11-Plus Exam Tips
July 27, 2022
Parent and toddler having a discussion about dinner

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.

Plan Ahead

This first tip applies even to parents whose children have not yet reached the age to start preparing for the 11-Plus exam but plan to do so. The 11-Plus exam is taken in Year 6, but preparation for it starts well ahead. It’s important to have an idea of which schools you’d like your child to apply to and be aware of deadlines.

  • Identify a starting point – As with anything that is worth putting in time and effort for, you should plan and have a roadmap of how to get to your final goal, which in this case is the best grades possible for your child. Many parents start introducing their children to 11-Plus exam content in Year 4 to give them the maximum amount of time to learn and revise.
  • Introducing topics – The four main subjects in the exam are maths, English, verbal reasoning, and non-verbal Reasoning. The last two are not explicitly taught at school and focus more on testing a child’s natural problem-solving ability, but this does not mean that it cannot be practiced and refined. By introducing the last two subjects earlier rather than later, your child can become accustomed to the questions and solve them correctly and quickly.
  • Timetable – Once content has been covered, it must be revised. Having a revision timetable is a great way to keep track of all the topics learnt and keep them ‘fresh’. Getting into a routine and building that momentum also helps children maintain the right mindset to achieve better grades.

Learn before testing:

This next tip may seem redundant, but it is something that a lot of students overlook, especially with the 11-Plus exam. By “learn before testing” we mean that the core topics foundations need to be learnt and understood well before moving on and attempting questions or past papers. This is seen especially in Maths as the basics are assumed to be easy and often ignored. When a student then moves onto revise the topic or learn a new one that builds on the foundations, they struggle and become demoralised, losing time and enthusiasm. Make sure times tables are as strong as possible and watch how much easier the rest of the topics become.

Child overwhelmed by pile of books

Start soon and pace yourself

Pacing yourself when preparing for any exam is important but especially for the 11-Plus exam because of its significance. This tip applies from the initial preparation till the days leading up to the exam.

Students should avoid rushing through the initial questions, as easy mistakes can be made, instead they should work speedily but jump to the next question when confident. By taking their time at the beginning, student can fortify their pattern noticing abilities and then apply them to more difficult questions, this works especially well for the verbal and nonverbal reasoning sections of the exam.

‘Pacing yourself’ should also be considered with the actual workload your child takes on. Starting to prepare for the exams as soon as possible allows for the workload to be spread out more and makes preparing for the exam less stressful. The additional benefit to this is that with the Maths and English topics, it actively supports the work your child does in class for them and the individual SATS exams.

During the weeks/days leading up to the exam, it is important that children ‘pace themselves’. This is the time when every hour of revision matters, and they should not be feeling overwhelmed and trying to learn new content. Instead, this time should be used to recap things they know and feeling confident. The best way to do this is by following the previous two points, and the ‘Plan Ahead’ tip. In addition to that, children should not take on more work than they can handle just because time is running out; it will just cause panic and no information will stick.

Try different approaches

11-Plus exam content is not taught explicitly in school, with the Maths and English in the exam being a continuation of the material learnt in the curriculum, and the reasoning subjects being completely new subjects to your child. Because of this, it is predominantly in your hands to decide the approach that your child will take for preparation. Naturally this can be overwhelming, so we have listed a few below.

Child thinking behind a laptop

Books and guides

This is often he first port of call for many parents when their child begins preparing for the 11-Plus exam. There are a range of textbooks and guides available online and in stores, with the most popular being the CGP ones. These are great as they have been around for many years, introducing and explaining topics in fun ways, and providing examples. However, a problem that some parents may find with these books is that they are designed with a ‘one size fits all’ approach, which we know is not the case with how children learn, so for one child it may be explained perfectly, but for another it may make no sense at all: CGP Books.


Watching videos is a great way to explain 11-Plus content to children. There are a lot of free videos on YouTube that cover 11-Plus content and even past paper walkthroughs. Because they are explained by a person as the content is covered, your child is more likely to understand what is going on, especially if it there first time attempting the subject such as with the verbal or non-verbal reasoning.


Tutoring is arguably the most popular form of preparation for the 11-Plus exam. Having another person teach them the topics keeps them engaged and gives them the opportunity to as questions and receive explanations. Tutors have an in-depth knowledge of the 11-Plus curriculum and can adapt their teaching styles to match your child’s needs and help them achieve high grades.

When the time comes for your child to start preparing for their 11-Plus exam, or if the preparation has already started, these tips will help make the entire process more streamlined, less stressful, and help your child get into the school that they really want!

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