How to prepare your child for the 11 plus exam: all your questions answered

Posted on 18th May 2023

Posted by CENTURY

Estimated reading time: 12 minutes


A parent proudly watching a child enthusiastically revise

Preparing for the 11 plus exam (sometimes referred to as "11+" or "eleven plus") can be a daunting task, with many parents wondering when to start, the best ways to study, what the format of the exam is and much more besides. To help you lay the groundwork, we have gathered some of the most frequently asked questions on how to prepare your child for the 11 plus.

How do we start preparing for the 11 plus exam?

First of all, you need to find out the specific exam requirements at the school or schools your child is applying to. By doing so, you should then be able to answer the following questions:

Which exams will your child be sitting?

Although the 11 plus can cover up to four subjects (maths, English, verbal reasoning and non-verbal reasoning), not all schools will require tests in each subject. Do not rely on old information in newsletters or online as this may be subject to change year on year. You will need to check with your chosen school(s) directly to find out which subjects they will be testing this year.

Is your chosen school administering GL Assessments or CEM Select exams?

Granada Learning (GL) administers the GL Assessment 11 plus exam, while the Cambridge Centre for Evaluation and Monitoring (CEM) also previously administered the 11 plus. CEM has now transitioned to using CEM Select entrance exams instead of the 11 plus. You will need to check with your chosen school(s) which of these exam boards they are using for their entrance exams.

NB: In late 2022, CEM announced their departure from the 11 plus program, and are instead switching to digital tests called CEM Select. A majority of CEM schools will now switch to GL as their 11 plus exam administrator from September 2023 onwards.

five delighted children achieve top marks in a test

How is your child doing in maths and English?

Both maths and English 11 plus exams cover the Key Stage 2 curriculum. This could include Year 6 topics that they might not have studied at school yet. Targeted revision with intelligent tools like Bond Online Premium can help your child cover new topics and revisit previous ones that they’ve struggled with.

Is your child familiar with verbal and non-verbal reasoning?

Both verbal and non-verbal reasoning exams have some overlap with key maths and English skills. However, you should also use other methods to study since these subjects are not explicitly taught in schools. Your child can practise by doing extracurricular activities, such as reading to build vocabulary or doing puzzles to develop logic and pattern recognition.

How much time can you commit to supporting your child’s revision?

If possible, parents should allocate time to support their child with tutoring and revision in the months leading up to the test. Start by mapping out your child’s current abilities, then shape their revision plan accordingly. Bond Online Premium’s AI-powered pathway can automate this process for you, as it instantly recommends topics to study or practice based on your child’s performance.

Once you are able to answer these questions, you should be able to help your child get started with their preparation.

a parent and child revising together on a laptop

When should we start 11 plus exam preparation?

Year 3-4

At this stage, your child will already be building the core skills they need to succeed in the maths and English 11+ exams in school. This includes capabilities in:

  • Comprehension, grammar, and vocabulary;
  • Numerical fluency and reasoning.

This is also when you can start developing verbal and non-verbal reasoning skills outside of school. This does not have to feel like work and there are lots of fun ways to practise like encouraging your child to read books, completing puzzles together, or playing Sudoku and other number games. All of these activities help with building your child’s foundations in logical thinking and problem solving, which will become crucial when practising for the 11 plus exam later.

In addition, you should start instilling good study habits at this stage. These can be as simple as encouraging your child to create and stick to a homework routine, set a goal when they study, or adopt a positive mindset around learning. 

As a parent, supporting your child is crucial when encouraging these new learning habits. Show interest in their work, praise or reward them for their achievements, and get them used to learning with you. Building a foundation of these positive habits now will make preparing for the 11 plus much more manageable as you approach the exam.

Bond Online Premium Recommended Path

Year 5

This is typically when most children will begin formally preparing for the 11 plus. Your child should have weekly half-hour revision sessions, using workbooks or online study tools. 

It’s common for children to prefer revising their favourite subjects, which could leave gaps in their learning. Bond Online Premium’s AI-powered Recommended Path dynamically suggests topics for your child to study or revisit, based on their performance in real-time. 

It will suggest the right next step for your child, to make sure that they are filling gaps, addressing misconceptions, or to stretch and challenge, across the exam subjects they are preparing for. This enables your child to keep up with topics that require extra revision, while also retaining information on previous topics that they might know already. 

Your child should also attempt to get one practice exam done per week, rotating subjects and timing themselves as they go. Try to keep within the time limits of the actual exam (this varies by subject, but is typically within 40-50 minutes). Afterwards, mark their work and go through any mistakes together. Not only does this familiarise them with each exam format, but it also helps to train their time management skills for the real test.

Towards the end of Year 5, your child should be starting to feel quite confident with a lot of their exam skills. It can be useful to go through a checklist with them and see how they are doing with their: 

  • Time management;
  • Familiarity with specific exam layouts for each subject;
  • Core skills in maths and English;
  • Critical thinking, logic and problem-solving abilities.
five delighted children achieve top marks in a test

What is the pass mark for the 11 plus exam?

There isn’t a set score to pass the 11+ since it differs by school. Students should regularly aim for a high score in practice exams to comfortably succeed in the real test.

Using Bond Online Premium can be an effective way for your child to work towards getting high scores in the exam. The platform contains thousands of expert-written questions modelled after the 11 plus. You can monitor your child’s progress every step of the way to identify knowledge gaps, along with areas to stretch and challenge. Using these pointers to shape their revision plan and provide specialised support can make a key difference in achieving success, especially in an environment as competitive as the 11 plus exams.

What is the best method to prepare for the 11 plus exam?

There are a variety of methods your child can use to prepare for the 11 plus exam. As we have discussed, improving their maths and English both in and out of school will give them a fantastic basis to start with. Similarly, problem solving and puzzle games are a great way to begin preparations early.

Your support is also hugely important for your child’s success, especially the environment at home in which they work (and relax!). Choosing the right resources for your child can be complicated, with a plethora of options available to suit different approaches and budgets. Some parents look to tutors, but tutoring can be expensive and some suggest it is not the right fit for every child.

There are plenty of practice books available, which have been the tried and tested method for over 50 years. Individual subject-specific books are not prohibitively expensive, retailing for around £10. These typically contain tips for different question types in the exam. Practice test paper books can cost between £6 to £12 for each subject, though once your child has worked through the questions, repeating them is not particularly effective and they will require new questions to tackle.

Online digital resources, made possible with the latest technological advancements, like the AI-powered Bond Online Premium, are also available. The platform encompasses all four 11 plus subjects, with over 8,000 questions included based on the actual exam format. This means your child will never run out of new questions to answer.

The smart AI does the heavy lifting for you by analysing your child’s performance and providing personalised feedback when mistakes are made. The Recommended Path will lead your child to the right next step to fill a gap in learning, address a misconception or stretch and challenge them. Bond Online Premium only costs £24.99 per month, with a 7-day free trial available.

For more questions on the 11 plus exam answered, visit our FAQs for grammar schools and independent schools

If you’d like more information on Bond Online Premium and how it can help boost your child’s abilities in the 11+, visit our website to learn more or register for an introductory webinar here.