We strongly advice that your child first takes a well structured assessment test covering the subject areas of your region. You could pick questions out from practice papers for all topics or contact an 11 Plus tutor to do it for you. You may need to pay a tutor to get this done. LPF Learning also gives assessment tests in English, Maths and Verbal Reasoning, free of charge.
Having assessed your child’s academic standards, gathering the relevant material is the next step. Many 11 Plus regions set exams in three main subject areas; English, Maths and Verbal Reasoning. Then, there are those regions which also measure Non-Verbal Reasoning skills. Some regions only require Verbal Reasoning and Non-Verbal Reasoning tests. You would also need the past exam papers for your region, if available.
You should also contact your child’s primary school to find out if they have an 11 Plus support policy.
The amount of practice or revision needed depends on various factors. You child’s academic level and ability obviously plays the most important role. How that ability is reflected on what 11 Plus exams measure is a different matter though. Hence, the importance of the assessment test. Specifics of your 11 Plus region is another important factor that could have a bearing on the amount of work to be done. So, you need to find out what subjects are tested in your area. Will there be any meaningful contributions for the preparation from your primary school, is another consideration.
If your child is one of the top achiever in the current school and further help from school will be forthcoming, up to 10 practice papers could be sufficient for English and Maths for instance. Verbal Reasoning would be a new concept for your child, so methods for different question categories would first have to be taught and practiced. Following that anything between 10-20 timed practice papers could also be enough. However, we would also recommend at least 2 mock exams covering all exam subjects of your region.
If your child is achieving average or just above average, considerably more practice work would be required and you would be advised to start the revision process at least 7-10 months before the exams. In any case, more than 10-11 months of revision would not be recommended. In this case, we would recommend at least 4 mock exams.
However, if you are planning ahead, well in advance of the 11 Plus exams, you may consider helping the child raise his/her attainment levels in the school, especially in Maths or English.
Please note, the recommendations above are for guidance only and parents would need to evaluate their own circumstances in accordance with the progress of the revision process.
In some areas you can purchase past exam papers, usually last couple of years. You can find out if this is the case for your area by contacting the your LEA. (See our ‘Useful Links’ section.)
In addition to past exam papers, you would also need to purchase some practice papers. Most practice papers in the market cover almost all question categories and you can get papers for all subject areas. Going to a book shop and studying different publishers’ papers would help to decide which ones are more suitable for you. This is not an easy task, but asking other parents who have already gone through the experience in the previous years would be great help. Check out our forum pages for discussions on the topic or you can sign up to our forum and post your own questions.
We also publish our brand of practice papers which cover all question categories. (See our relevant section.)
In the early stages of the revision process, it is not advisable to use the full practice papers. Children should be familiarised with different question categories with some repetitive practice with each category, before going on to full papers.
Going through hundreds of practice papers alone does not get your child to one of those top-notch schools, unless your child is taught methodically and progressively. The actual exam will feel nothing like the practice sessions done in the familiar circumstances and comfort of your home.
There are two sides to the methodology question. First one is of a strategic nature and concerns the general approach to the whole exam process. The other is to do with the actual ways of working out the answers for individual question groups. These concepts and further details of the subject based revision process are covered in the ‘Time Management’ and ‘Subject Specific’ sections of the FAQ.
What types of questions are asked in the 11 Plus exams?
There are many categories of questions in the three subject areas in Essex. Make a list of all these categories under each subject. Looking at last 5-6 year's past exam papers you can compile a comprehensive list that will cover most, if not all, question types.
English is easier to analyse. Basically, you have the comprehension section, where the questions range from true and false statements, equivalent words section, choice of descriptive phrases relating to the passage, closest meaning questions, express with your own words questions etc. Then, there are the punctuation and grammar questions(s).
Maths questions on the other hand, come from a larger pool covering many areas. Simple additions and subtractions, decimals, fractions and percentages, measurements, problem solving, graphs, pie charts, date and time calculations, areas, angles, formulae, geometrical shapes, sequences, symmetry, patterns, averages, probabilities, temperatures etc.
