The Eleven Plus (11+) guide: Where to Start in Preparing for Entrance School Exams

Is your child preparing for the eleven-plus entrance exam?

These exams can be grueling and intimidating!

But they don’t have to be!

11+ Grammar school vs. 11+ for Independent school

Let’s start by understanding what kind of 11+ exam they are taking:

11+ for Grammar Schools are either done with the the GL exam board, the CEM exam board or the Kent Test. The exams are focused on Non-Verbal Reasoning, Verbal Reasoning, Maths and English.

11+ exams for Independent Schools are usually similar style questions but schools often choose what they assess. This often means an added creative writing section.

Find out our 11 plus tutors’ top 11 tips for exam success!

eleven plus exam child

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Top 11 Tips to Pass the 11+ Exam for Grammar Schools

Brief Introduction to the 11 Plus Exam:

The 11 plus entrance exam is a competitive academic assessment written by children in the Fall of Year 6. Not all students write the exam, it is an elective exam used by selective schools across the UK.

There are two boards that set the exams, the CEM board, and the GL board. Both will cover English, Maths, Non-Verbal and Verbal Reasoning skills but in a slightly different manner. Knowing which board your child will be writing for can help in the preparation of a study plan.

If you would like to know more about the eleven plus exam including the topics, the format, and the best practises, view our comprehensive guide here first!

It is so important that you go into year 5 having a foundational understanding of the school you’d like your child to apply for.

Not only will this help with tip #3 of ensuring your child is engaged in the process, but the exam structure will vary from school to school.

When considering what school you’d like to apply for, make sure you’re being honest about how your child will fit in with the school’s culture and ethos. The process is demanding, so set your child up for success by connecting them with a school you feel they will thrive at!

As mentioned above, there are 2 big exam boards that schools use for the entrance exam. Knowing which exam board your child’s school of choice uses is imperative in starting off on the right study path. You can check with your local authority, or check out the Good Schools Guide for some helpful admissions information.

One of the best things you can do to support your child’s journey is start earlier rather than later.

Parents who prepare their child for this test, usually begin around the beginning of Year 5. Depending on your child’s stamina and schedule, you can choose to prepare your child earlier.

We always recommend focusing on building core ideas before jumping into testing.

Core ideas to focus on:

These three skills are vital both within the classroom and in preparation for their exams. Starting early will provide many advantages.

11+ prep CC
We have a phenomenal track record in supporting students

I can’t emphasise this enough.

Include your child in the process of choosing their Year 7 school.

It will help them gain perspective as to why they are doing extra work. Without this persepective, many children will resist extra lessons and tuition. They won’t feel self-motivated because they can’t see the bigger picture.

Including them in the process of looking at schools that are possible allows them to building their inner narrative about where they’d like to go.

Knowing their ‘why’ is very important and often a step that sets apart students who persevere and succeed and those who are dragged along.

Want your child to be motivated, but don’t want to add too much pressure?

Instead of focusing on this one school that they must be admitted too, discuss how working diligently opens up more doors and opportunities. Approach it as a journey to becoming the best version of themself, not a version that is needed for a particular school.

Your child is still a child at the end of the day.

While this journey will assist them in becoming more organised, self-motivated, and reflective, they will require your assistance.

Because you followed step #2’s advice and began early, your child has developed academic stamina and will be willing to do some extra work in the evenings and on weekends.

We want to keep this structured, focused, and targeted.

Having a plan, or working with an eleven plus tutor who has a course mapped out, will ensure that your child can start right away when they sit down.

Planning Their Week Ahead of Time

Every week, sit with your child to review their progress and what makes sense to focus on next.

Use a visual calendar and engage them in the process.

If a Green Circle means Maths for 30 minutes, what day does your child want to do this?

Can you listen to an audiobook or read a book in the car on the way to an event and talk about what they comprehend?

What can they do for a creative, social or movement outlet?

Having things clearly laid out will help you, and them stay on track!

While we want your child to be prepared for the exam, our ultimate goal is to help them beyond the exam. Therefore, providing them with the study skills that will serve them well beyond year 7 is a key focus for our 11 plus tutors.

Spaced Repetition

This is a study skill that enables a child to practice a skill and then be assessed on it a few days later.

The portions they remember can be grouped together and examined at a later time (longer interval). While the sections they didn’t remember are returned to the pile to be studied again (shorter interval).

This can be helpful when approaching times tables, number bonds, and key vocabulary.

A great way to keep yourself and your child organised is through Leitner’s method of using flashcards.

Apps like Anki are fantastic at creating flashcards and spacing them out for repeated practise.


