The 11+ (11 Plus) Guide for Parents | What You Need To Know




Navigating your way through the 11 Plus for the first time as a parent can be a challenge.  How do you help your child prepare? What’s the exam format? Where can you buy exam papers? In this post, we’ve written an 11 Plus guide for parents that aims to answer all your questions.


What is the 11 Plus?


The 11 Plus is an exam used be some areas in the UK to select pupils for top grammar schools. Given that the test aims to find the most academic students, not every child passes the exam. For those that do however, attending a grammar school can be very rewarding. The Eleven Plus is normally taken by pupils in Year 6 when they are 10 or 11 years old, hence the name of the exam.


A History of the Eleven Plus


Black and white photograph of a classroom

The 11+ system was used nationwide until 1976 but is still used in many counties today


The exam was introduced to the UK in 1944 by the Butler Education Act as a way of testing for grammar school entry. Students who were successful in passing the exam would be placed at a Grammar School and those who were unsuccessful attended at Secondary Modern School or a Technical School.


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Several counties in the UK still use the Eleven Plus exam today and there are currently 164 remaining Grammar Schools in England and Northern Ireland. These schools consistently perform well in secondary school league tables and are highly sought after by parents.


Preparing Your Child for the 11+


There’s no set rule about when you should start preparing your child for the exam. However, because most schools don’t offer any preparation, parents typically begin preparation around 6 months before the test date. Those that decide to enlist the help of an 11 Plus tutor often begin preparation earlier.


Little and often is the key to preparing for the test. Children have much lower concentration levels than adults, so it’s better to have regular, short lessons than infrequent long ones.


Agree a study schedule with your child and focus on specific areas during each lesson, whether it be the verbal and non-verbal reasoning elements of the exam, English or Maths.


In addition to this 11 Plus guide, there’s a wide variety of materials out there that can help in your child’s preparation, including books and online resources, so consider which would be best suited to your child’s style of learning. In most cases, using a combination of different resources usually proves the most successful and this approach also ensures that your child doesn’t become bored.


For more information on exam preparation, check out our post on how to help your child revise for exams.


The Eleven Plus Exam


details about the 11+ exam

The 11 Plus exam format varies across counties


Although the format of the Eleven Plus exam varies in every county, each generally tests for Maths, English, Verbal Reasoning and Non-Verbal Reasoning. Most test papers follow this, or a similar structure:


  • a reasoning paper (multiple choice)
  • a literacy and numeracy paper (multiple choice)
  • a written exercise.


Whereas the multiple choice test papers are marked electronically, the written exercise isn’t always graded. Instead, it’s used as supporting evidence in borderline cases.


11 Plus Practice Exam Papers


One of the best ways to familiarise your child with the structure of the exam is to use practice exam papers. As well as helping your child to recognise the types of questions they’ll be asked, sample papers can also help with time management.


Building up to completing a practice paper in time takes practice, so approaching them in small, manageable chunks is often the best method. At Exam Papers Plus, we supply a range of 11 Plus practice papers, covering every subject.


Private tutoring for the 11 Plus


Many parents choose to hire an Eleven Plus tutor to assist with exam preparation. Because many schools don’t coach children for the test, the demand for tuition at 11 Plus level is very high. In some cases, parents book tutors a year in advance of when they’ll need them.


Private tutoring does offer many advantages, including having someone on board who understands how the 11 Plus works in your local area. This local knowledge can be invaluable in making sure that your child is prepared in the relevant topics.


At Exam Papers Plus, we specialise in preparing pupils for the 11 Plus exam. We provide tuition by the hour as well as offering intensive and residential projects. We also provide bespoke home-schooling programmes. If you would like us to find you a tutor who specialises in competitive entrance exam preparation, just get in touch.


The Benefits of Passing the Eleven Plus


Passing the 11+ exam can open many doors in a student’s academic career


For many pupils, passing the Eleven Plus exam opens new doors in their education and future careers.


According to the Grammar Schools Association, in GCSE results, grammar school students perform better than pupils from other schools around the UK. There are also indications that grammar school pupils make greater progress from KS3 to KS4 than other pupils.


Passing the Eleven Plus and winning a place at a grammar school means having access to a comprehensive education and the opportunity to study subjects that aren’t offered at state schools.


There’s also strong evidence to suggest that pupils who attend grammar schools as a result of passing the 11+ exam will go on to achieve success in their chosen career thanks to the friendships they forge at school.


We hope you’ve found our 11 Plus guide for parents useful. For more information, check out the other blog posts on our site.


You might also be interested in our 13 Plus Late Transfer Exam Guide for Parents, or Everything You Need to Know About the 8 Plus Exam.


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