Tests Your Children Will Take – Part 3 of a 6 Part Series For Parents.

PART THREE – The English Paper

The most critical area in my opinion is the English Paper, particularly the comprehension part as this is now very inference-based and tests an understanding of old-fashioned English vocabulary and sayings.

To be prepared it helps if your child is well-read and articulate.

Most of the English skills your child will need to draw on for an 11+ exam will be a continuation of those being developed in literacy classes at school. Some of the questions may be preset at a higher level than your child has come across before, but will be testing the same range of skills and knowledge. Though the content and structure of the paper may differ from one school to the next it will test your child in the areas of:

  • Comprehension
  • Grammar
  • Punctuation
  • Spelling
  • Extended writing


These skills are crucial for success in the English 11+ exams, as most test papers include at least one comprehension task. Some papers can be based completely around a comprehension text and could therefore make up 100% of the total available marks.

On average, a child will have approximately 50 minutes to complete an English paper and may be asked to answer questions that require them to find, select or reorganize information in the text as well as provide answers based on personal knowledge, interpretation or opinion. Responses may need to be presented in a range of formats such as selection of the correct multiple-choice option, one word or a short phrase, a few lines or a more lengthy explanation written in several paragraphs.

Grammar, punctuation and spelling

Sound English skills are underpinned by knowledge of the rules relating to grammar, punctuation and spelling. As a result, an 11+ English exam will test a child’s understanding in these fundamental areas. Questions based on these core elements of language may be included within the main comprehension exercise, or they may form a separate section that is unrelated to the comprehension text.

Story writing is also very important in this part of the test and children need to be able to write with a good beginning, middle and end. I have a few YouTubes out on story telling at present. If you go to Elisa Gianoncelli YouTube you should easily find me.

Extended writing

Most 11+ English exams include at least one writing task. This may form a section within a combined paper that also tests the other skills areas listed above, or it may be set as a separate writing paper.

Some schools will set a writing task but it may not be marked unless a child’s total is borderline with the qualifying score. Where a writing task is taken into account for the overall score, it can carry up to 50% of the total 11+ English marks.

The time frame for a writing task can differ depending on the individual school and style of paper, but usually a minimum of 30 minutes is given. Typically a child will have to choose one or two questions to answer from a selection of options. Questions can be based on a wide range of themes or writing styles, for example:

  • A factual essay or description
  • A piece of fictional narrative or descriptive writing
  • A formal/informal letter or diary entry
  • A debate
  • A continuation of a piece of given text
  • A composition based on a visual image such as a photograph


Strong writing skills form the basis for so many exams and particularly tests which involve specific writing tasks. The focus of these tasks could be pretty much anything, so your child will have to draw on a wide range of knowledge and skills.

Try to give constructive feedback on your child’s writing and check they can:

  • Write legibly and fluently
  • Write imaginatively in a range of forms (narrative, playscript, report, letter)
  • Adapt their writing style to suit the task (writing to inform, persuade, argue, etc.)
  • Engage and entertain the reader
  • Plan, organize and develop ideas effectively
  • Understand the difference between standard and non-standard English
  • Construct simple/complex sentences to create reading effects
  • Draw on an extended vocabulary and use accurate spelling
  • Use all parts of speech and punctuation marks correctly