Whilst the content of the 11+ exam can vary slightly depending on the area of the country you are in; the main structure of the exam is the same and children undertake this every year to gain access to selective secondary schools. If your child is registered for the exam, then it is likely that they are already high-achieving students! But these assessments are different to the ones they are used to in class. For this reason, we have compiled a list of the best tips and tricks to ace them, ranging from early preparation to last second advice.
Where to start?
When attempting a creative writing task, it can be helpful (if possible) to write about what we have experienced or enjoy. This can work in your child’s favour as the writing will flow more organically and make it easier for them to articulate in words what they want to express drawing from real life experience, rather than something abstract. If not, encourage your child to use their imagination as well as their senses asking them ‘what do you think you’d be able to hear/smell/taste/touch?’.
Take this creative writing task:
Spend thirty minutes on the following task. Write a short story with the title ‘The Balloon’.
From this one prompt, there are several different paths we can take for our creative writing, from deciding who our main character will be, the place we set our story in, and even the genre we decide to follow. Despite this, there are some set steps we can follow to organise our writing and make it flow well.
Planning your writing before starting is arguably the most important step in these tasks. Having a short bullet-pointed plan lets you write down any creative ideas that pop up, so you don’t forget them. It enables you to see if your writing will make sense before committing to a full sentence, it gives you something to look back at as you write so that you do not get confused, and most importantly, a plan keeps you within the necessary time frame to complete your task. Students can also use as story board to clearly plan out their writing.
Splitting your writing up into parts makes it easier to approach, normally this are four:
1. The Introduction
The aim of the introduction is to create an impactful opening and begin establishing the various parts of your story: characters, locations, and relationships. There are various ways of starting your introduction, whether that be with a focus on the setting, or even starting in the middle of the action which is known as “in medias res”. After writing the introduction, it is then time to move on to introducing an event to build your writing on.
2. The complication
This part of the writing has the sole aim of introducing and building suspense. Suspense is used in creative writing to engage the readers with the text and eventually lead up to a major event, known as the climax. Examples of complications can be your characters facing an unexpected blockage in their path, the slow introduction of a new character, or mini conflicts that escalate into your final altercation.
3. The climax
The climax is arguably everybody’s favourite part; the most intense, exciting, and action-packed part of a creative writing task. Usually climaxes in creative writing involve some sort of conflict or combat, but it can just as easily be a chase or other interaction. Moving from the complication to the climax is something that some students struggle with, but luckily there are a range of techniques to do this including using dialogue to show that the action is going to begin or a change of location. A tip to bear in mind is that your writing should match up with the emotion that you are trying to convey and what the aim of that section of writing is. For example, in our introduction, we typically use longer and more complex sentences to describe location and characters, and this means that the text is read more slowly. Similarly, we want our climax to convey action and thus be read quickly, so we use short, snappy sentences.
4. The resolution
The resolution comes after our climax, and it is where our protagonist solves the issue introduced in the complication and overcomes the action in the climax to achieve their goal. It is important that the ending provides a sense of completion, which goes hand-in hand with the need to plan the story first, as your ending needs to have a continuous thread beginning to the end. However, it does not mean that your writing must have a definitive end where everything has been resolved and can be instead ended with a slightly new problem that arises, known as a cliff-hanger.
Here is short video to get some ideas on how to plan a story.
The structure set out is key in a simple story, but there are also other important factors kids should keep in mind when writing creatively:
Don’t create too many overarching plot points or have a wide cast of characters. In the exam, time will always be against you and students won’t have the time to introduce and develop a wide range of characters or several twists and turns in their story. Instead, it is much better to have 2 characters and a fully developed plot that really engages the reader.
2. Point of view
This refers to who will be the narrator (or voice) of your story. There are two suggestions here: you can have a first-person narrator and the story can be told from the perspective of a single character (usually the protagonist). On the other hand, you can have an all-knowing omniscience as a third person narrator. The benefit of this is that information outside of just a single character’s scope can be portrayed to the reader and can allow for writing in greater detail. There are benefits and disadvantages to both, and one is not necessarily better than the other. What is more important is consistency! Make sure that you are not chopping and changing otherwise it will confuse the reader.
3. Life like characterisation
Think back to your favourite characters from any story you have read, no matter how outlandish or magical they may be, they probably had some relatable features. The best characters are usually not perfect and have flaws that lead into the story nicely. It also helps to provide some background to the character, either in the beginning or throughout the text.
4. Include techniques but don’t overuse
Techniques used in moderation have the greatest impact. Examiners will want to see one or two examples of you being able to use the techniques such as similes, speech marks, and metaphors but never use a technique just for the sake of using it otherwise it will seem out of place. Always be cautious of overuse, using the same technique repeatedly will become boring and repetitive for the reader check out our example below:
James ran across the field like a cheetah. He was as quiet as a ninja and snuck up being the building like a predator.
Count how many similes are used in this example, and how you can improve it to make the sentences read better.
Like mentioned before, these prompts have become much more popular and carry a significant number of marks in the exam. By using the techniques, you know and your creativity, planning your story, and having a set structure in place, you can maximise the number of marks you receive. As with any task, practice makes progress, so have a go at planning for the following tasks, and writing up one of them:
If you click on the image below there are some other methods that students can use to plan their story as well:
- Spend thirty minutes on the following task. Write a short story with the title ‘The Balloon’.
- Spend thirty minutes on the following task. Write a short story with the title ‘Sleeping’.
- Spend thirty minutes on the following task. Write a short story set in a cottage.
- Spend thirty minutes on the following task. Write a short story where the main character is an old woman.
- Spend thirty minutes on the following task. Write a short story based on the following image: