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Preparing for the 11+ exam

11+ advice and top tips on tutoring your own child

Preparing for the 11+ exam is demanding on both the parent and the child. Interested parents want to know how to tutor their own child to help them pass the 11+ while at the same time they are conscious that they do not want to put too much pressure on their child. The right amount of relevant preparation in the security of their own home can help reduce this stress.


How to prepare for the 11+ exam

“Practice makes perfect.” More accurately this should read, "Practice, the results of which are known, makes perfect." There is no point in practising 11+ papers if your child can not see how they are performing and success breeds success.

Top 11+ Exam Tips for Parent and Child

  1. Before you start you must fully research the type and content of the 11+ exam in your area or in the school you are applying to. These 11+ exams can and do vary across the country.

  2. Find and practice using good quality material which provides a variety of question types. Keep a record of your child’s progress – highlighting positive results to aid encouragement.

  3. Get the right equipment. That means lots of rough paper, a few pencils and a watch (if permitted.) As time goes on get your child used to practising as if it is a real exam situation. When they are doing the actual 11+ exam they will be more comfortable in the exam situation following practice. Let them get used to doing rough working on extra paper.

  4. Even though your chosen school has traditionally used certain question types this may change. Practising as many different types of questions and tests as you can helps to reduce the chance of your child meeting something completely new. Being faced with some thing new is very stressful for your child.

  5. When your child is practising and preparing for the 11+ make sure your child is in a quiet area where they will not be disturbed. Don’t create unnecessary battles by asking them to do work just before going out or when they want to engage with their friends. Set a regular time each day/week so they know that this is 11+ preparation time. It’s important to give your child your full attention during this time so we strongly suggest that, rather than send your child to a room to do a practice test, that you actually site with them as they do their work. This will send a very positive message to your child regarding your support for them and also how important the 11+ exam can be.

  6. Many school and 11+ bodies offer free sample 11+ papers which demonstrate the kind of 11+ exam that they set. Take any practice tests offered by these organising bodies and let your child complete these to get a flavour for the type of questions they may be given. They need to practice various questions to be comfortable that their skills are up to the required standard.

  7. Read all guidance provided by the 11+ organising body before they sit any practice tests. This guidance will contain important information on how much time they have and so roughly how long they can afford to spend on each question.

  8. There is not much time to complete an 11+ exam so don’t let your child dwell on a question they are struggling with. This only allows the clock to run down. The next question might be easier and they’ll pick up more marks by moving on.

  9. Once they leave a question encourage them to forget about it completely as this makes the question that they are working more difficult. If they don’t forget the previous question, they are effectively thinking about two questions at once and this is very difficult to do. They can always return to it later in the exam if time permits. Encourage them to work very quickly yet at the same time they must work carefully.

  10. If there are pure maths questions, they should spend a few seconds familiarising themselves with what the question is asking before launching into the question. Look carefully at any graph/table/pie-chart/diagram that they are presented with, read problem questions carefully so that they know what the question is actually asking.


Understanding the content of the 11+ exam

The 11+ exam questions are based on Verbal Reasoning, Non-Verbal Reasoning, maths and English. These subjects can be presented as discrete tests or combined in some way. Each school, Local Education Authority or 11+ consortium could be using a different version of the 11+. See Tip Number 1 above and find out everything you can about the 11+ exam that your child will take. We have a lot of information on our “What is the 11+?” page.


​GL (Granada Learning) and CEM (Centre for Evaluation and Monitoring) are two of the biggest 11+ exam setting companies.

Find out all that you can about the 11+ exam from there websites.


Preparation for the 11+ exam

Structured preparation for the 11+ exam will improve your child's understanding of question types and what is required to succeed. Support and encouragement is crucial to your child's self-confidence and their attitude to their school work including preparing for these important exams.

There are many ways in which the interested parent can help their child to prepare for the 11+ but it is unlikely that this additional work can be done in two or three weeks before the exam. It will require a lot of time and effort from both parent and child.


Private tutor for the 11+ exam or not?

It is very possible for a parent to tutor their own child for this important exam but many parents feel that they should send their child to private tutors. This is a purely personal choice and is often for the parent to reassure themselves that they did all they could to help their child pass the 11+.

If you do choose private tuition. either one to one or in a small group, you must be certain that the person that you entrust your child to is honest, trustworthy and does not present any threat to your child's safety. You should also consider if you will get value for money. personal attention to your child may be limited if they find themselves sitting in a group of 15 or 20 pupils. This is not any different from being in a school classroom. Attending a good tutor will often be very beneficial for your child. A useful way to link to a good tutor is through recommendations from friends and family.

Suggested practice material

Using quality products, you should be able to prepare your child yourself. There are many versions of 11+ Practice Papers on the market, available from good bookshops and from this site. Use a publisher that uses experienced teachers at Key Stage Two to prepare their products. These books will reflect the knowledge that the author has gained in the classroom not at university. When you want immediate access to extra practice material you can use PDF downloads as these are sent immediately to your computer for printing.

11+ Online practice

Many schools set an 11+ “pre-test”. Often this is taken using a computer and is used by the most popular schools where the number of applicants is high. Children take this before they are accepted to sit the actual 11+ exam. Online practice such as provided by offer practice suitable for preparing for the “Pre-Test”. (You can read more about the “Pre-Test” here)

Even for a pencil and paper exam Online preparation can be a relief from normal written work, it is good value and can be carried out anywhere with an internet connection.

 ** This information is provided for guidance only and while the content is, to the best of our knowledge, accurate we cannot be held in any way responsible for any errors or omissions that it may contain. Please contact your examining board or chosen grammar school for all admission and registration details for the 11+ exam. **

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