Verbal Reasoning has about 25 categories of questions in total, ranging from words with opposite meaning, closest words, compound words, incomplete words, jumbled words, hidden words, sums, letter series, number series, words x codes, arranged words, true statement, jumbled sentences, unrelated words, word pairs with a missing letter, number coded words etc. Then, there are the questions where you need to move a letter from one word to another to make two new words or completing sentences with a choice of given pair of words etc. The list goes on.
You need to make sure that all these question types are covered in your child's revision process.
How to structure the revision process?
With English, get your child to do as many comprehension practices as possible. Device different ways of enhancing their vocabulary - vocabulary is the most important single area that will have a great bearing not only for the English test, but also for the Verbal Reasoning. For maths and verbal reasoning start with repetitive practise questions for each category. Let them do one type of question for a day or two. Then, introduce another category and so on. Then, combine few categories together eventually going onto doing the timed full practice papers.
Let them do as many full practice papers as possible in all subjects, without actually overworking them to an extent that they loose interest. Try and device ways of making them enjoy the tests, by structuring the papers so that the children see their progress at every step and are encouraged by it.
Make sure you give them about 4-5 full mock tests under exam conditions - that is, precisely as laid down in the actual 11+ exams. For example for many regions: English first (35 minutes), 10-15 minute break, maths (40 minutes), 30 minutes break and verbal reasoning (45-50 minutes), with time reminders every 15-20 minutes. If you can, doing one of the mocks in a non-local library may be useful. Try to find the best corner that simulates exam conditions.
How long the revision sessions should be?
Remember that you are dealing with a 10-year-old child. Don't expect their concentration span to be anywhere close to an adult's. So, make sure your revision sessions do not go beyond an hour. Do it regularly without fail but limit it to an hour each time. (Only the mock tests should go beyond this) Try to work out at what part of the day your child's comprehensive faculties are at their best. Some do extremely well after playing with friends for an hour or so, others may be sharper and more attentive early in the morning before school. Plan the practice sessions at least a day in advance. Make sure not only you know the answers to each question, but the methods of working them out which best suits your child as well.
Things to watch out for.
First and far most, it is very important to get your child into the habit of reading the question carefully to ensure what is actually asked is understood correctly. Most mistakes are made by rushing into working out the answers without fully reading the question. Having repetitively solved so many questions of similar wording, the child may fall into the habit of jumping to conclusions after the first few words and skip reading the rest of the question. You must teach your child to guard against this tendency.
It is very easy to fall into the trap of giving the right answers, but to a wrong question. Here is a simple example: You have 3 red, 5 blue, 4 yellow, 7 black and 2 white marbles in a bag. To win a price you need to pick a red ball. What is the probability of not winning a price? The answer is 1/7. Or is it?
Apart from the variation of what subjects are tested in different areas, the format of the exam papers also differs. Basically, there are two formats. Standard and Multiple Choice. Some regions have a mixture of both standard and multiple choice formats for different subjects.
We strongly recommend that the majority of the revision work is carried out using the standard versions. Our 11 Plus teaching experience makes us strongly believe that working with standard formats would promote better and longer lasting learning and multiple choice versions should only be used to get children acquainted with this format if this applies to your region. The fundamental reason behind this belief is that the multiple choice papers are a lot easier, as answers, including the correct one, are given in the answer sheet and therefore standard versions are more challenging and help better develop child’s question answering, reasoning and problem solving skills.
A mock exam is an exam covering all test papers of your area conducted under exam conditions. How many mock exams should be done depends on the conditions mentioned at the beginning of the FAQ section.
The mock exams should start about 2-5 months before the actual exams, again depending on those factors. Each mock should be followed by at least 3-4 weeks of further revision and practice sessions aimed at improving the weaker areas shown by the mock, for further developing the time management skills and to consolidate the strong areas.