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☰ Preparing Your Child for the 11 Plus

Head's Blog

Preparing Your Child for the 11 Plus

Posted on November 21 2019

So, the wait is finally over! No, not the final placings of the EURO 2020 European Qualifiers being confirmed this week (well done to England for winning their group in some style!). This half term, the Year 6 children at Forest Park received their Trafford 11+ grammar school results. Once again, the children have been rewarded with an array of successes and maintained an excellent record of with the local grammar schools - 85% having passed for a grammar school place this year!

The hard work, preparation, blood, sweat and tears have paid off.  I am extremely proud of the Year 6 children’s efforts and hard work.  However, the cycle continues at Forest Park with the Year 6 pupils sitting an independent grammar school examination in spring and Year 5 pupils beginning to gather momentum with their examination preparation.  

Whether you are frantically preparing for the examination process of 2020 or starting a more leisurely journey towards exams in 2021 or 2022, here is some helpful advice from us at Forest Park.

1. When to start 11-plus preparations?

If your child is sitting 11-plus in 2020, the best time to start preparing for these exams at home depends entirely on their current attainment levels.  He or she may only need a few hours of exam practice a week, but to ensure the best possible performance levels they are likely to benefit from several months of regular weekly focused teaching.  The good news is that we, at Forest Park, ensure that this takes place by starting exam preparation at the end of Year 4 and continuing into Year 5.

2. Work on verbal dexterity 

Parts of the new CEM style 11-plus English paper can be extremely challenging for 10-year-olds (yes, most are only ten years of age when they take the 11-plus in September). They involve spelling, punctuation & grammar and comprehension that requires them to be confident about their literacy skills.  An excellent way to improve verbal dexterity is to tell, or read, your child a story and then talk about it afterwards.  Get them to describe to you what happened and explain how it made them feel.  As well as helping them to unlock their emotions, effective storytelling brings a satisfying increase in marks.  In my experience, analysing the accuracy, creativity and consistency with punctuation within a text also allows them to achieve better grades on composition papers.

3. Ensure complete understanding of maths operations

You need to make sure that your child understands the core concepts of addition, subtraction, multiplication and division – and can apply this knowledge under pressure, particularly in problem- solving-type questions.  Go over times tables regularly using games, cards and posters to assist with this and look at greater depth problems to solve encouraging your child to explain their methodology as to how they worked out the answer.

4. Revise verbal and non-verbal reasoning papers

Many think these exams test innate ability and, therefore, cannot be coached for.  But I believe it is vital to provide opportunities for practice – easily done as there are plenty of resources available on the market and that we provide in school.  There is no magic to it, but every child at Forest Park is familiarised with the different types of reasoning questions expected.  This is one of the most important components of 11-plus preparation as these subjects are not part of the National Curriculum in England and Wales.

5. Keep calm

Preparation for the 11-plus can be an anxious time for all concerned but it is essential that you do not convey this to your child (easier said than done).  A few words of gentle encouragement, frequent praise and an explanation that exams are not the be-all and end-all will go a long way to improve your child’s confidence and their results.  Help your child to unwind by making sure they take regular breaks; tired children can easily get frustrated and find it harder to concentrate. Try to protect them from the stresses and strains of the real world as much as you can.

6. Limit the use of technology

An iPad or smartphone in the room, while your child is trying to work, can prove an unhelpful distraction.  It is not good to switch from making ‘brain and pen’ connections to computer games because both activities stimulate different parts of the brain.  Your child will need to perfect the management of calm retrieval of data.  They also need time to absorb information – some downtime to process the work they have completed and to let the information sink in.  This is best done if breaks involve a walk or some other exercise, rather than screen time.

7. Organise mock exams

Anything you can do to help your child reduce the natural anxiety they may feel around the 11-plus will be a good thing.  One of the best ways to do this is with a mock exam.  Forest Park ensure that the children experience these formal exam conditions in the school hall on several occasions.  We try to keep things formal, give timings and ensure everyone works quickly and in silence.  We also throw in a couple of unexpected questions – the aim being to help children prepare for what happens when things look unusual, or when problems arise.  We always go through the papers afterwards to identify strengths and weaknesses.

8. And if your child doesn’t pass the 11-plus?

Stay calm; my advice is to accept the result and praise your child for all their hard work.  It was not meant to be and the right school will always turn up in the end. There are plenty of other good schools that will be a perfect fit for your child where they will prosper and progress.

You can find further information about how we prepare children for the 11-plus at Forest Park here and also look at our fantastic 11-plus results for the past decade here.

Nick Tucker

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