

Preparing your child for the 11 Plus exam at home can be a stress-free and enjoyable journey. Here’s a simple 11 Plus preparation guide to help your child shine in the exam and secure a spot in that coveted grammar school.

Start Early and Build a Strong Foundation

Start gearing up for the 11 Plus exam in Year 4 or 5. This will give ample time for your child to grasp the exam’s style and content.

And, before diving into practice paper, ensure your child has a solid understanding of the 11 Plus content. Jumping straight into past papers can demotivate a child, so take the time to build the child’s knowledge in the four subjects: English, Maths, Non-Verbal Reasoning, and Verbal Reasoning.

Know Your Child’s Abilities and Learning Style

Understand your child’s strengths and weaknesses. While it might seem logical to evenly spread efforts across all four key areas, it may not be efficient. Use a sample test to get an accurate map of your child’s abilities. This helps you tailor your Eleven Plus preparation to focus on areas that need improvement, ensuring a more effective study plan.

Also, evaluate your child’s preferred learning style, whether they prefer your presence or solitude, and the best time for them to work.

Set a Routine

Establish a regular time each week for 11 Plus exam preparation. Having a set schedule prevents battles over study time and provides a structure for both you and your child. Starting with one evening a week and gradually increasing as the exam approaches helps build learning momentum and avoids overwhelming pressure.

Start with Core Skills

Start the 11 Plus preparation journey by focusing on core skills early on. Concentrate on fundamental skills like reading comprehension, reading accuracy and speed, and mental maths.

Encourage a love for reading, both fiction and non-fiction. A wide vocabulary enhances both literacy skills and verbal reasoning and puts a child at a great advantage in the 11 Plus.

In Maths questions, rock-solid times tables are the key to success. Ensure your child is confidently familiar with tables, including the trickier ones.

Use Eleven Plus Practice Papers

Introduce practice papers once your child is comfortable with the 11 Plus curriculum. Regular practice with exam papers familiarises them with question formats, timings, and essential time management skills. As the exam approaches, do more practice papers over conceptual learning to ensure your child is well-acquainted with the exam conditions.

You can access a variety of free and paid practice papers online.

Think Outside the Paper

Not every child thrives on endless practice papers. Embrace the fact that kids absorb knowledge from their surroundings, so take the learning beyond the paper. 

To do this, explore news articles during breakfast and turn them into 11 Plus-style questions on the way to school. You can also stick numeracy challenges on post-it notes around the house, play word games in supermarket queues, transform car rides into times-table singalongs, introduce a word-of-the-day challenge, spice up learning with treasure hunts, and decode clues through non-verbal pictures—the possibilities are endless!

Develop Exam Techniques

Revision and practice tests are crucial but don’t overlook exam techniques. Encourage your child to develop their approach to each paper, including the order they tackle questions, reading strategies, and steps to minimise careless errors. Discussing past papers and creating a game plan helps solidify their exam technique and makes a significant difference on exam day.

Avoid Overdoing Practice

Do not overburden your child with excessive practice papers. If your child excels, there is no need for redundant practice. If they’re struggling, take it slowly or yet, consider if a grammar school is the right fit for them. 

Breaks are crucial. Every 30 to 50 minutes, give them 5-10 minutes to recharge. Just as muscles need recovery after exercise, the brain requires rest. Physical activity, hot chocolate, or a relaxing bath can aid in relaxation. 

Steer clear of constant exam chatter during downtime. Keep post-study discussions light and diverse.

Celebrate Small Wins

The 11 Plus journey can be stressful for your little one. So, rather than focusing on fear, parents should celebrate their efforts. Reward every small step toward improvement. Just a pat on the back goes a long way. This will also teach your child self-appreciation and perseverance through positive reinforcement.

Parents can also combat the fear of failure by showing love and support and emphasising progress over perfection. Stay light-hearted and positive. After all, you’re both on the same team, cheering for success!

Nourish Their Mind and Body

A balanced diet and regular exercise are essential for optimal brain function. Limit sugary treats to help maintain their focus. Ensure your child gets enough sleep as it significantly impacts brain function. 

What Is the Best Way to Prepare for 11 Plus?

1 Plus Exam Preparation Guide and Tips

In choosing the best approach for your child, balance the benefits and drawbacks to find what suits your family’s preferences and needs and find the right learning approach that aligns with your child’s abilities and interests. When you can, consider combining at least two approaches for a varied and engaging learning experience.

Here are some options to help you in your 11 Plus preparation:

Private Tuition 

One-on-one tutoring brings personalised attention and tailored work, but it demands organising and travel, with variable tutor quality and teaching skills. The cost ranges from £2,500 to £5,000 per year. 

Group Tuition

Tuition groups for 11 Plus involve a third party and interaction with peers but still require organising, travel, and extra costs.

Guided or Structured Courses

11 Plus Guided courses offer tailored home-based learning with tutor support via phone and email. Structured courses cut the tutor support and can be engaging and cost-effective, but like guided courses, they require work at home.

Home Study

For a more hands-on approach, consider books at home or the many free resources available online. While it gives you control and allows targeted focus, it requires time and knowledge from the parents. For most, this is the most attractive option in terms of cost.

When Should I Start Preparing for 11 Plus?

The quick answer: sooner rather than later!  The exams are no walk in the park, so early 11 Plus preparation is advisable. 

Some kids may lose interest if they start too early, while others need a steady approach to build confidence. However, a long-term approach is ideal and can at any primary school stage.

Start laying the foundation in Year 4, focusing on essential math and English skills including reading comprehension as well as introducing the exam content. In Year 5, dive into exam techniques, speed, accuracy, and advanced content. 

Regular practice, especially in the summer holidays leading up to the exam, helps a child become familiar with the format and build confidence.

How Difficult Is the 11 Plus Exam For Grammar School?

The difficulty of the exam varies from one child to another. Their prior knowledge, learning experiences, and unique strengths contribute to the challenge. While some children thrive in this demanding environment, others may find it more tricky.

The exam introduces challenges in both verbal reasoning and non-verbal reasoning skills and places a significant emphasis on problem-solving skills. Children must navigate complex scenarios and showcase how effectively they can think on their feet. Some exams also use a creative writing paper, challenging their English and vocabulary skills. 

The exam hall, where children sit alongside other children under the watchful eyes of examiners, adds a layer of pressure. This will challenge their mental resilience.

But, to make the test seem less tricky, thorough 11 Plus preparation is important. Mock tests, practice papers, a solid grasp of the national curriculum, and all the support a parent can give make invaluable tools.