Getting Your Child Ready For Their 11 Plus


First and foremost get qualified and experienced tutors for your child. Unfortunately, the tutoring industry isn’t regulated and many people are acting as tutors when they are not properly qualified.  Many parents come to me disappointed that they have been up to two years with the wrong ‘tutor’, and their child hasn‘t progressed.  Some of the brightest children fail the 11 plus and sometimes those that are not naturally academic get through. The important Q is why. Firstly, it’s about getting the right tutor. Secondly, it’s about making enough time for preparation. Pupils should ideally have three years of proper tuition to pass their exams. You must ensure that your child has excellent maths and English skills that are, ideally, a few years above their age group in terms of academic ability. For example: if they are eight, they should be reading books for ten-year-olds. English and maths are key subjects that are constantly being assessed in your child’s academic life and the 11 plus exam stretch their capabilities to the limit. These skills are needed for other subject areas, like science, history, geography & modern languages once they get to grammar school. So, it’s fundamental that your tutor masters the two key subjects in order for your child to pass the 11 plus and be competent at the other subjects when their secondary education commences. 


As well as English and maths most independent and grammar schools will expect your child to sit non-verbal and verbal reasoning exams. The latter requires an excellent general knowledge. It also tests your child’s ability to understand the relationship between letters or words and to identify patterns and meanings in words. Verbal reasoning, VR tests usually examine a child’s English ability but these days many assess their mathematical abilities using logic. In comparison, non-verbal reasoning, NVR tests, examine a child’s ability to identify visual or graphic sequences or patterns. Usually, children, who have strong maths skills, tend to find NVR less challenging than VR. Both NVR and VR are difficult skills to master so you should gradually introduce your child to these concepts from year 4: eventually practising them on a daily basis. I think that the ten-minute practice papers are better than the longer ones and are not so daunting to a child. I believe that it’s best to give your child three years to prepare for the 11 plus so that they can gradually practise the various question types and get through the levels for the different age groups. 


Another aspect of the 11 plus is the area you live in and how many grammar school places are available. Due to the fact that several of the best schools prioritise the applications of children living locally. Parents often move homes in order to win a place at a sought-after school. This is an important decision as it involves jobs, moving away from family and friends, but some people do this in order to secure entry to their preferred school. If you are going to do this you must do it early enough to be considered by the chosen school and not when your child is sitting the exam. The less stressed the parent, the more likely the child is going to succeed and have a good balance between academic and social life. Always keep in mind that an interview is almost as important as the exam itself. So always ensure that your child is confident and articulate, is a good reader and reads widely. The latter point really does help in the interview situation. 


Remember that the exam is meant to test natural ability and potential so ultimately a child that has built an exceptional vocab and has an excellent grasp of English and has been competent at numeracy from an early age, is much more likely to pass, than cramming at the last minute. Cramming for your child is the worst possible thing to do, to succeed. Enrol your child in a mock 11 plus system so that you can see how they’re doing, in comparison to other children and identify any weak spots that need addressing. For example: 11 plus DIY, is one that I’d recommend. 

Wishing you the best of luck with your exam preparation.

Elisa Gianoncelli