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How to prepare for the 11 plus exam
Entrance exams are an essential step in the admissions process for secondary schools, including the 11 plus for grammar schools and a variety of exams for many independent schools across the country. Just working out when to start 11 plus exam preparation and which subjects to cover can be overwhelming. Our team of expert teachers has prepared this comprehensive guide on how to prepare for the 11 plus exam to help you and your child.
What is the 11 plus exam?
The 11 plus (sometimes referred to as "11+" or "eleven plus") is an entrance exam for students looking to enter certain schools in England. In addition to assessing academic ability, it also evaluates potential, critical thinking and problem-solving with verbal and non-verbal reasoning.
What topics are covered in the 11 plus exam?
The 11 plus may include up to four subjects, although not all schools require all four. Check which of these subjects will be tested by your chosen schools before starting your 11 plus exam preparation.
The maths exam covers materials in the Key Stage 2 maths curriculum. Students should have a good basic understanding of maths and be familiar with the following topics:
- The four operations: addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division
- Numbers and place values
- Fractions, percentages and decimals
- Data and statistics
- Ratio and proportion
- Shapes and space
The English 11 plus also covers all Key Stage 2 national curriculum objectives. The format of the English paper varies from school to school, but may include questions on:
- Reading comprehension (based on a two-page long text)
- Spelling and punctuation (e.g. identifying missing punctuation)
- Grammar (e.g. naming word classes)
- Vocabulary (e.g. knowing synonyms and antonyms)
- Sentence structure (e.g. ordering words in a sentence correctly)
Using a comprehensive study platform like Bond Online Premium is effective for practising all these maths and English concepts in one place, with thousands of 11 plus questions available. Pupils using Bond Online Premium will also have access to unlimited test practice nuggets with personalised feedback and real-time data monitoring for you to track your child’s performance as they go.
Verbal Reasoning (VR)
The verbal reasoning exam is used to assess how students think and solve problems via logic and critical thinking. Prior exams have covered:
- Word problems (hidden words, vocabulary questions, odd words out, morphing words)
- Patterns and codes (identifying sequences in letters or numbers, decoding symbols)
- Logical questions (deducing statements via logic)
Many verbal reasoning questions apply core mathematical, language and comprehension skills, so it’s helpful to brush up on both English and maths for this exam too.
Non-Verbal Reasoning (NVR)
The non-verbal reasoning test also assesses problem solving, although as the name suggests, non-verbal reasoning questions involve pictures and diagrams instead of words and letters. Students are expected to display strong spatial awareness, along with an aptitude for logical reasoning and recognising patterns. The exam has previously included:
- Sequences (completing sequences, matching pattern groups, rule-finding)
- Shapes (identifying nets of shapes, reflections, rotations, views of 3D shapes)
A crucial skill needed to pass the 11 plus exam for non-verbal reasoning is attention to detail. Even the smallest variation within a pattern can signal the difference between a right or wrong answer.
As verbal and non-verbal reasoning are not subjects on the national curriculum, many children may not have the opportunity to practise them in school. Bond Online Premium includes extensive revision materials specifically for both verbal and non-verbal reasoning for your child to practise, building familiarity and confidence with the types of questions they will face in the exams.
How long does it take to prepare for the 11 plus exam?
Most children begin 11 plus exam preparation at least a year in advance at the start of Year 5. Students can benefit from using intelligent tools like Bond Online Premium to ensure their regular, long-term revision plan is efficient and productive.
The platform’s AI analyses each child’s progress in real time and recommends the next best topic for them based on their individual performance and learning behaviours. The personalised recommendation will fill a gap in knowledge, address a misconception, revise an area they need to improve on, or stretch and challenge them. This maximises your child’s focus on areas to improve, without spending precious time revisiting topics they have already mastered.
What are the best 11 plus preparation materials?
Answering lots of practice questions can help build confidence in each subject. Traditionally, the only way to work through these questions would be by purchasing and working through exam practice books. However now there are digital resources and new AI technologies available to give your child the best 11 plus preparation possible. Bond Online Premium provides over 8,000 test questions and learning resources, encompassing all four 11 plus subjects for year-round revision.
Students are also encouraged to build their verbal and non-verbal reasoning skills by playing word games, solving puzzles and reading. Taking steps like doing a daily crossword or reading a storybook can help build vocabulary and grammar skills, while completing a jigsaw can help visual logic and spatial abilities.
It can be always helpful to use practice tests to become familiar with the exam’s format and layout. Working against the clock is also recommended to build the time management skills required for a real exam.
To give your child the best chance of success it is important for them to have a balanced set of analytical skills and academic knowledge when preparing for the 11 plus and beyond.
Tutoring to prepare for the 11 plus exam
Some parents might consider hiring a tutor for their child’s 11 plus exam preparation. Having that one to one time with a tutor can be effective to improve on weak points together.
Tutoring is not for every child though. It can be expensive, and some children may find the weekly time commitment more useful spent on their school work. Other children thrive practising and learning independently. Some schools even advise against extra tutoring because succeeding there after the 11 plus is academically demanding. It is for a parent to assess the pros and cons, before deciding if it is right for their individual child.
Using books and practice tests for 11 plus exam preparation
Using practice tests and guidebooks is the most common traditional method of preparing for the 11 plus exam. It is a tried and tested way to revise and become familiar with the exam format.
To successfully use any method in your child’s 11 plus preparation, it is crucial that both you and your child are driven and committed to weekly revision. You will need to prepare a revision schedule, ensuring a balance between subjects. You may also need to check your child’s work and provide feedback and guidance if they encounter difficulties. It is worth remembering too that once your child has worked through a certain book, revisiting the same questions will not be as effective as attempting new ones.
Using Bond Online Premium to prepare for the 11 plus exam
Bond Online Premium provides a personalised learning platform for students to prepare for the 11+ all in one place. With over 8,000 test questions encompassing all four 11 plus subjects, students can consistently practise tough topics with the guidance of smart AI recommendations that adapt to their progress in real-time.
The Student Dashboard enables each child to spot topics they’ve excelled at, while also identifying topics they’ve struggled with. They can then revise those topics and fill any learning gaps as they go. At only £28.99 per month, using Bond Online Premium is an affordable option that provides an exhaustive amount of test practice and targeted recommendations for parents looking to support their child improve their test scores in the lead up to the exam.
The 11 plus can be a demanding time for both children and parents, but passing the exam is achievable for any student with the right preparation, support and commitment.
To try Bond Online Premium for yourself, register for a 7-day free trial now, or sign up for a free parent webinar to learn more about how it can help your child succeed in the 11 plus exam.