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A Complete Guide to 11+ Exams for Parents

A Complete Guide to 11+ Exams for Parents


The 11+ exam is pivotal for children seeking admission to maintained grammar schools—selective, non-fee-paying institutions known for their high academic standards. Designed to identify the most capable students, the 11+ covers subjects like English, Maths, and reasoning skills. 

But how can you best prepare to effectively support your child through the 11+ exams?

What is the 11-plus exam?

The 11 Plus exam is crucial for grammar school admissions in parts of the UK. It selects the most academically gifted students, setting a high standard that only some children will meet. Passing the 11 Plus opens doors to grammar schools known for their advanced academic environments.

Here's what you need to know about the 11 Plus exams:

1. Exam Structure and Subjects

The 11 Plus exam typically covers four main areas:

  • English: Tests comprehension, grammar, and vocabulary.

  • Mathematics: Assesses arithmetic, problem-solving, and mathematical reasoning.

  • Verbal Reasoning: Measures logic and understanding of language patterns.

  • Non-Verbal Reasoning: Evaluates spatial awareness and pattern recognition through shapes and images.

2. Types of 11 Plus Test

There are two main types of 11 Plus tests:

  • GL Assessment: This assessment focuses on the four core areas (English, Maths, Verbal, and Non-Verbal Reasoning).

  • CEM (Centre for Evaluation and Monitoring): Known for being unpredictable in format, often combining elements of verbal, non-verbal, and numerical reasoning within the same test.

Students typically take the Eleven Plus in Year 6, ages 10-11. This test marks a key transition from primary to secondary school. Success in the 11 Plus allows students to attend grammar schools, where they are more likely to achieve higher grades and gain admission to highly selective universities.

Related: 11-plus vs 13-plus Exams: What Parents Need to Know

Why are the 11-plus exams important?

The 11 Plus exams are crucial for students who aspire to attend selective secondary schools. These schools often offer a high-quality education and can provide excellent academic and personal growth opportunities.

Attending a selective secondary school can also have long-term benefits, including better chances of getting into top universities and increased career prospects. As a result, many parents view the 11 Plus exams as a vital stepping stone towards their child's future success.

Understanding the format of the 11 Plus exams

To effectively prepare your child for the 11 Plus exams, it's essential to understand the format and structure of the exams. The specific format can vary depending on the region and school, so it's important to research and familiarise yourself with the requirements of the schools your child is applying to.

The exams consist of multiple-choice questions and are divided into different sections, covering subjects like English, Mathematics, Verbal Reasoning, and Non-Verbal Reasoning. Each section is designed to assess specific skills and abilities, and the marks are often weighted differently.

English tests typically assess reading comprehension, grammar, and creative writing skills. Mathematics tests cover topics such as arithmetic, algebra, geometry, and problem-solving. Verbal reasoning tests evaluate students' ability to understand and manipulate language, while non-verbal reasoning tests assess their logical and spatial reasoning skills.

Timeline for the 11+ Exam

Before beginning the application process, visiting potential grammar schools with your child to determine if the environment suits them is beneficial.

April 2024: Registration for most grammar schools starts in April or May, with deadlines typically in June or July. Note that Buckinghamshire automatically registers all primary students for the 11+ exam but allows parents to opt out.

September 2024: The 11+ exam is generally held within the first two weeks of September at most schools. However, some schools may conduct the exam in October, so verifying the dates with the schools you are considering is important.

October 2024: Most schools release the results of the 11+ exam by mid-October.

March 2025: School placements are finalised on March 1, 2025.

September 2025: The new school year starts, and successful applicants begin Year 7 at their respective grammar schools.

How to prepare your child for the 11 Plus exams

The 11+ test is not part of the curriculum in UK state schools. This means that if your child attends a state school, or is studying abroad, you'll need to prepare for the test independently, either independently or with a tutor.

Many UK independent schools, often referred to as "Prep-Schools," do prepare students for the 11+. However, due to the competitive nature of the selection process, many parents opt for additional tutoring to enhance their child's chances of success.

Effective preparation is key to success in the 11 Plus exams. Helping your child develop the necessary skills and knowledge can significantly improve their performance. 

Here are some tips to support your child's preparation:

1. Start early: Begin your child's preparation well in advance, ideally at least a year before the exams. This will allow them ample time to develop their skills and build confidence.

2. Identify strengths and weaknesses: Assess your child's strengths and weaknesses in different subjects and topics. This will help you tailor your preparation to focus on areas that require more attention.

3. Practice regularly: Regular practice is essential to improve your child's skills and familiarity with the exam format. Provide them with practice papers and exercises to solve, ensuring they understand the concepts and strategies involved.

4. Seek additional support if needed: If you feel that your child may benefit from additional support, consider hiring a tutor or enrolling them in a reputable 11 Plus preparation course. These resources can provide expert guidance and targeted practice.

5. Encourage a growth mindset: Emphasise the importance of effort, perseverance, and continuous improvement. Encourage your child to embrace challenges and learn from mistakes, fostering a growth mindset to serve them well in their exam journey.

Choosing the right resources for 11 Plus preparation

Choosing the most effective resources for 11 Plus preparation can be overwhelming. Here are some recommendations to help you make informed decisions:

  • Practice papers: Practice papers are invaluable resources for familiarising your child with the exam format and developing their skills. Look for reputable publishers like Bond 11+, offering a wide range of practice papers that closely resemble the exams.

