9 tips to help your child pass the 11 plus exams

Preparing your child for the 11 plus exams can be mind-boggling. We have collated our top 9 tips to help your child pass the competitive 11 plus exams.


1. Prepare children early

We recommend your child prepare from Year 4 and no later than the beginning of Year 5. The 11+ syllabus is extensive and challenges students to tackle topics and questions aimed beyond their years. As the fable, ‘The Hare and the Tortoise’ has taught us – slow and steady wins the race. Preparing your child for the 11 plus exams is no different. It is a marathon and not a sprint, so preparing your child earlier will give your child the opportunity to master topics thoroughly, improve their confidence over time and to feel less stressed when the exams do come.


2. Encourage reading and discussion

To pass the English comprehension exams, children will need to study a variety of texts and genres. The best way to do this is to encourage lots of reading and discussion; if your child does not enjoy reading, get them excited by reading a book with them and then discuss new vocabulary and interesting descriptive languages.

A 2013 study showed children who are read to and talked to score higher in language skills and cognitive development, like problem solving. Research from 2018 suggests that this link extends throughout childhood into the teen years. In fact, researchers say that verbal interactions (reading, talking, etc.) between parents and young kids may promote higher language and IQ scores all the way up to age 14.


3. Look at the syllabus and work through it strategically

There are a number of mathematics topics and English topics to focus on which can be found in the 11 plus syllabus. Many schools offer their syllabus on their websites detailing the exact topics children will be tested on with sample questions for children to practise. For example, many schools test students using the ISEB pre test. The ISEB website has a handy and extensive list of the 11+ and 13+ syllabus which can be found here.  Furthermore you can find the syllabus for  St. Paul’s , Alleyns and City of London on their websites.

Once you have gathered the topics your child will be tested on, work through the topics strategically ensuring students get enough practice in each subject so they can tackle any question which may appear in the exams.


4. Motivate your child and keep them engaged

As mentioned before in tip 1, preparing for the 11 plus exams is a marathon and not a sprint. Thus, it is important to keep them engaged and provide reward systems or other methods to motivate them. Each child is different, and finding the right motivation can be a challenge. We recommend introducing them to other students who may also be preparing for the 11 plus exams so they have a study partner. Alternatively, our classes and courses are a fantastic way for children to socialise with other children who are also working hard towards 11+ exam goals which may encourage them to continue the hard work needed to succeed. Visiting potential schools and conversing about the different clubs/activities they can join in their new school could also encourage children to keep working hard. Admittedly, most parents find this the most difficult part of the process, so do not panic if your child is feeling a little demotivated throughout the preparation process as many children struggle to remain motivated.


5. Avoid piling on pressure and stress

Preparing for the 11 plus exams is an anxious time for both parents and children alike. But your ten year old is still a child, so despite the anxieties you may feel, avoid piling on the pressure and stress. We all perform better with less pressure! Give them plenty of time to rest, have fun and engage in stress relieving activities. As the proverb goes, ‘all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy’. Although the 11 Plus exams are important, your child’s mental health is even more important!


6. Be realistic by applying to the right schools to suit your child’s personality and academic potential

At 11 Plus London, we pride ourselves in giving honest and appropriate feedback and advice to parents. Our experience with the entrance exams provides a wealth of knowledge on the likelihood your child will gain entrance in independent and grammar schools. Each school is different and each child is different. We celebrate each child’s unique strengths and recommend schools based on their personality, interests and academic potential. If you would like some advice on the most appropriate schools for your child, please feel free to contact us via telephone (0203 488 1278) or on our contact form.


7. Practise different question formats to prepare for any changes

2020 was an unprecedented year for the 11 plus exams. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, many schools had to change their usual exam formats to online versions. This was less than ideal for children who had not been preparing to sit exams in front of a screen. Luckily, we had prepared our students to complete both online and paper exams, so our students were able to tackle any format which came their way. Now knowing the format and type of tests can easily be changed at very short notice, we recommended children prepare for any potential adaptations which may occur.

Two years late, in 2022, schools generally have a mix of both online and paper formats. For the next few years, it is likely schools will continue to adapt their assessment formats as they figure out the best method for their school to find their ideal candidates. Mastering the core topics is key to success. But practising different question formats such as multiple choice, standard answers, online questions and answer sheets will prepare students for any format they could receive on the big day.


8. Familiarise exams with mock tests

Exam situations can be very stressful and nerve-wrecking. Provide your child with plenty of opportunities to sit mock test papers at home so they learn to pace themselves appropriately. In addition, mock exams are fantastic in giving children the practice needed to feel less nervous in their real exams. We hold several mock tests throughout the year including online and face to face sessions. Results for mock tests are sent out to parents 5-10 working days after, detailing weaknesses and recommendations for improvement. Many parents and children find this experience to be the most valuable tool to prepare children for the 11+ exams.


9. Consider tuition

There are several different tuition options for children preparing for the 11 plus exams. Picking the right option is dependent on your child’s current ability, stage of preparation and personality. At 11 Plus London, we offer classes, courses and one to one tuition for children preparing for the 7+, 8+, 9+, 10+. 11+ and 13+ entrance exams. Children are assessed and all factors are considered before we recommend a tuition option to students. Many students may start in a class or course then transition to one to one tuition closer to the exam date to iron out specific weaknesses. Parents often find the support they receive from getting expert advice and tuition is a crucial component of their child’s success in the exams. Feel free to contact us for a free no obligation assessment.