The 11 Plus, also known as the Eleven Plus, 11+, 11 Plus Entrance Exam, or grammar school test, is a selective entrance examination taken by Year 6 pupils to ensure progression to selective state grammar schools and selective independent schools.

The examination usually focuses on Maths and English, with some schools testing Verbal Reasoning and Non-Verbal Reasoning too. Some schools may also require prospective pupils to attend an interview. When a school is over-subscribed or has limited places, the 11 Plus entrance exam can be used as part of the application process to determine a child’s ability.

Forest School in London E17, for example, offers approximately 140 places for boys and girls at age 11 in September each year. These students will join pupils from the Preparatory School to form eight classes in Year 7. The School’s aim is to have an equal split of boys and girls to create an inclusive learning environment. Competition for places is high; over 650 candidates applied for places in 2022.

If you’re considering a school that requires your child to sit the 11 Plus, read on for our helpful tips and advice.

Get your child involved in the school selection process

It’s really important to take your child to all of the open days and get them involved in the decision making process when selecting a school. Even if you’ll have the final say, your child will be much more motivated to do the preparation if they know what they are working towards.

Forest School in London E17, for example, holds a number of events for prospective pupils and parents throughout the year. These events are designed to help parents and students get to know the school, get a feel for what it’s all about, and to meet with staff as well as current pupils. Forest says: “Our pupils are always keen to meet prospective families and chat about their experiences at school; we believe they are our best ambassadors!”

Forest School, in London E17, offers scholarships for gifted pupils, in subjects including Music

Identify your child’s key strengths and passions

Choosing the right school for your child is one of the most important decisions you will make. Attending open days ahead of the 11 Plus entrance exam will also help you to find out what’s on offer for pupils with particular strengths. If your child is academically gifted, or exceptionally talented in areas such as music, sport, art, and drama, you may be able to apply for a scholarship following the 11 Plus entrance exam.

When you register at Forest School, for example, there’s a box to check on the form to indicate you are interested in a particular scholarship. You will then be contacted by the admissions office who will assist you with next steps. Scholars at Forest are generally pupils who are performing well above their peers and have ambitions to study at the most competitive universities and work in the most competitive fields.

Matthew Key, the Deputy Head Academic at Forest says: “Scholarship at Forest is not a tokenistic label that we apply to the top percent of pupils, it’s a full package of support that helps pupils to become well-rounded, dynamic people that are going to push the boundaries in their field.”

Make sure you have diarised all the key dates and familiarise yourself with the guidelines

This might sound obvious, but it can be surprisingly easy to overlook. Make sure you visit the school’s website well ahead of time and note down the dates of their open days, their 11+ information meetings, and any school tours that they have on offer. These events are usually held at the start of the autumn term for the following year’s intake.

Next, you’ll need to make a note of the closing date for registrations, as well as the dates for interviews, scholarship assessments and interviews, auditions, and bursary applications (if applicable). Make sure you double check the deadline for the reference from your child’s current school and of course the date of the entrance exam.

After the exam, there may be further assessments and interviews, leading up to the date when offers are emailed out. If your child receives an offer, the school will usually hold taster days and tours. You’ll also need to ensure you’ve noted down the deadline for acceptance of offer.

You’ll also usually be able to download guidelines for the 11 Plus on your chosen school’s website. Make sure you read through this thoroughly and also find out if you need to pay a registration fee. The school should also supply information about siblings, if this applies.

The 11+ entrance exam at Forest School consists of a non-calculator Mathematics paper and an English reading and writing paper

Get your child to practise with sample exam papers

Getting lots of practice with mock test papers will not only help your child to familiarise themselves with exam paper content, but also help them to understand the exam format. Looking at past papers will also give you a better idea of any areas your child might need extra help in.

Schools will usually make practice papers available to download on their website. Make it a priority to look at these as some schools may be more heavily weighted towards particular areas. For example, it can be helpful to note if there’s lots of questions that require pupils to demonstrate comprehension and vocabulary, so you can focus on your child’s reading. At Forest School in London E17, the 11+ entrance exam consists of a 1-hour, non-calculator Mathematics paper and an English reading and writing paper, which is 1 hour and 10 minutes in length.

The prospect of sitting an exam can be a daunting prospect for children, so practising with sample papers is really key. Lots of practice can help your child to feel more comfortable, relaxed, and confident about sitting a real exam.

Make sure you run through oral questions with your child

If your child has been asked to attend an interview, it’s a good idea to practise answering oral questions. The interview is a key part of the selection process for many schools, so it’s important to make sure your child is prepared.

You can find examples of interview questions online, but it’s also helpful to discuss what it is about the school your child is excited about – including extra curricular activities, school ethos, and community.

Forest School in London E17, says “We always look for candidates that will embrace our all-round ethos and the opportunities offered here – this is why the interview and the reference are a big part of our selection criteria.”

Don’t forget to make learning fun

Aside from practice papers and mock interview questions, there are lots of other resources you can use to make learning fun. Apps can help to improve your child’s verbal reasoning and non verbal reasoning skills, as well as numerical reasoning skills. Playing games together can help develop critical thinking as well as logical thinking. Construction toys such as Lego and Meccano can build children’s spatial awareness skills. You can find 11 Plus activity and comprehension packs online as well as educational podcasts and videos.

It’s also really important to encourage regular reading of both nonfiction and fiction books. Wider reading will help your child to expand and improve their vocabulary. Children who read regularly and are able to comprehend complex passages should be able to cope with verbal reasoning questions, if they are part of the test.

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Forest School looks for pupils that will embrace the all-round ethos and opportunities on offer

Consider if a tutor is right for your child

Entrance to independent schools and grammar schools can be extremely competitive, which leads some parents to go down the private tutor route.

However, it’s important to note that many schools prefer to select pupils based on their natural academic ability and potential. Working towards the 11 Plus with your child (without help from a tutor), not only cuts out costs, but also gives you a better idea of your child’s progress.

Another alternative to tutoring is setting your child up with a learning buddy. This can make the process more fun and hopefully they’ll help each other. There might also be 11 Plus support groups in your area, where you can connect with other parents and get help and advice.

Set a schedule and allow plenty of time to prepare

Helping your child prepare well in advance will take the pressure off. Many parents start getting their child ready for the 11 Plus entrance exam in Year 4. This gives pupils two years to familiarise themselves with the 11 Plus syllabus.

Year 4 is an ideal time to introduce children to key topics in mathematics, such as arithmetic skills. They will also be able to work on the basic skills of comprehension, familiarise themselves with reasoning questions, as well as study creative writing techniques.

Speak to your child’s current teachers, as they will be able to identify areas where they might need extra help and they should be able to assist you in putting a plan in place. When it comes to studying and practising for exams, little and often is the key, rather than big blocks of studying with long gaps in between. You can build this up as time goes on.

Remember to look for the positives, whatever the outcome

The most important thing to remember though is that each child is an individual. So what works for one child, might not work for another. You know your child best, so listen to your gut and take things at their pace.

And remember, the 11 Plus is there to help determine if the school is the right fit for your child, just as much as it is to find out if your child is the right fit for the school. So whatever the outcome, hopefully you’ll be one step closer to finding the school that your child will be happiest and therefore most successful at.  

This is a sponsored post created in collaboration with Forest School, an independent day school located on the edge of Epping Forest for pupils aged 4-18.

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