How to help your child improve their speed for the 11 plus exams

The 11 Plus exams are competitive and require children to be competent in not just subject knowledge, but time management and exam technique. One common struggle for many children is speed. Children need to be able to work quickly and accurately, which is a challenging feat.


Why children struggle with speed and how to help

1. Confidence

Speed can be related to confidence. A confident child is not worried about  putting pencil to paper and is keen to learn from their mistakes. A hesitant child may procrastinate and deter themselves from attempting the question due to fear of answering incorrectly. The best way to build a child’s confidence is by practising questions to improve certainty of accuracy and/or to find an encouraging and inspiring tutor who will not only teach your child the right content, but also coach them to believe in themselves.

2. Focus/concentration

The first thing to know is that children have much shorter attention spans than adults. A child’s maximum attention span is about two to three times his age, so a five-year-old child would have an attention span of, at best, fifteen minutes.

Knowing this, we can encourage children to develop better and longer focus by practise and helping them break up tasks into smaller chunks. Longer periods of focus can be worked up to and children should be praised for meeting their goals.

It is also useful to offer the right type of tuition/teaching which suits your child the best. Some children are best suited for group classes as they thrive off bouncing ideas with others. Some children work better by themselves, so they can work at their own pace. Online tuition is also not made for every student – despite the recent shift towards online education (forced by COVID restrictions) – many children struggle with the restrictions of online education and work better in a face-to-face setting.

3. Subject Knowledge

Without true mastery of topics, children will struggle with answering questions in good time.

Thus, it is important for children to be well prepared in all topics and subjects, ensuring all gaps and nuances are covered. Well structured classes and courses are ideal to ensure children cover all the necessary topics. It is imperative you join the course as early as possible to avoid missing essential learning. Alternatively, one to one tuition is a great way for children who need to catch up or who need direction in specific  weaknesses. Workbooks and textbooks are also an ideal way for children to revise or extend their understanding through practice.

4. Writing and reading speed

Writing speed and reading speed is often overlooked, but these can be the issue behind your child’s slow speed. Children are required to read and process information quickly in the 11 plus exams and full comprehension of a text requires quick decoding and processing.

Writing speed can be affected by children’s posture whilst writing. Pencil/pen grip as well as the positioning of the hand whilst writing tends to be habitual, but these can slow down the speed of writing.

5. Learning difficulties

Learning difficulties such as dyslexia or dyspraxia can disrupt a child’s processing speed. ADHD can impact a child’s focus and attention span. Often times, these learning difficulties go unnoticed. However, if you have attempted for some time to improve your child’s speed, understanding and focus, then you may want to discuss your concerns with their class teacher and tutors to see if they also share your concerns. It is best to not make assumptions and leave the diagnosis with a professional child psychologist or education psychologist.


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