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Ten Tips For How To Help Children Taking The 11+ Exam

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On the JJ Barnes Blog, I check out ten tips for how to help children taking the the 11+ exam from education experts.

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My oldest daughter and step son are in year five, and scary as this feels (they’re growing up so fast!!) it’s time to start thinking about their secondary education.

There are some fantastic schools in our area, we’re very fortunate, but the most highly rated is the grammar school. While this might be beyond us, if we did have the opportunity to go down the private education route, we’d want to give them the best shot at success with taking their 11+ exams.

To help me work out what we’d need to do, experts at Atom Learning have offered ten tips for how to help children prepare for the 11+ exams.

What Is The 11+ Exam?

The 11+ is an entrance exam that can be taken by students in year 6. The 11+ test was required of all children until the early 1970s, but now just taken to determine academic ability and potential for children who want to attend grammar schools and selective independent schools.

The 11+ is a two-section test: a maths and verbal reasoning test. A child’s ability to comprehend and interpret written language is measured by the verbal reasoning test, while their ability to solve mathematical problems is measured by the maths test. The 11+ is a challenge, and it’s recommended that parents and children prepare well in advance.

The 11 plus exam finds students whose academic abilities rank in the top 25% of their cohort.

How To Help Children Taking The 11+ Exam

The experts at exam preparation platform Atom Learning have shared 10 top tips for parents to help their child feel confident sitting for an 11+ exam. Ideally, preparation should begin at least a year in advance.

Wider Reading

One of the best ways for your child to develop literacy skills is to read widely and frequently. There are a number of advantages to reading a variety of genres and resources, including fiction and nonfiction books, magazines, and news articles, among others. Not only will it help them develop critical analysis and reading comprehension skills, broaden their imagination, increase concentration, and speed up their reading, but it will also help them improve their spelling, grammar, punctuation, and vocabulary in English.

The expert’s advice: Throughout the following year, encourage your child to keep a vocabulary log. They should include the definition of each new word they learn in the log. 

Set Challenges

In studies, it has been found that a lack of challenge is a factor in students getting distracted in class. Challenges give students something to thrive for and help them develop a personal growth mindset. Giving your child a personal target to help them focus.

Every month, test your child on their spelling and word comprehension for the words they’ve recorded in their vocabulary log.

The expert’s advice: To avoid learning being disrupted by discouragement, always try to set manageable goals. Your child will keep wanting to accomplish more if they continue to feel successful in achieving their objectives. 

Don’t Be Too Pressuring

Placing too much extra work on someone already with a heavy workload puts even more pressure on them, and young people rarely do well under pressure. You will benefit from beginning preparation for exams a year in advance, because you will be able to gradually build skills without putting too much pressure on your child to do it all in one go.

Studying can be anywhere from an hour per day for those who prepare well in advance. Students who are getting closer to the exam should practice for two to three hours.

The expert’s advice: In addition, make time for yourself by engaging in enjoyable activities between study sessions. Knowing that there are a number of other things in their life that are just as important as the exam will help them feel less stressed. 

Preparation course for the toefl

Consistent Learning

It’s understandable that things like holidays or illness in the family can mess up learning schedules. However, students may forget what they have learned due to inconsistent learning, which can set them back a few steps.

Even a small amount of leisure reading or actively asking questions in the car can help keep the mind engaged in the exam. 

The following is advice from the experts on how to effectively plan your child’s study time:

How to structure your child’s study time on the JJ Barnes Blog
How to structure your child’s study time

Practice Should Be Balanced

English, math, verbal reasoning (VR) and non-verbal reasoning (NVR) are the subjects tested in the 11+ level. Hence, it is vital to guarantee practice is balanced, so you are covering everything needed for the 11+ exam.

The expert’s advice: Plan for regular 20-30 minutes practice a couple of times each week which handles various points in English and maths consistently.

GL Assessment 11+ Practice Papers

Practice Test Strategies

For most kids, the 11+ will be whenever they first have taken a timed exam under test conditions. As a result, the year before the 11+ should be used to teach them exam strategies necessary for success on the big day.

The best way for students to learn and improve exam strategies is through practice papers. When your child has mastered the curriculum, they can put their knowledge to the test by taking timed practice exams in the same environment as an actual exam.

The expert’s advice: Throughout Year 5, give your child one or two practice tests each month, increasing to one or two per week six weeks before their exam. Your child will naturally encounter a variety of challenging exam questions, giving them the confidence to tackle unseen questions on test day, and they will gradually develop essential time management skills.

Consider Tuition

Despite the fact extra tuition isn’t really a necessity for passing the 11+, some children might benefit from the coordinated help private tutors can offer.  A professional tutor may be able to assist your child in preparing for less common tests like critical analysis and independent school interviews if the school your child attends is particularly competitive. If your child is struggling with any of the subjects that they might be tested on, they might profit from the help.

Private tutoring focuses solely on your child’s individual learning style in order to help them learn at a faster pace and gain a deeper understanding of the subject matter at hand.

The expert’s advice: Talk to your child first to see if they feel they would benefit from extra tuition. They may become upset and stressed if they are uncomfortable receiving tutoring assistance. 

Create A Secure Learning Environment

Children thrive more when they are at ease and know they can learn in safety. Whether your child is learning in a particular room in your home, the local library, or with a tutor, it is critical to ensure that they are safe and comfortable.

Additionally, it is essential to distinguish between leisure and learning and minimize distractions. As a result, creating a learning area in your home can help you learn more effectively and focus better. 

The expert’s advice: Track down some place with natural light, comfortable furnishings and bright colours. These will help your child feeling comfortable and encouraged with their learning.

Always Reassure Your Child

The days leading up to the exam can cause extra stress for children. Reassurance and actively reducing pressure are two of the most effective things parents can do for their children during this time.

Your child will be more willing to try new things if you reassure them, so try and identify things which are causing stress and tension and try to reduce them.

The expert’s advice: Try talking to them about how you will still love them if they fail. Some kids need to know that they won’t let their parents down if they fail. 

Remember To Praise

Bring praised for their achievements shows children that they can keep working on their studies, and helps them develop a growth mindset.

Your child will naturally put in more effort, develop the resilience necessary to face new challenges, and ultimately find joy in learning over time if you praise their progress on a regular basis.

The expert’s advice: The preparation for the 11+2 exam is a marathon, not a sprint, and staying motivated is essential to maintaining momentum over the next year.


I don’t know if our children will take these exams, and if they did if they could pass them, but if we do go down this road then I want to be prepared and give them the best chance possible. Hopefully, if you’re looking at grammar or independent schooling for your children, these tips will help you too!

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