11-Plus Exams: What Parents Should Know

May 23, 2022

We all want the best for our children, so it's no surprise there is so much interest among parents and students in preparing for the 11-plus exams. These are common exams taken to get into selective secondary schools, either grammar or independent, across the country. As they are often a child’s first exams, it's normal to have concern and anxiety about how to approach them, but that’s where we come in.

Here is our breakdown of the main components of 11-plus exams, along with advice and insight for parents to support their children throughout.

What Does The 11 Plus Exam Consist Of? 

While we can give you advice on how best to prepare, the format of the exam may vary depending on the location or target school. Check with the specific schools your child is applying to get a thorough idea for what your child should focus on when studying (this information is usually available online). That being said, it's important to cover the basics to get an idea of what the test will be like. 

Most 11-plus exams are made up of multiple choice questions and written exercises, the exam is normally taken within 45 minutes to an hour. They typically include verbal and non-verbal reasoning papers, however they can also test your child’s mathematics, english, and science skills at Key Stage 2 level. 

What Are The Verbal and Non-Verbal Reasoning Tests?

The verbal reasoning section of the test aims to test your child’s comprehension skills - if they can follow written instructions, spell accurately, identify letter sequences (to name a few). It is an important part of the 11-plus examination, however student’s don’t normally prepare for this at school. It’s therefore important to prepare outside of the classroom in order for your child to know what to expect when they take their exam. 

Another area not covered at school is non-verbal reasoning, which enables students to demonstrate that they can understand and use information in graphical and pictorial forms. All hoping to identify talented children who are perhaps less strong with language. The test paper takes a number of formats, often featuring multiple choice questions involving identifying patterns in series of shapes, diagrams and even letters.  

boy writing multiple choice exam paper

How To Support Your Child

The 11-plus process can be difficult for parents to get their head around. Luckily, there are some tried and tested methods that can help you make this exam much more manageable for your child. 

Firstly it’s valuable to start thinking about these exams early. Not only does this include doing research and finding the right schools for your child to apply to, but building upon your child’s core knowledge is vital too. There are plenty of online games and resources which can help, and can be used as early as Year 4 or 5,  however don’t go straight to past papers at this stage as your child may not be ready yet. 

The important core skills to develop early include a wide vocabulary, try to include regular reading into the daily routine, accurate spelling, as well as key maths skills, especially arithmetic, geometry and times tables. As you get closer to the exams, past papers become more valuable. They can be online, in books or through a tutor and there is no better way of giving students an idea of what the exam will be like, as well as gauging their progress. It’s important to do these under exam conditions in order to be an accurate simulation of the real thing. 

However, doing well is not only about what a child knows. It’s important to also look after their wellbeing. Make sure they take regular breaks, a child’s attention span is 30 to 50 minutes on average. Also don’t push too hard and put too much pressure on them, be supportive especially if they seem to be panicking. A good way to do this is to have a positive attitude to mistakes, make it clear that they are opportunities to improve. Showing them how to Identify and address weaknesses will set up your child well for their exam.

girl reading in library

How A Tutor Will Help

The 11-plus is a tough process to go through, both as a student and as a parent. By involving a tutor you can take some of the stress away from you and your family. Our 11-plus tutors have experience in helping students feel confident and prepared for their exams. They know the exam board inside and out and cover all topics in the exam.

Each of our tutors come with a different speciality. If your child is looking to join competitive independent schools or wants to go down the grammar school route, we’ll be  able to find a tutor that has knowledge based on your needs.

The best part is that your child will get to experience one-on-one lessons, this means they can focus on specific areas they are struggling on without interference from a classroom setting. This will not only help them prepare for the exam, but will also help them in their studies in the future. 

Looking For More?

Like all exams, practice makes perfect. Make sure you start preparing in advance of the 11-plus exam to allow your child to build up their confidence and their skills, giving them plenty of time to engage with practice papers, perfect their time management and refine their exam technique.

If your child is struggling with any aspects of 11-plus exam prep, or would like some additional support prior to the exam, Tutor House provides experienced 11-plus tutors who are well versed in coaching pupils to perform to the best of their ability on exam day.

Visit Our Common Entrance Page

We have provided up-to-date insight on the common entrance exams head on over to our page or contact us today to book a free consultation with a member of our support team.

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Sadiyah Zaman

Sadiyah is our Senior Content Writer who combines her background in design and writing to create compelling educational content for Tutor House. When she's not managing her foster cat's mischievous antics, she can be found with a warm cup of coffee, meticulously crafting her next written masterpieces.

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