A great way to check understanding is for a child to restate what they have learned/read. Their ability to synthesise information will tell how much they understand and which parts still feel unclear. This is a great tactic following a big chunk of input.

Through Play

Playing games is a great way to review concepts in a non-threatening environment. It allows children to create positive memories with the work they are learning which will strengthen their ability to retrieve the information.

Playing normal board games, and adding a flashcard question prior to each person’s turn is an easy way to sneak it in.

Another method to revise while playing is to include movements.

While revising times tables, our math tuition students are often found standing across the room. They are given a sum, and should it be correct, they take a step forward. If it is wrong, then they will perform a movement of their choice. This helps them feel in control, but also lets them burn off a bit of energy.

Blurting to assess learning gaps
Encoding to boost memory

vocabulary freebie
Download our 11+ vocabulary builder

We agree that testing is a good way to prepare your child for exams.

However, it is not the first step, nor the only step!

Too often we have parents coming to us exasperated because their child has been doing ten-minute tests and mock exams for the last few months and not only has there been no positive progress; their child seems to be doing worse!

Testing is a skill that needs to be taught. There are time efficiency tactics, exam techniques, and stress management skills that these children need coaching on.

They will not learn from being asked questions they do not know.

Use a test as a way to celebrate the hard work they’ve put into studying. It will act as a tool to reinforce a growth mindset as they will spot some of the sections that need further revision.

Exams are great for building confidence if used properly.

Use a test to celebrate the hard work they have put into studying.

The 11+ exam day will be strenuous. Your child will likely be sitting an exam for 40-120 minutes depending on the school format.

Therefore, it is important that you build their stamina and focus from the start.

The benefit of starting early is that you can increase the amount of work gradually.

Start with a small amount of focused time before a break, and slowly increase the focused time.

Remember, most children can only focus for 15 minutes x their age.

As mentioned above, games can be a great way to aid revision.

It is also a great tool to learn passively.

As the eleven plus exam is focused heavily on breadth of vocabulary and reasoning skills, introduce word and math games to your child.

Playing scrabble is a great way to improve word knowledge – especially if you take the time to refer to the meaning, antonyms and synonyms of the words.

Playing Mathletics or TTRockstars sounds basic, but the repetition is helpful in building recall for times tables.

Be on the lookout for maths and English games that can boost your child’s vocabulary and build their reasoning skills.

This won’t be the first time we’ve highlighted the importance of supporting your child in building academic resilience. Many children (and adults!) crave success from the onset.

Our job is to help them see that getting things wrong does not equate to failure or loss of worth.

We are called to guide them in building the courage to try when they aren’t sure they will succeed. It’s a skill that will serve them far beyond the exam.

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We share all of our Mindset tips here!

We understand that you’re looking for your child to reach their true potential. That’s why we’ve created a few resources to help you, help them achieve it!

At the end of the day, it is important that we are praising their effort and not their results.

We don’t want these children to feel we are proud of them because of what they know and the scores they can achieve, but because of the person they have become: one who is resilient, brave, determined, hard-working and will persevere when faced with a big obstacle.


praise the effort by saying suggestions

Bettering Youth tutors are a small team of classroom teachers who are passionate about mental wellbeing.

For this reason, our families and students praise our work as going above and beyond the classroom.

  • We work with our students 1-to-1 to ensure that each child is being taught exactly what they need to put their best self forward on exam day.
  • We have over 5 years of experience that helps us to confidently create bespoke learning plans that get results.
  • Our support not only focuses on the academic journey; the mental wellbeing side is looked after as well (think performance anxiety and stress management)
  • Registration for our programmes is only open at certain times per year to ensure that our tutors can provide each eleven-plus student with the utmost attention.
  • We have a track record of 95% which speaks volumes for our ability to break down difficult material; to create a study schedule that balances study and being a child; and support the mental and emotional needs a child going through this journey will need.

Eleven Tips for the 11 Plus Exam Conclusion

This is going to be a commitment that requires tenacity.

Review the options and make sure it is a decision that is right for your family before committing.

Don’t hesitate to reach out to others who have gone before you to learn from their experience.

It doesn’t hurt to call a tutor and hear them out. It’s important your tutor will jive well with your ideologies and your child.

Other Eleven Plus Exam Resources

Testimonials for our Tutors <— curious about what our 11+ students have to say?

Our 11 plus Programmes

What is the 11+ Entrance Exam? The Eleven Plus Explained

Everything you need to know about the CEM 11+ exam: 2021-22 edition

Everything you need to know about the GL 11+ Assessment: 2021-22 edition

11 Plus Papers: 4 Common Mistakes and how to Solve them

How To Make The 11+ Word List Stick: 14 Word Games

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