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11+ Exams

After speaking to many worried parents, we’ve dedicated a separate page to the 11+ exams. We hope you find this information helpful.

Deciding whether your child should sit these selective entry exams, whether for Local Authority Grammar Schools or for fee paying Independent Schools can be very stressful. Competition is fierce and it is often hard to find out information about the exams, especially for the Birmingham and Warwick Grammar Schools as they use the Durham CEM test, originally designed so you can’t prepare for them!

What subjects does the exam cover?

The 11+ exam will vary from one local authority to another. Independent Schools will often use their own exam but some will use the Common Entrance Exam. You can expect the 11+ exam to cover English, Mathematics, verbal reasoning and non-verbal reasoning (and at some schools children are invited for an interview.) The English and Mathematics follow the National Curriculum but the verbal reasoning and non-verbal reasoning are not primary school subjects but they will develop transferable skills that your child can use across the curriculum. They are designed to provide a good indication of potential academic ability.

Find out more about the particular admissions procedures and different exams used at Grammar and Independent Schools in our local area.

The verbal reasoning test demonstrates whether children can problem solve, whilst working quickly and accurately, and how effectively they can process verbal information. This can be broken into four sections: sorting words, selecting words, anagrams and coded sequences. So if your child is strong at English they will usual be stronger at verbal reasoning.

The non-verbal reasoning test looks at patterns and shapes rather than words and verbal processes. They also test whether a child can problem solve whilst working quickly and accurately, and how effectively they can process information through graphic and pictorial representation. Again this test can be broken into four sections: identifying shapes, missing shapes, rotating shapes and coded shapes. Your child will probably find this area easier if they are strong at Maths.

How a tutor can help

Maybe you are busy with work and don’t have the time to coach your child yourself or just think your child wouldn’t respond well to working with you. Perhaps you’ve considered putting your primary aged child into a private school earlier than you initially thought just to prepare for selective entry exams and are looking at tutoring as a more cost effective option.

We can organise a learning programme for progress without pressure. We can target the gaps in your child’s learning in English and Maths and provide practice and advice on how to succeed at verbal and non-verbal reasoning.

A study conducted in Northern Ireland (Bunting and Mooney – 2004) showed that “coaching by tutors can significantly boost attainment in the Eleven Plus exams. Five hundred students were asked to complete a number of tests – with some given tuition beforehand. Just three hours of extra help was shown to have a significant effect on attainment – and this effect became substantial after nine months of tutoring.”

So, although verbal reasoning and non-verbal reasoning are designed to assess innate ability, it appears that tutoring does have an effect on the outcome of the test. Tutoring provides increased familiarity with the question types and allows your child to practise the techniques needed to solve them. Therefore it becomes easier the more frequently they complete them.

As English and Maths are core school subjects, the help that your child will need in these areas will be dependent on their abilities and the provision that their school has provided. But any extra English and Math’s tuition is never a waste and will be of huge benefit when preparing them for any secondary education!

How you can help

Allow sufficient time for your child to prepare for the exam.

Establish a regular reading time. Introduce your child to a wide range of quality authors, including those from different eras so they get exposure to a wide range of vocabulary. Encourage your child to read for at least 20 minutes each day, of which 10 minutes should be reading out loud to an adult, so you can discuss the meaning of new vocabulary.

Find real and fun opportunities to practise mental maths skills.

Play and encourage educational games that will help develop verbal and non-verbal reasoning skills: jigsaws, sliding puzzles, word puzzles, crosswords, Sudoku, logic games, board games such as Yahtzee and Scrabble and even computer games that require tactical thinking or fast reactions.

Be realistic about your child’s 11+ potential, although we all want the best for our children, sometimes the rigorous education at a selective secondary school is not best suited to all children.

Be open with your child so you both know how the other is feeling about decisions.

Offer encouragement but don’t constantly talk about the exam.

With thanks to "The Parents' Guide to the 11+" by Micehellejoy Hughes, published by Bond.