Guide for Parents: 11+ Exams by Yetunde Agbesanwa

by | Apr 11, 2017 | Education | 0 comments

I had an amazing response from last week’s post and this week, I am excited to share more on the how you can support your child/children during exams. We will be looking at the 11 plus ( 11+) common entrance exams and I will be providing guide and tips for parents.

What is the 11+ exams?

A cute schoolboy sitting in his classroom with his classmates.

The 11+ are competitive selective exams pupils sit to gain admission into a grammar school. Some schools have a two-stage entrance exam, but most have only one.

Difference between Independent and State Grammar Schools?

The grammar school exams usually take place around September, when your child has just started Year 6, but some are as early as July when they are still in Year 5. This timing helps to make an informed and more accurate decision on the parents’ choice, and order of preference of the desired schools before the October 31st Common Application Form (CAF) deadline for the local authority. The Independent Schools on the other hand, however have theirs around January. Some have their first round in October which may include those applying for bursaries.

If you do not want your child to do any exam or they fail to get an offer there is always the comprehensive school option which might be best suited for your child. I recommend that you visit schools you might have an interest in for your child whilst they are in Year 4/5. Some schools also offer specialisms in one or two areas which might be of interest to your child. Specialisms in areas such as drama/performing arts, media, art, computing /technology, music, design and technology, mathematics, science, languages and physical education. This means there is an opportunity for your child to develop a keen interest in the area of their choice ,if they so desire.

Grammar school entrance exams have become highly competitive, with a large amount of parents fighting earnestly to ensure their child gains a place. However, if you want a less competitive route, you will need to be able to afford the fees the independent schools charge. This can be a huge expense especially when 2 or 3 other siblings are involved. I therefore recommend looking at bursaries/scholarships or comprehensive schools if you believe finances may be an issue.


I recommend that parents should start thinking about the 11+ when their child is in Year 4, but some start earlier. Your child needs to be competent in a few areas such as:

  • Recalling and applying their times tables.

  • Telling the time.

  • Adding and subtracting large numbers using the column method.

  • Multiplying and dividing by a 2-digit number.

  • Fractions, decimal, percentages.

  • Ratios and proportion.

  • Perimeters, areas and volumes.

  • Spelling, grammar and punctuation.

  • Reading and understanding i.e. comprehension.

  • Creative writing.

Additionally, your child needs to have the confidence for these rigorous exams. They would be best prepared and confident if they are already relatively at the top in their class.

There are hundreds of materials that are available in most high street bookshops and online. Most Independent Schools test their prospective pupils at 10+, 11+ or 13+ with the 11+ being the most popular one done. Some schools test in all four strands: Mathematics, English, Verbal and Non-Verbal Reasoning, or a combination of two or three of these.

Check the school’s website to gather the correct information to ensure your child prepares for the right school assessment. At a second stage, some schools would test their writing skills in form of creative or continuous writing. Some schools are now using the more challenging CEM assessments to select their prospective students.

How then can you support your child and ensure they come out on top?

  1. PLAN: Have an achievable plan. A timetable drawn up for your child that is followed will help with their preparation. FOR EXAMPLE: An hour of maths on day one followed by another hour of English on day two, etc.
  2. PRACTICE: Use practice papers under timed conditions and record the progress made. Sometimes the 10-minute test and short mental arithmetic tests are good to build your child’s discipline and confidence. Encourage your child to practice these tests regularly.
  3. PREPARE: Practice makes perfect, but every child has different challenging areas. Preparation is vital to helping your child develop the skills needed in areas of difficulty or get the help from qualified and experienced teachers.
  4. PATIENCE: A lot of patience is required and that is why it is best to start early.
  5. MOCK EXAM: In the lead up to your child’s first exam, organize a mock exam for your child in order for them to overcome any panic or nerves before the real exams. There quite a few centres that run them.

I hope you find this informative and encouraging. As parents, we also need to be prepared for the exams by providing our children with the necessary support they need. Our confidence and preparation can also boost their confidence and preparation as they look up to us.

Good Luck and have a wonderful week!

Yetunde Agbesanwa Hons,, PGCE(Mathematics)

Yetunde Agbesanwa is a practicing & fully qualified teacher of Mathematics with over 15 years experience teaching at secondary schools. She is a proven expert at the current curriculum and all the recent changes in Key stages 2, 3, 4 and 5. She is also the CEO of Clearer Educational Tutors, where she prepares prospective pupils for the 11+ entrance examinations, SATS, GCSE and A level Mathematics. A wife and mother to two daughters and a son, she is very passionate about empowering and educating children to prepare them to be the champions of the future.
She is also a prolific sponsor of numerous charities and a board member of the Ichthus Family Foundation; a family oriented organisation based in Enfield. 
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