If you are keen to get your child into a grammar school or independent school for secondary education, then it is best if they do a little bit of preparation before the 11+ exam. And you’ll probably need to give them a bit of a helping hand.

The eleven-plus comes at quite an early moment in the life of pupils in the UK. However, as it determines admissions to secondary schools, there is no other time to do it.

This fact, however, should make you think about what your child will want to do, will have the energy to do, and will have the attention span to do. Sitting them down with a range of tutors every night for the sake of school entrance exam will probably turn them off.

Instead, take the preparatory activity for grammar school admissions a little easy. One of the two main exam boards designs exams so that you are unable to prepare for them. Meanwhile, your child still has primary school to think about too.

Despite all this, here are some tips for what you can do to help prepare your child for the eleven-plus exam. Check out our introduction to the 11+ for more!

Suss Out What School You’re Interested in

In our article, What is the 11+?, we discussed how different regions around the country sit different tests – and how these can even differ from school to school. If you are in Buckinghamshire, you’re going to need to sit something different to if you are in Belfast. Meanwhile, Northern Ireland is the prime example of a region in which different grammar schools request different examinations.

As eleven-plus exams are not compulsory, you are going to have to work out all of this for yourself. And it is seriously important, because it will determine the different tests that your child will be doing.

So, before you do anything, you and your child need to decide which secondary school you are actually interested in. Go see a few locally, if you have a choice, and get in touch with them.

eleven plus english exam
The Eleven Plus involves a literature paper too.

Know What Test Your Child is Sitting

Once you have done that, you should have a clearer idea of what test your child will be sitting – and which different specific entrance exams this will involve.

Is it a GL Assessment exam or Centre for Evaluation and Monitoring (CEM) exam? Or, if you are in Northern Ireland, is it an AQE exam? Each of these have different requirements, sections, and resources available to help you, so it will make a huge difference to your test preparation.

As we just said above, the final word on which of these is for you will sit with the school to which you are applying. So, if in doubt, ask them.

Don’t Start Revision Too Soon

Just a word of warning before you dive in. Don’t start your child revising for the exam too soon. Or, if you do, start at a very low intensity.

Revising for exams for independent schools for much more than six months is going to bore your child silly – and they will never want to see non-verbal reasoning ever again. Meanwhile, they already have their own schooling to be doing too.

So, make sure that your child is happy with the workload that they are being given for the 11+. There is no need to push them too hard – because they should be able to sit the exam even without any preparation at all. Every moment they do is just a bonus.

Find Some Practice Papers

Once you have discovered which exam it is that you need to sit, you can start exploring the different resources available to help your child on their way to one of the selective schools.

Practice papers are a great place to start with this, as they show you exactly what will need to be done in the exam, with all the different question types.

Familiarity with these is fairly crucial to success in the ultimate exam – because your child will not want to have to work out what they are supposed to be doing in the exam hall.

They are available from such publishers as CGP Books – and will take you through the whole process of eleven-plus exam preparation.

prepare for the 11+
How much do you need to study for the Eleven Plus?

Check Out the Pass Marks – for What You are Generally Aiming at

Another thing to note is that it is worth knowing what sort of practice exam results you are generally aiming at. If you are sitting hundreds of practice tests but you don’t know what standards schools in England request, you are not doing anything very helpful for yourself.

The general guidance is that 80-85% on a test is usually adequate for a pass. However, the trouble is that this is never known for certain. Instead, considering that certain areas are more competitive than others – and that in certain years performance might be better – these numbers fluctuate, and potentially quite dramatically.

Get Revising Maths and English

As you will know by this point, most of the eleven-plus exams are made up of verbal and non-verbal reasoning tests, and Maths and English parts of the paper. More often than not, the former parts of the exam are made deliberately difficult to revise for.

Where you can start revising for sure then is in the Maths and English elements of the exam papers. Ensure that you child knows everything that they have covered in school, and make sure that they know how to bring that knowledge out in exam papers and the like. The English and Maths sections are based on what is covered in the normal school system, so it is essential that you go over this.

You can find out more about this in our article on the 11+ English and Maths.

Keep It Interesting

As we said above, it is really important that you don’t bore your child to death with practice questions and exam prep. They won’t perform as well if they have lost all interest, whilst you will just be making them miserable in the meantime.

Try and keep their preparation interesting for them. Mix up the materials and resources you will be using and identify the bits that they find the most engaging. Simply enough, revision shouldn’t be boring, so try to keep things fresh.

It will make for a much more enjoyable experience for your child.

Consider a Private Tutor

And if you feel like you are running out of inspiration for revision materials, you can always consider private tutoring. These are specialists in helping children pass the 11+, and they will know how to push your child in exactly the right way.

You shouldn’t have to struggle to think about all the exercises your child should work on by yourself. Professionals can help.

A great place to find a tutor for your child’s 11+ revision is at Superprof. We have millions of tutors in our online community, teaching over a thousand subjects. For the eleven-plus, we have over five hundred tutors, all of whom will be able to provide your child with the advice and guidance necessary for them to excel.

tutoring for eleven plus
A private tutor can help with Eleven Plus preparation

Chill and Trust Your Kid

Finally, at some point, you will just have to chill out and let go. Yes, we know that for some of you this will sound like too much to ask. However, at some point, you will just have to trust your child.

If you think that you child is academically gifted, if you think that they are able enough to be answering these types of questions in the first place, then you should be able to trust them to give the exam their best go.

As we said, the majority of these tests are designed so that you cannot actually prepare. They are not like GCSEs, in which studying is the most important part. Rather, as long as your child knows what to expect from the exam, and as long as they know how to think, there is no reason why they shouldn’t be able to excel.

You cannot sit the exam for your child. So, you’re just going to have to trust them.

Find out more about the 11+ verbal and non-verbal reasoning!


The 11+ can change your child’s life. However, a little preparation helps. Knowing what sort of questions candidates are expected to answer is crucial, as is developing the skills to think and work things out independently.

Other than that, your child just has to give it their best shot. We are sure they will do excellently.

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