11 plus/ grammar school entrance tests – gear up for September!

If your child has just completed Year 5 and you’re hoping for a place at a state grammar school you’ll know that this year’s summer holiday is critical. The 11+/entrance test season starts in the first week of September. (Independent school entrance tests tend to take place after Christmas – we’ll cover them in a post later in the year.)

To take our own region as an example of how Eleven Plus (11+) / entrance exam timings tend to work, Altrincham Grammar School for Girls and Altrincham Grammar School for Boys usually kick-off a test season that continues through to mid October/November. At 121 Home Tutors we have many students that enrol for last minute, summer holiday tuition and ‘cramming’. We advise that those planning to sit the early September/October entrance exams (for example the Trafford Grammar schools tests) work to a regular timetable of study. Even half an hour per day can make a crucial difference.

Young minds can very easily forget things they have learned, and with a summer holiday that varies from five to ten weeks, keeping numeracy, literacy and reasoning skills fine-tuned is essential. Competition for the state grammar schools in the Trafford area is very intense, especially in the current economic climate. Pass marks over 80% have become the norm.

So what can you and your child expect of ‘your’ entrance tests, and what can you do to prepare? Well, if your son or daughter is gearing up to sit an Eleven Plus (11+) or similar entrance exam, you have probably already found out from your prospective school or schools roughly what the contents of the test will be. Local entrance tests always have Maths, Verbal Reasoning and Non-verbal Reasoning components, and some also add an English component:

  • Maths –This is usually based on core skills learned during KS2 but at the demanding end of the spectrum. Children should be aiming towards a level 5 standard.
  • Verbal reasoning – typically, these are logic problems, involving both number and word type puzzles. A rapid ability to ‘frame’ the problem (i.e., understand and conceptualise it) is very important. For children not in Trafford primary schools verbal (and no-verbal) reasoning will be new to them as its not likely to be covered in school.
  • Non-verbal reasoning – logic problems based on shapes, sequences or patterns. They often take the form of ‘odd one out’ or ‘what comes next’ questions.
  • English – Some schools use comprehension-type tests, others test fluency and accuracy of writing by requiring candidates to write a short essay or story. Spelling, vocabulary and punctuation, use of language and handwriting are some key skills the schools are looking for.

Preparatory work with your child
As a parent, it is possible to help your child prepare for each type of test. In our experience, getting your kids to do some preparation in the holidays doesn’t need to be that difficult – especially because if they are planning to sit the tests they are probably the bright, engaged types who will enjoy a mental challenge. Bright kids especially enjoy verbal reasoning tests. The Bond assessment papers are an excellent resource and offer good short tests – we usually advise aiming to cover a paper a day in each of the required topics.

What else can you do to prepare? There are various bits and pieces of useful advice – the school you are applying for might even give you a few pointers. Here are some broad ideas to start you off:

  • Vocabulary can make a big difference. This isn’t just a question of succeeding in English tests; good wordpower will help your child make sense of verbal reasoning questions quickly, ensuring an accurate understanding of the problem and saving valuable time in the test. Encourage reading over the summer, along with use of the dictionary to find out unfamiliar words.
  • Even if there isn’t a specific English test, spelling and punctuation matter. If your child is a borderline case, the school may look at the quality of his or her writing in written answers to verbal reasoning questions. Look at your child’s previous work, make lists of ‘problem’ words and encourage him or her to learn them. Revise punctuation, especially apostrophes to indicate possession and plurality.
  • Strong (and accurate!) mental arithmetic skills are important. Again, quick, reliable arithmetic can make all the difference in reasoning tests.
  • Past and sample papers are often available – we’ve already mentioned Bond products. Get hold of as many different ones as you can and work on them over the summer. Don’t pressurise your child too hard (you don’t want to teach them to hate logic tests…) but it can be a good idea to get your child to sit down and work through a paper a day, or at least a few a week. They generally take 45-50 minutes each. Closer to the test it is a good idea to practice doing past/sample papers to time to get your child used to the time constraints.
  • Going on holiday? As well as past papers and your child’s choice of reading, pack some books of puzzles, word games and logic problems. There are loads available in the shops, suitable for all ages. Even simple crosswords and Sudokos can make a big difference and help your child develop fast, accurate logical thinking skills.

If you’re in the Greater Manchester or Cheshire area and you’d like some extra help, get in touch with 121 Home Tutors. Our tutors are very experienced at supporting children in the run up to the Eleven Plus (11+) and entrance tests, and will help you give your child the best possible help and support at this stressful and exciting time!

You might also be in interested in this post from last year on the 11+ test.

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4 Responses to “11 plus/ grammar school entrance tests – gear up for September!”

  1. cindy rose says:

    do you prep for 8+ entrance exams?

  2. Alison says:

    We have tutors that help with entrance exam tests at all levels; most demand is for 11+/year 7 entry; then 13+/year 9 entry so more tutors are familiar with those tests. We do have some tutors able to help with 7+/8+ entry tests, though there would be limited availability.

  3. I like what you guys are up also. Such clever work and reporting! Keep up the excellent works guys I have incorporated you guys to my blogroll. I think it’ll improve the value of my web site :).

  4. Alison says:

    Hi Danielle, thanks for the lovely comment and glad you like the articles

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