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How can I motivate my child for the eleven plus exam?


Your child is in Year 5 at primary school and reports from their class teacher suggest that he/she is doing really well. Based on this and your own knowledge of your child and other factors you have entered them for a range of entrance tests for private schools and 11+ tests for state grammar schools.


You are confident that they are capable of passing the 11+ next year (year 6) and will benefit from the education offered by a grammar school or private school.

However even though they are very capable you are finding it hard to motivate your child to prepare for this very demanding elevenplus test – so “How can you motivate your child for the eleven plus exam?”

Each child is very different and we are all motivated by slightly different things. Some thrive on praise while others require encouragement to try new and demanding Verbal Reasoning questions or Non-Verbal Reasoning questions which are question types that the child may not have experienced before and could well be part of the selection test.

You will know your child best and know which method works best with your own child. Any advice offered here or elsewhere can only be general in its terms and parents will need to select what suits their own child.

You need to be aware that your child will be aware of the importance of the 11+ test and it is almost certainly being talked about in their primary school –“Which school are you going to?” type conversations. Is this your first/last/middle child going to senior or private school? These are but two of the many factors that will impact upon your child’s motivation.

In preparing for the elevenplusexam many parents opt for private tutors because either, everyone else seems to be doing it so they want to give their child the same preparation and therefore the same chance or they feel that their child will benefit from some additional help and explanation.

Most 11+ entrance tests require knowledge and skills in Verbal Reasoning and possibility Non-Verbal Reasoning questions. These are skills that are not normally part of the daily school curriculum so the use of a private tutor to prepare for the 11+ test especially in these subject areas can be very valuable. A private tutor working in a one-to-one situation can be extremely motivating for a child – especially if all their friends are being “tutored”.

However one key to motivation is that your child can see they are succeeding and getting better at the various types of eleven plus questions they are learning. As they say, “nothing breeds success like success” and this is also true when preparing for the 11plusexam.

Developing confidence is the expected outcome of all preparation and this confidence will increase when your child receives relevant and professional feedback to her efforts. A capable tutor and parent will and should provide this feedback. It is also worth typing “online eleven plus exams” or similar into Google because there are some good sites that really encourage learning for the 11+ exam and provide very good feedback to support this learning.

Parents are keen to see their child do well and children are keen to please their parents so it has to be a balance between cajoling and encouraging your child to do their best. When appropriate encourage your child when they do well. I have heard of parents offering huge “presents” to their child if they work hard and pass. This may work for some children but my own view is to encourage the effort and hard work not just the outcome.

The individual attention, affection and understanding of a parent will and can do wonders for a child’s confidence. So do not send them off to do a practice test on their own but sit with them as they do the practice. Sitting with them and spending this time sends very positive messages to your child.

As the date of the 11+ approaches your child may suffer from self-doubt and a lack of confidence. This is not uncommon in pupils as this may be the first very important test they have taken. Even very bright children can suffer from this as the 11plus exam approaches. They may be worrying about the future, fearing the changes ahead such as changing school or she may be frightened that they will let you, their family and their teachers down.

This is the time when no amount of preparation or number of private tutors can help and your role as the parent is paramount.  Your focus must be on reassuring them of your unconditional love for them – pass or fail! Reassure them that you are more interested in them as a person rather than for their academic success.

By reminding them of their previous successes while preparing for the eleven plus test their, your belief in them as a person and sharing your excitement about what the future holds for them can all help your child over this difficult period.

Motivating your child is a very personal thing but remember that while the 11plus exam is an important test in deciding on their secondary school there are probably more important things in life!

Learning Together 11-plus Publishers Ltd.

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