Updated: Jan 21
The 11+ exam is taken by children aged 10-11 aiming to secure entry to a selective school (independent and grammar schools) for the following year. Children are normally tested in two or more of the following subjects, although the exact content will vary between exam boards and individual schools:
English (Reading Comprehension and/ or Creative Writing)
If your child is sitting entrance exams this year, you may wish to share these exam techniques to help them feel confident on the big day.
Exam Technique 1: Check the structure of the exam day.
Ensure that you read through this information with your child so that you both know what to expect on the day. This may include information such as:
The time your child needs to be dropped off at the exam location and the end time of the test
The exam format
The subjects your child will be tested on
The time allowance for each test and possible breaks
Exam Technique 2: Read the questions carefully.
This may sound obvious, however in a pressurised situation, sometimes the most obvious things get forgotten. Firstly, your child should listen to the instructions given by the invigilator at the start of the exam. Next, read the instructions carefully. Your child will be instructed how to write their answers.
Encourage your child to read every question carefully and avoid skim reading as this can cause costly mistakes. A good tip would be to read every question twice and underline key words or instructions before attempting to answer. Another key tip would be to check how many marks are available as this will tell you the amount of detail to put in your answers.
Exam Technique 3: Keep a check on the time!
Time management is an essential exam technique for success in all exams. Ensure that your child is aware of specific timings for each paper in advance of the exam. This information will be supplied by the school. Encourage your child to check the time frequently.
Completing past papers at home in preparation for these exams is a great way to practise time management as they give children an idea of how long they should be spending on each question. The exam invigilator will let you know when the test will end. Once you are halfway through the time allowed, check to see how many questions you have left to complete. This should help you work out if you need to work more quickly or if you have to slow down! Try to allow for a little time at the end of the exam to proofread/ edit your work and check that you have answered everything.
Exam Technique 4: If in doubt, make an educated guess.
The 11 plus is a challenging exam and is used to identify children who are working within the top 25% of their cohort (or the top 10% for some particularly competitive schools). Encourage your child to get into the habit of moving on to the next question if they are finding it difficult.
If the questions are in multiple-choice format, there's no harm in your child choosing any of the options available if they really don't know the correct answer. Any answer is better than none.
A top tip would be to make a mark next to the question to remind yourself and move on to the next one. If you have time left at the end of the test, you can have another go at the questions you left out. As previously mentioned, remember to factor in some extra time to check your answers!
Exam Technique 5: Stay focused!
Some children find taking an exam in a room with lots of other 11+ candidates distracting. Candidates who repeatedly look as though they are trying to see what other children are writing may face penalties. Try to focus on the clock and your own exam paper. Some 11+ papers include longer answers at the end of the paper, therefore maintaining focus in order to tackle these effectively is of the utmost importance too in order to gain the most marks.
Finally, If you’ve put the hard work into preparing for your 11+ exams, you have nothing to fear. Try not to let your nerves get the better of you. Follow these tips to make the most of the exam day and good luck!