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Preparing Students for the 11 Plus Exam: A Guide

To say that the last year has been a challenging one would be a bit of an understatement. With teaching moved entirely online, not only have students had to adjust the ways that they learn and absorb information but teachers, seemingly overnight, had to implement new teaching methods. It has not been easy for anyone involved and is undoubtedly a time of our lives that we won’t forget anytime soon.

While we can say that events of the last year will be taught in history classrooms in years to come, there were parts of our lives that ploughed through and continued as usual. One part of education that has stayed the same, without a doubt, is the effort and consistency that teachers have been putting in, enabling their students to push through and excel in times of adversity. 

Furthermore, while most exams have been cancelled up and down the country and replaced with marking systems of coursework and other classroom elements, some tests are still taking place as usual. Instead, the tests have been taking place in an online setting as well. 

One such test is that of the 11 plus exam, which we will be considering a little further in this piece. Read on for more! 

What is the 11 Plus Exam? 

For those who are somewhat unaware of this test or may need a small reminder, this section is for you! The 11 Plus Exam is an examination that some students sit when wanting to gain a place at either a grammar or independent school in England or Northern Ireland.  

Generally, the exam is sat while the student in question is in their final year at primary school, year six. The exam gets its name from the age students would be when taking their space at their desired school of choice, between 11 and 12 years old.  

Furthermore, two main exam boards provide students with the opportunity to sit the exam, and these consist of GL Assessment and the Centre for Evaluation & Monitoring (CEM).  

There are specific sections within the exam, which examine the abilities of the students in various aspects. The areas that your student should expect to find when sitting an 11 plus exam include the following:

  • English: When tested on their English abilities, students should expect to meet a variety of testing methods in this section, which cover a broad range of skills that are to be expected of your student when at this age. The exam’s English section covers such things as Comprehension, Vocabulary Testing, Spelling, Punctuation, and Grammar, Literary Reasoning, and Creative Writing.
  • Maths: The Maths section of the test is somewhat more straightforward than that of the English section. Students sitting the exam should expect to find questions that cover the primary school maths syllabus. You needn’t worry about your student needing to know topics they would cover in their future education.
  • Verbal Reasoning: Verbal Reasoning covers the vocabulary of your student, and their ability to understand different question types, and how best to answer them. When preparing for this section, the ideal thing to make sure is that the child who is sitting the exam possesses a broad vocabulary.
  • Non-Verbal Reasoning/Spatial Awareness: This section tests the student’s understanding of problem-solving, through the means of various puzzles, patterns, and shapes, rather than that of words. It undoubtedly has elements of maths within but is primarily focused on the student’s ability to problem-solve, so traditionally does not take as much preparation as other sections.  

However, with this in mind, there are things that you could do as an existing or trainee teacher to prepare any students that you may have who will be sitting the test in the coming months and years.  

How You Can Help 

As a teacher, there is only so much you can do for your students when in this position. But, we can recognise the desire to support your students in their efforts outside of the classroom too.  

While you may be restricted in what you can do, guiding your students and their parents to the various 11 plus online learning resources is one effective way of supporting and encouraging them from afar. Test Teach is an example of one such resource and can provide online tutoring for the 11 plus exam, both during the ongoing Coronavirus restrictions and beyond.  

Ensuring that your student has the necessary access to resources like these can give them the best chance at doing well, too.  

This does not just mean physical or educational tools either; your student is bound to be feeling some sort of apprehension at the prospect of sitting such a crucial exam. 

Reassuring them that their feelings are valid, and talking them through what is an emotional time, will provide them with the emotional and mental tools that are required when sitting an exam under pressure.