Helping your child prepare for the 11-Plus

If you’re keen for your child to attend a grammar school, they’ll need to pass a stringent set of exams called the 11-plus. Getting through these is no mean feat, even for the most able child! As a parent, there are lots of things you can do to support your child and help them prepare as effectively as possible. This is important as some aspects of 11-plus (Verbal and Non Verbal Reasoning in particular) aren’t taught in the National Curriculum.

Here are some of the things you can do to help your child prepare.

Encourage your child to read widely (and read with them)

A good vocabulary is absolutely essential if your child is to do well in the Verbal Reasoning papers. But whilst many children naturally adore reading, others are less keen or find it difficult. If this is the case with your son or daughter, all is not lost! It’s still possible to foster a love of reading and/or improve their reading ability with a little extra effort.

Start by reading aloud to your child, choosing books that have appeal and can hold their interest. This could be any type of book, including non-fiction or cartoon-style publications. In time, reverse the roles and ask them to read to you. As their confidence grows, introduce a diverse range of books and writing styles, so they expand their vocabulary as much as possible.

Of course, it’s important to make sure your child tells you whenever they come across a word they can’t pronounce or don’t understand. And whilst it’s alright to explain things yourself to start with, encourage them to look up definitions and pronunciations themselves when they feel ready.

It’s a good idea to show them how to use online dictionaries, as well as physical ones. You could also ask your child to look up synonyms and antonyms for each word they’re not sure of. It’s a fantastic – and easy – way to teach your child new words and deepen their understanding of them.

In fact, there are lots of excellent online resources that can help your child prepare for all aspects of 11-plus, so take some time to research them.

Expose them to lots of culture

By this, we mean taking your child to places like museums, stately homes, art galleries, concerts, plays, national parks…even sporting events. In itself, this won’t help them pass the 11-plus. But the more different and varied experiences you can give your child, the more their imagination will be stimulated. They’re also more likely to develop a love of learning.

Cultural experiences can help expand your child’s general knowledge as well as inspiring creativity. This is especially helpful for the English component of the 11-plus exam, which normally requires your child to write a story on a given topic.

Work through past papers together

As you’d expect, this is one of the most valuable preparation methods you can do with your child. They may not have seen anything like the Verbal and Non Reasoning papers before, so don’t worry if they’re a little overwhelmed at first. The approach taken to the English and Maths papers is likely to be unfamiliar, too.

Work through the papers one step at a time with your child, explaining as you go along. It’s important to start this process well in advance of the exams, to give your child enough time to get used to the style of questions. As the 11-plus approaches, move towards a mock exam format, where your child answers the papers independently under timed ‘exam conditions’.

When marking your child’s papers, don’t just look at the content of their answers. It’s important that their spelling, grammar and punctuation are up to scratch, so make sure you provide feedback on these if necessary and address any issues.

Develop a supporting ‘working relationship’

This is very important as you won’t get anywhere with your child if they’re reluctant to work with you! Naturally, working with a parent is very different from learning with a teacher, but it can be successful if approached correctly so you avoid conflict. The key is to take a genuine interest in your child’s learning and show them you value it.

This means looking at their schoolwork and praising where appropriate, as well as doing the same with the tasks you set them at home. Remember to reward effort as well as achievement. This will help your child foster a good attitude towards their work, rather than giving up because they received one poor mark.

When you start preparing your child for the 11-plus, go easy on them. Begin with just 20 minutes a day after school, focusing on a single task such as reading. Gradually build up the amount of preparation and revision, bringing in additional tasks such as maths problems and vocabulary or spelling tests so you cover the whole 11-plus curriculum.

One word of warning: avoid over-praising your child. Everyone likes to be told how clever they are, but research suggests that children who are over-praised stop trying because they think they don’t have to. The result? Poor marks and a bad attitude!

Consider after-school tuition

Hopefully, your child’s teachers will help them prepare for the 11-plus on top of the work you’ll do with them at home. But if this isn’t happening, or your child needs extra support in one or more areas, it’s a good idea to look at extra tuition.

Peepal Tree Learning are here to assist your child with the supplementary coaching they may need at this stage. Our expert tutors have years of experience of coaching pupils for 11-plus and have helped a number of children achieve the grades (and grammar school places) they deserve. Students join us in Year 4 for two hours of tuition a week covering English, Maths, Verbal and Non Verbal Reasoning. Practice exams start in Year 5, along with additional emphasis on developing cognitive thinking skills.

Contact Peepal Tree Learning today

We’d love to discuss your child’s learning and revision requirements for 11-plus! Please call us on 0208 274 9489 or email with your questions. You’ll also find more information about our 11-plus preparation classes on our website: We hope to hear from you soon.

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