11+ Preparation Tips

They say the most stressful events in people's lives are marriage, divorce and moving house.  Clearly nobody mentioned the 11+.

If you are looking to join a selective secondary school, it is worth preparing ahead and having realistic expectations.

Faraday Deputy Head Teacher, Miss Gimblett, who has years of experience in secondary school transitions, shares her Top 10 Tips on preparing for the 11+ exams:

  1. Start preparation in plenty of time - don’t decide half way through Year 5 that you want your child to sit exams, that’s not fair or realistic for anyone. 11+ exams or not, children still need strong skills in literacy, numeracy and exam techniques for secondary school so preparation and a balanced, engaging and supportive curriculum should develop every pupil’s potential. Parents, It is worth starting to visit schools in Year 4 and 5, so that you are not visiting too many in one go. However, do not take your children too soon and bamboozle them with choice. Your child is probably best seeing your top 2 or 3 choices and so revisit if necessary.
  2. Balance - remember kids are still kids and you don’t want them to burn out prior to exams (September of Year 6 for Grammar candidates and January of Year 6 for Independent Secondary Schools). Keep up their other interests - swimming lessons, ballet, football etc and ensure that they have time for hobbies, study, homework and free time 
  3. Pedal to the metal - from early in Year 5, homework and 11+ preparation (which comes in many forms) must be a priority. Time must be spent each week and in school holidays studying, revising and consolidating learning across subjects to ensure they’re learning at that higher 11+ level, as well as understanding their current work at school
  4. Remember it takes a village to raise a child - your child first and foremost, has to have the drive and want the desired goal - the secondary school they're sitting an exam for or multiple in most cases. As parents, you have to be dedicated to this cause as you’ll need to visit schools, attend open days, pay registrations, support your child at home, speak to the class teacher and manage siblings to help and not hinder study at home. Your child’s class teacher/school must be behind you and your child and be committed to doing everything they can to help as well
  5. Provide a quiet study environment - during the 18 months or so in the lead up to exams, this is going to be imperative. Your child needs support and encouragement in forming good study habits, independence, time management and organisation skills. A good sized desk/table, chair, stationary and quiet space is a must for an effective learning environment at home 
  6. Be positive - praise, encourage, motivate and offer incentives - all help so keep it up no matter what!
  7. Pull study/preparation material from a range of sources - past exam papers, school homework, 11+ preparation websites, study guides and work books. Variety is key as each exam will be different. 
  8. Be realistic about how many exams your child is going to sit - all of them involve concentration, registration fees, Saturdays in January at individual schools and a whole lot of hard work and preparation 
  9. Ask your child’s school for support - they should be the experts and should be able to offer 11+ clubs, targeted homework, regular updates about progress, past exam papers, advice/guidance and a realistic timetable for study to support your child
  10. Tutors - they’re helpful and effective if used effectively, as necessary. If your child or you are relying on them to get them through the exams, then your expectations may be too high as even if they pass the exam, they’ll be expected to maintain that high level of academic output. Remember independent schools ask primary schools for references and whether children are being tutored is usually one of the questions. If your child does benefit from extra/targeted support from a tutor, encourage the tutor to work with your child’s class teacher to avoid repetition, misconceptions and gaps in learning   

For interview advice, read our Top 10 Tips for interviews.