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Skills Your Child Needs
to Pass the 11 Plus Test

See also: Exam Preparation Tips

The 11 plus exam: a term we are confident that many of you reading this in England or beyond are familiar with. Whether you have been to grammar school or a public school yourself, or know someone who has, the exam is something that we are very much aware exists from a young age.

The 11 plus exam can seem a bit daunting, especially if you have never sat it yourself but have heard horror stories from those who did. While the test is no longer compulsory for all year six pupils, there are some schools in the country that still require your child to sit the test to get a place.

If you are in the position where you have decided to send your child to a grammar school that requires them to sit this test and are searching for how best to prepare them for the task at hand, you are in the right place.

We will run through all things 11 plus in this piece: what it is, what it is required for, and the skills that your child will need when wanting to pass the 11 plus assessment. Take a deep breath, for we recognise that this is an incredibly challenging time for parents and students alike.

Read on for more!


What is the 11 Plus Exam, and How Do You Take the Test?

The exam name is relatively self-explanatory; this is a test that you take to gain a place at one of the 160 grammar schools in England and for entry into the academic year at the age of either 11 or 12. Taken by those pupils who are currently in year 6 of primary school in preparation for transitioning to secondary school, the tests assess your child's abilities in various areas.

As grammar schools and other independent educational institutions are somewhat competitive to access, you can recognise that the assessments need to determine your child's abilities and potential and compare those results to those who are also sitting the exam. There can be an estimated 30 students fighting for one space at these schools, so naturally, you want to make sure that your child is as prepared as they can be before sitting the tests.

Two exam boards offer the test to prospective students, the Centre for Evaluation and Monitoring (CEM) and Granda Learning (GL). Within the exams provided by these boards, you can expect your child to be tested in four main areas: English, Maths, Verbal and Non-Verbal Skills.

Concerning the four areas that your child will subsequently be tested on, you will naturally want to ensure that your child is as prepared as they can be. Setting a study schedule in place as early as possible will ensure that they are given the head start that they need.

While that is undoubtedly the most effective way of preparing your child for the 11 plus test, you will also want to consider some of the limitations. With in-person teaching at a minimum, it can be challenging to ensure that your child is receiving as much knowledge as they might.

If you would like your child to have some extra support during the pandemic and beyond while preparing for the 11 plus test, consider using the services of an 11 plus online learning scheme provided by the likes of Test Teach. Working with your child to develop anything that they feel they may lack, you can rest assured that they will have the best shot possible at the test in front of them. To find out more information about this service and how you could use it for your child, learn more here.



What Exactly Will Your Child Be Tested On?

  • English: There are numerous factors that your child could be tested on in the English section of the 11 plus exam. All the following, or only a few in combination with one another, are used when testing your child: spelling, grammar, vocabulary, sentence structure, punctuation, comprehension, and literacy. To prepare your child as much as possible for these, you will want to cover each of them to some extent, just to ensure that they are not caught out. Consider practising these skills with your child through reading and writing activities and getting them to branch out regarding the media they are consuming to further extend their vocabulary and overall grasp of language.

  • Maths: This is a somewhat more specific section of the test compared to the more relative concepts surrounding English. When faced with the maths element of the 11 plus exam, your child will be tested on a basic understanding of maths, including addition, subtraction, and other vital aspects of the Key Stage 2 Maths curriculum. What's more, there are ways that you can incorporate practising your child’s maths knowledge while also preparing them for the non-verbal reasoning section of the assessment (see below).

  • Verbal Reasoning Skills: It can be challenging to predict what will be asked of your child in this section and how you can improve and develop their skills to ensure that they do well. While that may well be the case, it is suggested that you focus on developing and expanding the depth and width of your child’s vocabulary for this section of the test. Going over sentence structure will not go amiss either.

  • Non-Verbal Reasoning Skills: Much like its verbal counterpart, the non-verbal reasoning section of the 11 plus exam can also be viewed as challenging when trying to predict what may be asked of your child. That being said, your child will generally be tested on spatial awareness, shapes, and mirrored images, to name but a few. Going through this when practising the maths section with your child will enable you to kill two birds with one stone.

Ensuring that you start your preparation early, and securing a private tutor's services if necessary, will make sure that your child is getting the best head start possible. While we recognise that this can be an incredibly confusing time for you as a parent, and for your child while sitting the test, just know that you are not the first people to feel that way and certainly won’t be the last.

If you find that you are still struggling with some aspects of the preparation process, consider contacting other parents in your area who may have already been through the process with their children or who have been through it themselves. There is no better wisdom than that shared by someone who has already experienced what you are going through.



Further Reading from Skills You Need


The Skills You Need Guide for Students

The Skills You Need Guide for Students

Skills You Need

Develop the skills you need to make the most of your time as a student.

Our eBooks are ideal for students at all stages of education, school, college and university. They are full of easy-to-follow practical information that will help you to learn more effectively and get better grades.


We hope you have found this piece helpful and insightful into all things 11 plus and feel prepared to understand what is to come.

While the process can often feel long and laborious for all those involved, it is undoubtedly one that will pay off in the end when you can freely apply to your school of choice. What more could you want?


About the Author


Zoe has written and researched articles for a wide variety of career websites, blogs and magazines, has a strong understanding of current business trends and a passion for entrepreneurism.

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