The Education Blog

Insight News 3rd June, 2020

Our 11+ top tips

In our last blog, we discussed answers to frequently asked questions on the 11+. Today, we asked our 11+ expert, Rhiannon, about her Top  11+tips for preparing for the 11+ exams.

If you would like to arrange a consultation with one of our specialist Primary Education Consultants, please drop us an email at – we’d love to help!

Rhiannon, what top tips would you offer to parents…?


Many of the 11+ exams have a strong focus on vocabulary – if your child doesn’t know the meaning of a keyword in the text, it can throw off all of their hard work and preparation! The best way to improve vocabulary is to encourage regular reading and the use of vocab lists. Get your child to read aloud to you, and when they don’t know a word, encourage them to look it up and add it to a vocab book. The more words they know, the greater their confidence, and the chance of success with understanding comprehension passages, definition questions, and cloze/synonyms/ antonyms reasoning tasks!


It doesn’t matter if your child is able to solve advanced algebra if they can’t complete the 30 basic Maths questions in the short time given in the exam! Do keep focusing on the exam material itself to ensure your child is working on the right content – and as the exams get closer, we recommend you reiterate the importance of speed and accuracy when your child is completing their work. Make sure to always set a timer when they’re practising an exam paper, as the 11+ requires children to work at a very fast pace, and many children have not had enough practice before entering the exams.


The holidays are the best time to get ahead of the game! A little work every day, particularly in the summer of Year 5, will drastically improve your child’s chances of success and should mean that, by the time your child is in the final months of preparation, they can focus on exam technique and speed.


Pre-Tests determine whether or not your child even gets to sit the Common Entrance exams in Year 8.  Common Entrance exams are also being phased out so Pre-tests will be even more important.  Do remember that Pre-tests are more important than the Common Entrance but can sometimes get neglected. Make sure your child is doing regular, timed practice in the months leading up to these exams so that they can go in there feeling confident and prepared.


For many children, it’s important that they are able to separate 11+ preparation from the rest of their life. One of the most challenging problems to overcome, particularly as the exams draw closer, is your child feeling overwhelmed by the amount of work ahead. If they feel it taking over, this will affect their productivity and well-being, and they may disconnect from the process.

Make sure your child has a ‘work area’ that they can feel completely free from after they have left it. Also, designating specific times for 11+ preparation can also help your child feel like it’s not constant, and having special stationary and folders can help them to actively put the work away for another week, instead of believing it’s hanging over them.

One of the main stresses of the 11+ process is that students feel like they can’t escape it, but knowing exactly when and where they can expect to be doing 11+ work makes it a lot easier for them to accept. It’s also useful to have a calendar where they can physically cross off the weeks in a countdown to the exams – then they can know the end is in sight!


Everyone works in different ways, but parents usually aim for one, hour-long sessions each week during term time from the end of Year 4 or the start of Year 5, with more intensive periods of tuition throughout the holidays.

If there are particular concerns across several of the subjects, students may then increase to two sessions a week: one with an English/Verbal Reasoning focus, and the other with a Maths/Non-Verbal Reasoning focus. Most families may increase to two sessions per week for the final stages. This depends on how your child works independently, or with you, on a regular basis in the lead-up to exams.


Initially, tutoring should focus on those areas or topics which your child finds particularly challenging across the four core areas: English, Maths, and Verbal and Non-Verbal Reasoning. Ideally based on an assessment, as mentioned above, goals should be set for each half-term, and small tests done on a regular basis to make sure all the problem areas have been fixed.

Once all of the gaps have been filled, and a solid foundation has been established, the exam technique and timed practice can begin!


Interview styles vary hugely across the schools; some go for a more relaxed ‘getting-to-know-you’ approach, whilst others focus on your child’s ability to problem-solve or analyse a piece of information. Having regular discussions about what’s going on in the world, and encouraging your children to watch the news with you and have their own opinions, will help build their confidence for these interview situations. ‘The Week Junior’ weekly newspaper is a particularly useful resource or websites such as CBBC Newsround.

It is also important to make sure that your child knows enough about the schools they are applying to and why they want to go there. Helping your child feel like they are part of the decision-making process can encourage them to want to know more about the schools, which will come across well in the interviews.

Go through the school websites with your child, asking your child to note down the clubs/activities/subjects/things your child likes about the school.  Then your child can create a mind-map that they are able to refer back to and discuss with you. Ideally, your child will have visited the school so they can build a stronger picture in their mind and connect the things they like about the school with what they already do and their goals for the future.

Discover more

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Get in touch

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