Should your child take the eleven plus or should you just not bother? Can you even take these entrance exams in your area? And, if you do decide to take it, what does the admission test actually involve?
They are all legitimate questions to have before you dive into the world of these selective tests for grammar schools and independent schools. If you are going to have your child do an extra examination to attend a particular type of school – particularly when they are only ten years old – you really need to know that what you are doing is the right thing.
Of course, the real response to that is to think about what the right thing is for you and your child – but mainly for your child. Because there is no one-size-fits-all response to this. Whether the 11+ exam is suitable for your child is something that you will have to consider together.
However, it is an excellent thing to be informed. And we’re helping out with exactly this. So, whether you are completely new to the eleven plus and have no idea what it’s all about, or if you want a little extra guidance on top of what you already know, then you’re in the right place.
Let us introduce you to all things 11+. Throughout this piece, you’ll find links to dedicated articles answering each of the questions that you may have. Check them out!
What is the 11+ and Does My Child Need to Take it?
The eleven plus is the exam that children are required to take for admission into grammar schools, independent schools, or public schools for secondary education. It can be taken in Northern Ireland and in some areas for schools in England, whilst it aims to assess those who are most academically able.
You take the 11+ in year 5 or 6, whilst still at primary school, but it is far from compulsory. If you are satisfied with your child going to a comprehensive school, then there is no need to do anything at all. However, if you want them to attend a grammar school or any sort of selective school, they will need to sit the test
Where Can You Still Take the Eleven Plus?
You cannot take the 11+ everywhere in the UK. In Scotland and Wales, there’s not a chance. Meanwhile, it goes in Northern Ireland and in many regions in England.
This means that it is no longer compulsory. However, if you live in Buckinghamshire, you have to actually opt out of the eleven+ exam: you will be automatically entered into the process – and you’ll have to let them know if you do not want to be.
Otherwise, it is a case of choosing whether you want to sit the exam or not. The sort of exam that you will actually take will differ from school to school: some schools – particularly private schools – set their own tests (which count as the eleven plus) whilst most regions take more widespread admissions tests.
What test you will take will depend on where you are and what school you are applying to. You can find the full list of regions in which you can take the 11+ in our article, What is the Eleven Plus?.
What Does the 11+ Test?
And whilst all of these tests differ in their details, the vast majority of them actually examine you on the same things. As a result, you will almost certainly take your test in four parts.
These will be the English and Maths tests and the verbal and non-verbal reasoning tests. Whilst the first two will test you on material that you will probably have studied before secondary school, the latter two will probably be unfamiliar.
Unfamiliarity, by the way, is the point. You can see more on this below.
How to Prepare for the Eleven+ Exam
One of the questions that so many people ask about the eleven plus exam is how to prepare for it. This is understandable enough. However, most exam boards these days try to design exam papers for which you cannot really revise. This keeps the playing field fairly balanced for school entrance.
Yet, there are of course ways that you can get ahead with your test preparation. Familiarising yourself with past papers and the structure of the questions and the question types will help you to perform at your best on the day.
There are plenty of other ways too to optimise your exam prep. Let’s take a look – and you can see a full list in our article, How to Prepare for the 11+ Exam.
Take it Easy: Don’t Start too Soon
One of the most important things to remember about 11+ test prep is not to start too early. Pupils can just get a little fed up with revising for an exam – particularly an entrance examination – and to do it for too long can produce problems.
When you do decide to start study for the entrance exam, however, do start with the English and Maths parts of the test papers. These will help your verbal and non-verbal reasoning skill anyway, so it makes sense.
Make Use of Practice Papers
The thing about this exam is that it is unlikely that your child will be hugely familiar with the requirements of the verbal and non-verbal reasoning parts. Making sure that they become familiar is crucial.
There is only one way to do this. That’s taking as many practice tests or mock exams – whatever you want to call them – as you can. For the eleven plus, practice questions rule.
If you don’t know precisely which exam you are going to be taking, you need to get in touch with the school to which you will be applying. Many papers will help – even the ones that you are not going to be sitting yourself.
Get Yourself a Private Tutor
Finally, private tutors can be great to help you with getting into the selective school of your choice. They will have first-hand experience of the test and will know how to guide new students through the process.
Get in touch with one at Superprof.
Maths and English for the Eleven Plus
As we said, you need to start your preparation for the entrance test with Maths and English revision. These are the parts that you can actually revise for best – although it is skills that the examiners will be looking for, not your knowledge of content.
The English exam is primarily based around comprehension tests. You will be given a text and you will have to answer questions on it. This will not be a text that you will know – so it’s not worth hoping for that – but it will be of your level.
The Maths exam, meanwhile, will be based around everything you have learned at school, from multiplication to measurements and geometry.
You can find out more about the Maths and English Eleven Plus tests here!
Using the Curriculum
When preparing for this exam, start by making sure that you are absolutely solid on everything that you will have learned at school. Use the curriculum to guide your studies – particularly in Maths.
For the English test, however, you will tested primarily on your ability to engage with whatever text is put in front of you. An ability to deal with a diversity of texts is crucial for success in this exam – so read widely and think about everything you are reading.
Verbal Reasoning and Non-Verbal Reasoning in the 11+
Meanwhile, the verbal and non-verbal reasoning is something for which you can’t learn any content at all. This doesn’t necessarily mean, however, that you cannot prepare. You can and you should – you just can’t revise material as such.
It is more a game of practice, rather than of revision. You can find out more about this in our article on the 11+ Verbal and Non-Verbal Reasoning Tests.
What is Verbal and Non-Verbal Reasoning?
Both verbal and non-verbal reasoning test your ability to solve problems. In one, these problems are presented in words – and in the other they are presented visually, or non-verbally. This means spatially, numerically, or diagrammatically.
You have to show your skill in problem-solving and independent thinking through your ability to analyse these problems.
In the end, these problems are almost fun: you will be required to put things in order or to identify the odd ones out.
We told you that you wouldn’t learn about it at school!