The Eleven Plus exam for state grammar schools will, depending on the area you live in, consist of papers in any of up to four different disciplines: Verbal Reasoning, Non-Verbal Reasoning, English and Maths.

As the parent of a child taking the 11+ you will probably find the process stressful. In areas where the alternative schools are of an acceptable or even high quality most parents tend to remain fairly calm, safe in the knowledge that their child will still receive a good education even if they do not qualify for a grammar school. Unfortunately in some areas the alternatives to a grammar school can be less than appetising, and levels of parental stress tend to be accordingly higher. Whichever situation you find yourself in there are some very important points that can help you and your child survive your 11+ journey with as little stress as possible.

Seek information — and stay informed over time

It is critical that you know exactly how the admissions process for grammar schools works in your area. Information really is power during the 11 Plus process, and these are the three key steps you need to take to be fully informed:

  • Find out what the Admission Rules are for your preferred schools to check if you will have any chance of gaining a place.Places may be allocated by 11+ score, by distance or by another criterion such as religious commitment, sibling priority or priority feeder schools.
  • Admission Rules can change from year to year, so do not check them three years before your child is due to take the test and assume that the same rules are still in force when the time comes around.
  • Find out about the testing process for your preferred schools – what the tests consist of and when they take place. Again, look out for changes to the tests, because the content can vary considerably for topics such as Verbal Reasoning and English.

General Tips

Listed below are some revision tips for parents and students from those who have been through the ‘process’:

  • Do not overload your child! Allow them plenty of breaks, even if they’re only 5 or 10 minutes long. This helps them to take it all in.
  • Bear in mind that typically a child’s attention span ranges between 30 minutes to 50 minutes. Part of the build up process is to increase the attention span gradually.
  • Active revision is a great way to learn, this means plenty of past papers or simulated 11+ exam questions in exam conditions.
  • Visual aids such a mind maps (spider diagrams) showing all the different parts of a topic that needs to be learnt. This could be useful to summarise a subject, link information in different ways and mark progress giving your child a sense of achievement.

When to Start Tutoring

Most children will begin their tutoring in either September or January of Year 5. In areas where the 11 plus covers curriculum topics, such as English or Maths, some parents may choose to use a subject specific tutor from an earlier age to address known weaknesses in these subjects. Where the 11+ tests consist of 4 different subject papers, the amounts of tuition required may be somewhat higher, and tutoring may need to start somewhat earlier than Year 5, although you can probably discount most rumours of children being formally tutored for the 11+ from as early as Year 3.

There is no scientific answer as to how much tutoring is the correct amount, but there is no doubt that some tutoring helps, while too much can be completely counter-productive. Most tutors will hold a weekly session of an hour or 90 minutes in term time. There will also be homework set each week and for the holidays, especially the summer holiday when the tests are looming in most areas. In the immediate period before the tests some tutors may offer additional sessions or short courses during the summer holiday. You should assess carefully what the effect of these will be on your child, because there is a risk that the extra lessons will simply increase their feelings of stress about the exams.

The one thing to look out for at every stage in the process is your child “burning out” from too much tutoring. There is definitely a point at which the law of diminishing returns comes into play. Evaluate your child’s tolerance for coaching carefully and find a tutor who will match their needs in this respect. You will find further advice on these points in the remainder of this section of our site.

If a tutor recommends more than two hours of tuition a week over a lengthy period, or is insisting on your child attending expensive summer school courses as part of their “tuition package”, you should ask yourself who these extra sessions are going to benefit – your child, or the tutor and their bank balance?