Preparing for the eleven plus exam is vital if you want your child to do well. As well as studying there are many other ways you can help your child. Private tutoring may be of use but is not absolutely necessary
To gain a place in a grammar school children aged ten will have to be amongst the best performers in the infamous 11 plus exam. Competition for the much sought-after places can be intense, so giving your child the best chance possible is important.
In other articles we have looked at the questions in the 11-plus exam, and what happens on the day of the test itself. In this article we focus on 11 plus preparation. “Be prepared” is a famous motto. That’s good advice for all aspects of life and it applies equally to the 11+ exam.
It is always good to start preparing early for the test. This doesn’t necessarily mean study at first. Simple things like plenty of reading, or logic, crossword and anagram puzzle books will all help. The sooner you can get your child into these activities (years beforehand if possible) then the better prepared they will be.
There does come a time though when it is wise to study. Some of the questions found in the eleven plus exam are of a kind rarely encountered elsewhere. It is vital that your child is familiar with them before they come to take the test. A less gifted child who has been trained in how to answer them will do better than a brighter child who has never seen them before.
Studies have shown that children aged ten can concentrate for periods of 30 minutes at a time. That being the case, a lengthy revision period of several months, made up of small chunks of study, is the best way to go. The test is usually taken in September or October so the time to start revising is at the beginning of the year – January or February are best.
As well as teaching your child how to tackle certain types of question (the verbal and non-verbal reasoning sections are the hardest parts of the test) this will also show you in which areas they are stronger or weaker. You can then devote more study time to parts of the test that they may struggle with.
There are four parts to the eleven plus exam: English, maths, verbal reasoning and non-verbal reasoning. English and maths are straightforward. The questions will be of a level expected by intelligent children in year 6 at school. There should be nothing in the test which has not already been taught in KS2 maths and English lessons.
To see exactly the kinds of questions you might come across, take a look at our 11+ English and 11+ Maths sections. They cover every topic that might be encountered in the test. Play through them with your child and revisit the sections your child struggles with.
The non-verbal reasoning part of the test is all about finding patterns and spotting differences in shapes. This is a test of intelligence also found in typical IQ tests and it is a good way to evaluate a child’s special awareness.
These kinds of question are unlikely to have been encountered before so make sure you expose your child to them long before the day of the 11+ exam. The only way to get to grips with these is to try some. You’ll be pleased to hear that we have 50 quizzes on this very topic which you can find in our 11+ Non-Verbal Reasoning section.
As its name suggests, the verbal reasoning section of the test is a selection of questions in word form which evaluates candidates’ powers of logic and reasoning. Again, unless they are familiar with logic or word problems from puzzle magazines most children will never have come across questions like this before.
Just like non-verbal reasoning, the best preparation for these questions is to practise them. We have more than a hundred quizzes designed to teach children every one of the questions styles likely to be found in this part of the exam. You can find them all in our 11+ Verbal Reasoning section.
Given the importance of the test on their pupils’ futures you may be surprised to learn that your school will probably not help in the preparation for the 11+. There is a reason for this: the test is intended to evaluate children’s intelligence rather than their academic level. Intelligence of course cannot be taught but is innate. So schools cannot teach it.
Sadly, as with most things, people have found ways to cheat the system. You may not be able to teach intelligence, but you can teach methods which will help to tackle certain types of question. Many parents will hire private tutors to do this, giving their children an advantage in the exam. You may think that this is unfair but it is the way of the world, sadly.
So, is using a private tutor a good idea? There is no denying that children who have been tutored privately will perform better in the test than they would have if they had not. If you can afford to hire a tutor (lessons cost around £25 per hour, though prices vary from £10 to £100) then it would certainly help. If you cannot then there are alternatives.
Rather than a visiting tutor you may like to consider using a tutoring school. These are similar to normal schools in that they teach to groups rather than to one child. They typically have lessons at weekends or after school hours and are slightly cheaper than home-visiting private tutors.
Alternatively there are online tutors who give one-on-one lessons over apps like Zoom or Teams. However, their prices vary and some may actually work out to be more expensive than in-person tutors. You might also want to consider distance learning courses. These come in different forms. Similar to online tutors though in a group setting rather than one-on-one. Others, and the cheapest option, are more like online lessons either read or in video format which come with accompanying questions to make sure that children have grasped the concepts. At the end of the day, it’s all down to research on your part to find the best one for you.
Of course, if finding specialist tuition for your child is not an option that is not the end of the world. There are many things you can do to help your child. Start by getting them to read as much as possible. Having a set “reading time” of half an hour or say a day will help a lot. And, as mentioned earlier, puzzle magazines with logic problems, anagrams, crosswords or other posers which rely on mental agility are all good ways to train the brain. But if you can actually expose your child to the kinds of questions in the exam then that will help no end.
As the exam looms ever closer children may begin to feel the pressure. The best way you can help them during this time is to try to keep them calm. Issues such as sleep and diet can have a dramatic effect on this and there are other things you can do besides.
The day of the test itself can be an immense challenge, even for the brightest of children. Knowledge is power so make sure they know what to expect. There is little space here to go into detail but you might want to read our What Happens On The Day Of The 11+ article. Not only does it tell you about the day itself, it also has advice on preparing your child during the days and weeks before the actual test. It’s a valuable read.
I’m sure you have many other questions about the world of education. If so then you will find the Education Quizzes Knowledge Bank a mine full of information. We have a plethora of articles on all things to do with education and parenting, including several related specifically to the eleven plus exam. Have a look today and find out what else you can learn.