Top 11 plus tips for busy parents

We hope you find our 11 plus tips for parents helpful.

Let’s start with when you should start your 11 Plus preparation? How much 11 Plus practice does your child need?


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We also recommend Rob Williams Assessment‘s FREE 11 Plus Practice Tests with answers.


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One of the big issues is when to start 11 Plus preparation. Beginning tuition in years 2 or 3 is almost certainly too early. However, leaving it until the end of year 5 is probably too late. What’s more, it can create more stress for the child too, the later you leave it.

When should you start your 11+ prep?

Generally speaking, we advise no more than 12 months of tuition for the Eleven Plus. So, starting at the beginning of Year 5 is probably a good time. At the very latest January of year 5 for exams taking place in September of year 6.

Read more: “Eleven Plus exam questions: differences in exams in the UK”

Addressing learning gaps

Obviously deciding when to start tutoring depends largely on the abilities of the individual child. He or she may only need a few hours of exam practice. In this case, a few months may be adequate.

However, if there are much greater gaps in their learning, then you may require several months of regular weekly tuition.

In regions where the 11 plus covers curriculum subjects, such as English and Maths, it is sometimes necessary to use a subject-specific tutor from an earlier age. This is to address known weaknesses in these subjects.

For example, many 10-year old boys struggle with English papers where they have to write their own composition ‘from the heart’. So getting a tutor who can help stimulate your child’s creative writing is probably a good idea.

Conversely, some children struggle with core areas of mathematics, such as addition, subtraction, multiplication and division, so a dedicated Maths tutor may be needed.

11 plus test prep

Getting familiar with the papers


When should you start your 11+ prep?

The good news is that all 11 Plus Preparation to get into grammar school will also help your child’s schoolwork. In particular, core subjects such as Maths and English. The bad news, of course, is that tuition doesn’t come cheap!

In theory, Verbal and Non-Verbal reasoning papers are designed to test a child’s innate ability and are more difficult to prepare for. However, the reality is that children do need to familiarise themselves with the types of questions in these papers to do well.

This is particularly true of test papers from GL Assessment which still remains the biggest supplier to local authorities and schools. There are

For example, the Kent Test Familiarisation Booklet, which you can find here, features some sample questions. Similarly, there are free 11 Plus test papers here.

Top 11 Plus Tips for Busy Parents

Increasingly popular with local authorities, Durham’s CEM (Centre for Evaluation and Monitoring) entrance tests are much newer and more difficult to prepare for.

According to its website “CEM aims to reduce any disadvantage created between children who are tutored for tests and those who are not.” It continues: “Our assessments are designed to enable all children to demonstrate their academic potential without the need for excessive preparation.”

Nevertheless, the CEM entrance tests cover the same subject areas (Maths, English, Verbal and Non-Verbal Reasoning) as the GL Assessment tests and the standardized pass-mark is the same (121).

The key difference is that in the CEM exams Verbal Reasoning and English are grouped together. CEM exams are also divided into separately timed sections. Hence, it’s important that children learn how to manage their time correctly as it’s not possible to return to sections once completed.

11 plus test prep

When should you start your 11+ prep?

While the beginning of Year 5 is usually a good time for your child to start tuition, it goes without saying you should begin the groundwork much earlier.

This is necessary for two reasons. Firstly, so you can fully identify the weaknesses your child may have when it comes to taking the 11 Plus. Secondly, you will need a bit of time in order to find the right tutor.

Inevitably, the best tutors can be booked up many years in advance, so the earlier you start to look for one the better your options will be.

When choosing a tutor, you need to ask about their qualifications and their success rate in getting children into Grammar schools. You also need to see how they get on with your child and how much they charge for their time.

Top 11 Plus Tips for Busy Parents

How much tutoring is needed?

Once you’ve decided when to start tuition the next big decision is how much tuition to get. Once again there is no precise answer about how much is the right amount.

During term time, most tutors will hold a weekly session of between 60 to 90 minutes with additional homework set each week. During the holidays the tutor may also recommend extra sessions. This is especially important in the summer period leading up to September’s 11 Plus exams.

The key is that the additional work required for the 11 Plus needs to be manageable for your child. Because if it’s not, then this will simply add to their stress levels before the examinations which are counter-productive.

If your child is receiving homework from school then it is more difficult to complete a tutor’s homework too.

11 plus test prep

Keep calm during your 11 Plus Preparation

Undoubtedly, preparing for the 11 Plus is a stressful time for everyone concerned – parents included. The key is to stay calm and not let children sitting the exams see you are stressed too!

Top 11 Plus Tips for Busy Parents

If the tuition isn’t going well then reassure them they will be fine and just to do their best. One thing to avoid is ‘burn out’ where the child can’t focus on the task at hand because of too much stress.

At every stage, you have to evaluate your child’s tolerance for coaching. You also need to make sure your child takes frequent rest breaks. This takes the child’s mind off things.

Finally, you need to prepare children for their 11 Plus preparation. This means staging at least one mock exam in close to full examination conditions.

Obviously, it’s not possible to replicate the experience of hundreds of children in an exam hall. However, it’s important to carry out the mock in silence, for the exact length of time and with all the necessary materials to hand.

Only then will they start to feel fully prepared for their forthcoming 11 Plus examinations.

When’s best to start practising for the 11+ exam?

The best time to start preparing your child for the 11+ depends entirely on their current attainment levels and experience. Your son or daughter may only need a few weeks or months of preparation as the 11+ exam approaches, focusing on practising exam papers and developing the exam technique and confidence.

Most children benefit from several months of support, often regular weekly tuition, building rigour and polish across core skills, being fully stretched and challenged academically and then shaping their performance towards the demands of the exam.

Any support or tuition focused on preparing for the 11+ exam also brings a significant and broader benefit to your child’s in terms of their general school work and confidence. 

Is a specialist 11 plus tutor necessary?

Some parents will choose to prepare their child using resources available, such as the series of Bond 11+ books or GL and CEM past papers; other parents will choose to send their child to 11+ group tuition with classes outside of school hours; other parents may choose to enlist the services of a professional tutor or teacher, who specialises in preparing children for the 11+ exam.

 School Entrance Tests‘ wish you all the very best of luck with your 11 plus !

  Top 11 Plus Tips for Busy Parents