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11+ Exam Preparation Tips

June 12, 2024

Preparing for the 11+ exams can be a daunting task for both children and parents. These exams are crucial as they determine entry into grammar schools and other selective secondary schools.

To help your child succeed, it is essential to have a structured and effective preparation plan. Here are some comprehensive tips to guide you through the process.

1. Understand the Exam Format

The first step in preparing for the 11+ exams is understanding the format. The exams typically consist of four main areas: verbal reasoning, non-verbal reasoning, mathematics, and English.

Each area tests different skills and requires specific preparation techniques. Familiarise yourself with the format and content of the exams specific to the schools you are targeting, as they can vary.

11 Plus Exam Overview / Preparation Tips

2. Create a Study Schedule

Creating a study schedule is vital for effective preparation. Allocate regular study times each week, balancing schoolwork and extracurricular activities. Ensure the schedule includes time for all four areas of the exam. Consistency is key; regular, shorter study sessions are often more effective than infrequent, longer ones.

3. Use Practice Papers

Practice papers are an excellent way to prepare for the 11+ exams. They help familiarise your child with the format and timing of the exams, reducing anxiety on the actual test day.

Start with easier papers to build confidence, then gradually move on to more challenging ones. Regularly timed practice sessions will help improve speed and accuracy.

4. Focus on Weak Areas

Identify your child’s weak areas early in the preparation process. This allows you to allocate more time and resources to improving these skills.

Whether it is a specific topic in maths or a type of reasoning question, targeted practice can make a significant difference. Use assessment tools or get feedback from practice papers to pinpoint these areas.

5. Develop Exam Techniques

Good exam technique can significantly impact performance. Teach your child strategies such as time management, reading instructions carefully, and the process of elimination in multiple-choice questions. Encourage them to tackle easier questions first to build confidence and secure marks, then return to more challenging ones.

11 Plus Exam Overview / Preparation Tips

6. Enhance Vocabulary

A strong vocabulary is crucial for the verbal reasoning and English sections of the exam. Encourage your child to read widely and regularly, including a variety of genres such as fiction, non-fiction, and newspapers.

Use vocabulary lists and flashcards to reinforce learning. Playing word games and engaging in discussions can also help expand their vocabulary.

7. Practise Mental Maths

Mental maths skills are essential for the mathematics section of the 11+ exams. Daily practice of mental arithmetic can help improve speed and accuracy.

Use apps, games, or flashcards to make this practice engaging. Additionally, work on problem-solving techniques and ensure your child understands fundamental mathematical concepts.

8. Encourage Regular Reading

Regular reading not only improves vocabulary but also enhances comprehension skills, which are vital for the English section of the exam. Encourage your child to summarise what they have read and discuss the main ideas and themes. This practice can help improve critical thinking and analytical skills.

9. Use Educational Resources

There are numerous educational resources available to aid 11+ exam preparation. Online platforms, educational apps, and workbooks can provide structured learning and additional practice. Consider enrolling your child in a preparatory course or hiring a tutor if you feel additional support is necessary.

10. Maintain a Positive Attitude

A positive attitude towards learning and preparation is essential. Encourage and praise your child’s efforts rather than just their achievements. A positive mindset can boost confidence and reduce exam-related stress. Ensure your child understands that effort and persistence are as important as innate ability.

11. Ensure a Balanced Lifestyle

While preparation is crucial, it is equally important to maintain a balanced lifestyle. Ensure your child has time for relaxation, hobbies, and physical activities.

Adequate sleep and a healthy diet are also vital for optimal cognitive function. A well-rounded lifestyle can help maintain your child’s motivation and energy levels.

11 Plus Exam Overview / Preparation Tips

12. Mock Exams

Taking mock exams under real exam conditions can be incredibly beneficial. They help acclimatise your child to the pressure and timing of the actual test. Analyse the results of mock exams to identify areas that need further improvement and adjust your study plan accordingly.

13. Stay Informed

Stay informed about any changes or updates to the 11+ exam format or requirements. Joining parent forums and connecting with other parents can provide valuable insights and tips. Schools often provide information sessions or newsletters with important updates.

14. Seek Support When Needed

If you feel overwhelmed or your child is struggling, do not hesitate to seek support. This could be in the form of a tutor, educational psychologist, or support group. Remember, preparing for the 11+ exams is a significant undertaking, and it is okay to ask for help.


Preparing for the 11+ exams requires careful planning, consistent effort, and a positive attitude. By understanding the exam format, using effective study techniques, and maintaining a balanced lifestyle, you can help your child achieve their best.

Remember to support and encourage them throughout the process, fostering a love for learning that will benefit them beyond the exams.

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