  • Online courses: Online courses can provide comprehensive and interactive preparation materials, including video lessons, quizzes, and practice tests. It is recommended to search for courses that are specifically designed for the 11 Plus exams and have positive feedback from previous users.

  • Tutoring services: Hiring a tutor can provide personalised guidance and support for your child's preparation. Look for tutors with experience with the 11 Plus exams and a track record of helping students succeed.

  • Study guides and textbooks: Well-written study guides and textbooks can provide structured content and explanations for the key topics covered in the exams. When searching for resources, look for teacher recommendations or positive reviews from other parents.

Choosing resources that align with your child's learning style and preferences is important. Experiment with different resources and adapt your approach based on what works best for your child.

Creating a study schedule for the 11 Plus exams

A well-structured study schedule is essential for effective exam preparation. Here's a step-by-step guide to creating a study schedule for your child:

When creating a study schedule for your child, consider their school timetable, extracurricular activities, and other commitments to determine available study time.

Based on your child's strengths and weaknesses, identify the subjects and topics that require more attention and prioritise these areas in the study schedule.

Divide the available study time into smaller, manageable study sessions. Aim for regular study sessions rather than cramming all the preparation into a few days

Set specific goals for each study session to keep your child motivated and focused. For example, completing a practice paper or revising a particular topic.

Ensure the study schedule includes regular breaks to prevent burnout and maintain productivity.  Incorporating the Pomodoro Technique can be particularly effective. This method involves breaking work into intervals, traditionally 25 minutes long, followed by a short break—usually 5 minutes. After four such intervals, a longer break of 15-30 minutes is recommended.

For example, your child could study for 25 minutes, then take a 5-minute break to stretch, do a quick workout, or practice a relaxation technique. This cycle helps maintain focus and energy levels throughout longer study sessions. Encouraging your child to engage in physical activity or relaxation during these breaks can further enhance their productivity and mental well-being.

Lastly, Regularly assess your child's progress and adjust the study schedule if needed. Celebrate their achievements and provide constructive feedback to keep them motivated.

Remember, every child is unique, and what works for one may not work for another. Be flexible and adapt the study schedule based on your child's individual needs and preferences.

To get you started, we've created a weekly revision planner. You can tailor this study plan to your child’s specific needs by organising their exam prep into manageable weekly chunks.

  • Downloadable PDF of MyEdSpace weekly planner: click here for a downloadable version. 

Remember, starting your revision early and spreading it out over time is more effective than last-minute cramming. Use our planner to structure your study sessions and set yourself up for success.

Tips for managing exam stress

The uncertainty around your child's future schooling can feel overwhelming. However, it's important to approach the situation with a calm and balanced mindset. Put the 11+ exam into perspective within your family's wider context.

The 11+ exam results are less critical compared to fundamental aspects of life like good health, financial stability, and having a safe home. Maintaining this perspective can help manage stress and remind you of what truly matters in life.

Children often feel stress during the 11 Plus, partly due to anxiety from peers about future schooling.

To manage this stress:

  • Regularly reassure them about their future, regardless of the 11 Plus outcome. Explain the backup plan ("Plan B") and ensure they understand that alternatives are still positive.

  • Continually affirm your pride in their effort, regardless of results. Emphasise that their hard work in preparing and taking the test is what counts.

  • Consider how you handle rewards. Reward effort rather than achievement to avoid additional disappointment and reinforce the value of hard work and resilience.

Common mistakes to avoid in the 11 Plus exams

While preparing for the 11 Plus exams, it's crucial to be aware of common mistakes that students often make. By understanding these pitfalls, you can help your child avoid them and maximise their chances of success. 

Here are some common mistakes to watch out for:

  1. Lack of time management: Poor time management can lead to rushed answers and incomplete sections. Encourage your child to practice time management techniques during their preparation, such as setting timers for each question or section.

  2. Neglecting exam technique: Understanding the format and requirements of the exams is essential. Ensure your child is familiar with strategies such as skimming passages, underlining key information, and strategically answering questions.

  3. Over-reliance on memorisation: While rote memorisation has its place, it's important to focus on understanding concepts and applying knowledge. Encourage your child to practice critical thinking and problem-solving skills rather than solely relying on memorised answers.

  4. Ignoring feedback: Feedback is a valuable tool for improvement. Encourage your child to review their practice papers and learn from their mistakes. Help them identify areas where they need further practice and provide constructive feedback to help them grow.

  5. Neglecting self-care: Exam preparation can be intense, but it's important for your child to prioritise self-care. Encourage them to take breaks, engage in enjoyable activities, and maintain a healthy lifestyle. Remember, a well-rested and balanced mind performs better.

How to support your child during the 11 Plus exams

As a parent, your support and encouragement are vital to your child's exam journey. Here are some ways you can support your child during the 11 Plus exams:

Conclusion and next steps for 11 plus preparation

As you continue to prepare your child for the 11 Plus exams, remember that MyEdSpace offers comprehensive teaching across maths, science, and English. To further support your child's academic journey and access our range of learning resources, visit our main website. Let us be part of your child's success story and help them achieve their best in the upcoming exams

Visit MyEdSpace for more information and resources

Please remember that the 11 Plus exams are just one part of your child's educational journey. No matter the result of the exams, it's essential to keep providing them with love, support, and guidance as they explore their passions and interests. With your unwavering support, your child will thrive and succeed in their academic pursuits.

Author: MyEdSpace
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