Counting down to the 11+ exam: a parent’s guide to preparing for the tests

Counting down to the 11+ exam: a parent’s guide to preparing for the tests


Exams can be daunting for anyone. As the clock ticks down, it’s natural for questions to muddy the mind; for apprehension to settle in and cause a sense of unease. And, with the 11+ tests, these anxious feelings aren’t limited to the child. Parents play an important role when it comes to setting goals, creating a solid routine, and acting as a consistent pillar of support. When this pillar is in place, the revision process becomes much easier and more productive.

Collaboration is key, and with the right preparation, these feelings of apprehension can be quashed. Here, we’ll aim to explore how parents can guide children to success during the 11+ tests in the final months leading up to the occasion. However, it’s important to first understand common questions that may cause some uncertainty for parents.


Common frustrations for parents

As a parent, finding the perfect balance can be challenging. You’ll naturally wish for your child to succeed in their upcoming 11+ tests, but you don’t want to apply too much pressure.

 After all, your child’s mental wellbeing takes priority. Remember: it’s completely normal for doubts to seep up from beneath the surface. But, if you’re aware of these doubts, they can become much more manageable.

Common thoughts that may cause apprehension include:

  • He always leaves everything to the last minute; how can I change this habit?
  • She gets worked up and panicked before taking a test, then takes it out on. This only adds more stress - how can I support her?
  • There are millions of websites, but how do I know the best ones to help us?
  • He seems to have excuses all the time. How can I approach this?
  • This is completely different to how I learned at school. How can I help when I don’t know the method myself?

These are just some examples, but the good news is that these doubts are completely normal. With the right preparation, you’ll be able to tackle them effectively.


Preparing for the 11+ tests in the final months

So, the final months close in. The tests are approaching. Your child has been taking in key concepts across different subjects, their teacher has been evaluating their progress and the foundation has been set.

The last few months are crucial when it comes to organisation, fleshing out strategies, and getting into the right mindset. It’s also important to be aware of your target school’s specific requirements– check their website for test details and admission rules. Now, let’s dive into the steps you can take leading up to the 11+ tests.


Understanding the 11+ tests

First things first: when preparing for the 11+ tests, it’s important to understand what the exam entails. The tests usually consist of four sections: verbal reasoning, non-verbal reasoning, mathematics and English. Essentially, it will test your child’s ability to reason, solve problems and apply knowledge in a timed setting.

Familiarise yourself with the exam format and content, then you’ll be in a much stronger position to confidently offer support. Ensure that your child’s on the same page, recognising what to expect and how they can practise.


Creating a revision schedule

When it comes to creating a revision schedule, it’s advisable to take your child’s needs into account. Get to know your child’s learning style and determine how they’ll get the most from their revision. Ensure that the schedule includes regular sessions for each subject area. Don’t expect too much from them; breaks for rest and relaxation are just as important as the work itself.

Avoid the potential for burnout at all costs. This is particularly crucial during the final months leading up to the tests. Also, consider incorporating practice tests into the revision schedule to help your child become familiar with the exam format, building their confidence for the day itself.


Engaging with study materials

There are plenty of materials out there to support your child in preparing for the 11+ tests. From practice books to online resources to tutoring services, seek out the best ways to supplement the revision process. Remember, everyone has a different learning style, including your child.

Here are some recommendations for study materials:

  • The 11 Plus Journey provides a range of practice papers, webinars and video lessons. Their Facebook group is a supportive community of parents preparing for the 11+ where tutors and businesses offer free resources on a regular basis.
  • Collins offers a wide range of workbooks, practice tests and flashcards for GL Assessment and the CEM test, plus free resources and expert advice for the 11+ exam.
  • The Eleven Plus Revision Books website is a useful place to find free weekly revision papers and regular bitesize revision treats.

Consistently provide feedback and support as your child engages with preparation materials, this will allow you to determine what they’re confident with and where they need more support.


Developing test-taking strategies

Subject-specific knowledge must be developed alongside test-taking strategies. One is not more important than the other; both should be mastered for the best outcomes. A child may possess an impressive amount of knowledge about a certain area, but if they’re unable to navigate the tests efficiently, this knowledge will not be used to its full potential.

Create some strategies such as time management techniques, eliminating incorrect answer choices to help deduce the correct answer, and utilising scrap paper for calculations. Go through each section of the 11+ tests during the preparation and attempt to simulate the real format as much as possible. This simulation will inspire more confidence, as it will familiarise your child with the test itself.


Focus on challenging areas

Your child may feel extremely confident in many areas - and this is a great sign. However, there may also be areas that need a bit of fine-tuning before the 11+ tests. Have an honest conversation with your child and identify any potential weak areas.

Prioritise these areas during the revision process, dedicating a good chunk of your schedule to them. Tutors can be a particularly effective resource when it comes to supplementing challenging aspects of the work. Sometimes, that one-on-one laser focus is required to break through plateaus.


Encouraging a growth mindset

As a parent, you can help your child to develop a growth mindset to inspire a positive attitude toward learning. A growth mindset is a belief that basic abilities are not fixed, and that intelligence can be developed over time through hard work, perseverance and practice. This intrinsic desire will likely blossom with the right support, revision tactics, and opportunities for self-reflection through regular communication. You can encourage a growth mindset through simple things such as reviewing a test in a way where mistakes are not frowned upon as failures. Rather, it is an opportunity to go over the mistakes and re-do the test. Like a child learning to stand and walk for the first time, standing up and trying again is what children can do throughout their lives.



Sabah Hadi is a mum, writer, learning enthusiast and founder of the 11 Plus Journey, an educational community which partners with tutors and education businesses to serve parents. Having successfully navigated the process with her two boys she supports other parents in mastering the 11-plus process through her courses and community.

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