What is 11+ and what does it involve?
Whether you call it 11+, 11 Plus or Grammar School exams, the 11+ process involves a series of exams — often including Maths, English, Verbal Reasoning and Non-Verbal Reasoning — to help independent and grammar schools select high-achieving students.
These exams take place at the beginning of year 6, usually spanning from September to January. You and your child may also be interviewed by the school in addition to the tests if they perform well.
Is 11+ the right thing for my child?
The answer to this question depends entirely on your objectives.
Families usually embark on the 11+ journey because they either (A) want to secure a place in a top grammar/independent school, or (B) they simply want to give their child an edge for year 6 or secondary state schools.
Whatever your reasons, the 11+ process isn’t for everyone and for some children it can do more harm than good. Managing your own expectations — and that of your child’s — is incredibly important because only a small percentage of students actually make it through. Grammar and independent schools have high expectations with few spaces, so your child will ideally need to be driven, competitive and a high-achiever.
When should I start preparing my child for 11+ exams?
You’ll find plenty of 11+ resources starting from year 3 but it truly depends on your child’s ability. Some children start late in year 5 and go through successfully; some start in year 3 and don’t.
As with anything, the sooner you start preparing the better. At our tuition centre in Alperton for example, 11+ classes start as early as year 3. Having a specialist 11+ tutor who understands the process thoroughly — or has been through it themselves — really helps the kids develop their skills faster and be better prepared for the exams.
How can I help my child prepare for 11+ at home?
While your child will gain plenty of exposure to Maths and English at school, Verbal Reasoning and Non-Verbal Reasoning are not part of the National Curriculum that schools follow. In addition to workbook-based learning, there are plenty of interesting games and activities you can do with your child to keep them engaged and enjoying the process.
- Read, a lot! Reading is one of the most impactful ways to improve your child’s academic performance and has a knock-on effect on all other subjects. Start with a small, manageable amount of time — say 10 minutes per day — and slowly work your way up to 20-30 minutes if your child is reluctant.
- Games and fun activities. Integrate learning into games like Scrabble and set challenges like completing crosswords to improve their vocabulary.
- Enrol for 11+ tuition lessons. Tuition centres like ours at Talent Engaged Tuition have 1-to-1 and group 11+ lessons dedicated to preparing students for the 11+ exams. Putting them with other like-minded children aiming for the same goal is a good way to boost their motivation, confidence and academic ability.
- Make time for dedicated 11+ practice. In addition to your child’s normal school work, dedicate some time to tackling 11+ material; whether that’s with books or online tools. As stated before, the more exposure they have to the four disciplines of Maths, English, Verbal and Non-Verbal Reasoning, the better they’ll get. We’ve also linked some useful 11+ resources in the next section.
- Timed tasks. Timing is a crucial component of the 11+ process; students have to get better at answering questions (and accurately!) in a tight amount of time. Introduce this into your daily routine — set a limited amount of time for them to complete their homework or 11+ practise tasks. It should improve their focus too!
Useful 11+ resources
Schools around North West London you can consider
If you’re part of the North West London region and feel confused about what schools are at your disposal, this is a list of popular and highly recommended schools:
- Henrietta Barnett School (for girls)
- Queen Elizabeth’s Grammar School (for boys)
- St. Michael’s Catholic School (for girls)
- North London Grammar School
- The Latymer School
- Latymer Upper School
- Harrow School
- John Lyon School
- Tiffin Girls’ School
- Tiffin School (for boys)
- Watford Grammar School for Girls
- Watford Boys Grammar School
- Herschel Grammar School
- Langley Grammar School
- St Bernard’s Catholic Grammar School
- Upton Court Grammar School
Things to consider when selecting independent & grammar schools
Know your chances – there are no guarantees
You can have between 1000-2000 students applying for just 100 spaces. That means 90-95% of students may not get into the school they apply for! It’s so important to go into the process with realistic expectations based on your child’s ability and catchment area to avoid disappointment. Your child might even get one of the highest scores in their 11+ exams that year. There is still no guarantee that the school will accept them. All you can do is try your best.
Schools tend to prioritise the top percentage (usually 10%) of students living within their pre-defined catchment area. Unless you are willing to relocate to a particular area for a school, it will be worth finding out if you’re within the right catchment area.
Different schools use different exam boards to test their children; similar to GCSE students having the common AQA, Edexcel and OCR exam boards. In independent and grammar schools, the exam boards are usually GL & CEM. Depending on this, your child might be tested in some (or all) of Maths, English, Verbal Reasoning and Non-Verbal Reasoning. In addition, the exam dates can vary anytime between September and January of year 6.
Managing expectations — what if you’re not accepted?
Whether you’ve prepared for months or years, the idea of possible rejection or failure is frightening for children and adults. As we’ve stated earlier: going into the 11+ process knowing there’s a possibility you won’t get in — not because your child is not good enough, but because there are that many other candidates competing for the same position — helps to cushion the blow if things don’t work out.
You always have the option of appealing a rejection and pursuing 12+ and 13+ exams if you really want to.
However, I always encourage parents to look at the positives. A child who prepares for 11+ usually demonstrates a stronger skill set in year 6 and beyond, in comparison to a child who hasn’t. They’re better able to handle pressure, timed limitations, test situations and generally become better problem solvers. These are all skills that transfer well into their future education.
Ready to start your 11+ journey?
We’d like to wish your family good luck with the 11+ process! If at any time you need free advice, support or 11+ tuition, don’t hesitate to get in touch.