We’re delighted here at Exam Papers Plus to bring you our annual round-up of what came up in this year’s entrance exams. This article contains information on some of London’s top schools’ 7+ and 8+ exam processes for September 2017 entry as well advice on how to prepare.
If your child is aiming for 7+ or 8+ entry in 2018, this post will prove useful. The information is relevant for a number of schools, including:
- St Paul’s Junior School
- Westminster Under School
- King’s Wimbledon
- Latymer Prep
- City of London School for Girls
- Bute House
- South Hampstead High School
- North London Collegiate School
- Haberdashers’ Aske’s Boys’ and Girls’ Junior Schools
- Sussex House
- Dulwich Prep London
- Dulwich College Junior School
- Bancroft’s School
The seven plus (7+) exam is often a child’s first experience of an academic entrance process. Most schools have both an exam and an interview or group assessment as part of their assessment. These could all be held on the same day or separately. Measuring both a child’s academic potential as well as his or her personality and attitude to learning is essential for informed selection.
Eight plus (8+) is a classic entry point for boys; few girls’ schools have this as an option (unless via an occasional place). There are many boys who don’t quite make it at 7+, but who nail it a year later; it’s amazing the difference twelve months can make in terms of academic maturity and stamina. The good news is that any preparation for 7+ will provide solid foundations and experience for 8+, so it is never wasted effort.
7+ and 8+ exams vary from school to school, but the top academic schools always include maths, English (comprehension and composition) and usually some reasoning too. Some schools have long papers (one school has a maths paper worth 83 marks), whilst others are split into sections. One school divided its comprehension into two short sections this year, whilst another combined its non-verbal reasoning (NVR) and comprehension into one paper.
In terms of English, animals featured heavily at 7+ this year, providing visual prompts for creative writing as well as comprehension subjects and story starters. Our 7+ English Writing pack is ideal for practising writing based on picture prompts. One school’s story picture prompt was of a crying rabbit looking longingly at a plate of carrots, and its comprehension included answering questions about a picture of an elephant and a written piece on a zebra.
An extract from Moomin Papa came up at one school, with an opening question asking candidates to answer in their own words. This was a long comprehension paper and many did not manage to finish it. The story was a continuation piece in the first person.
Other story writing tasks included writing a story entitled ‘The Magic Box’ and writing a story about ‘Bob the dog’. An 8+ composition task at another school gave candidates the choice of writing about ‘your hands’ or ‘the school’. The shortest story time this year was 15 minutes and the candidates were asked to write based on a picture prompt of a boy, a girl and a strange creature.
Poetry featured prominently in a number of 8+ comprehension exams.
Advice for the English section
English assessments allow for the measurement of how a child thinks as well as their potential for empathy and logical thought. As such, this section in exams can be challenging. For a question that has a tight timeframe (the 15 minute story for example), children should concentrate on quality over quantity and try and showcase what they have learnt in a focused way. They should be encouraged to stick to the question and ensure they are addressing it directly. Regurgitating a previous piece of creative writing, or descriptive section, just because it got praise at school or good marks in a mock exam, should be discouraged. Examiners will notice a ‘prepared piece’ instantly and could knock off marks if it is included and bears no relation to the question.
One school always includes a recorded listening task, which includes assessment of reasoning, close listening skills and comprehension. True to form, an animal was featured; the children were asked to ‘underline the hippo with the three spots’ and ‘underline the hippo whose toenails weren’t painted’. Many other schools also now incorporate tasks in their assessment that require children to listen carefully and follow verbal instructions. The best way to prepare for these types of questions is to make sure that your child is attentive, listens to others and learns to follow instructions with care and diligence. Dictation practice can help to build listening skills.
Finally, it’s worth remembering that not all comprehension tasks include a prose piece. This came up in one school’s literacy section:
- Two comprehensions: one was a standard written piece about a cat going hunting at night, but the other was of a picture of a family preparing to go on holiday. With the latter, candidates were asked questions about the picture: Eg What two things might be dangerous in this picture? What two things suggest they might be going on holiday? Who in this picture would not be able to drive the car?
In maths, the following topics came up: number squares (up to 24); time; shapes; sequences; measurement; right angles (on a clock); shading in fractions; basic weight conversions; height; and money. Doubling numbers also featured, as did mental maths. One 8+ maths paper also included a ‘Magic Number’ exercise with triple digit numbers.
Here are some examples of specific questions/tasks that came up:
- A question which showed a picture of a regular hexagon and a picture of an irregular hexagon and then asked candidates to draw two more different pictures of a hexagon.
- A six mark question which had four squares and two circles and then some information about the colour of each shape and its location; candidates had to label each shape with the correct colour. Eg. green is not a square, red is not next to grey…etc.
- Draw an 8 cm line in a rectangle.
- A question which showed a drawn line and candidates were then asked to measure it and give an answer to the nearest cm.
- A box which contained three numbers, but the fourth number was missing and candidates had to find the number so the total added up to 100.
Advice for the Maths section
For many schools this year, there seemed to be a strong emphasis on fundamental arithmetic: addition, subtraction, multiplication and division, so our advice would be to get your child up to speed with their number bonds and times tables, so they can approach these types of ‘bread and butter’ questions confidently and accurately.
One school always has a dedicated maths problems paper, which incorporates two and three step questions, whilst other schools often include these trickier questions within their maths papers as a whole, usually towards the end. These questions tend to be worth higher marks, so it’s essential that your child paces himself or herself so they have enough time to tackle them. This is when a sound working knowledge of the maths basics will come into its own, ensuring that your child is able to work quickly, efficiently and calmly…and hopefully get to the end.
However, it’s worth noting that papers are sometimes designed to be very difficult to complete in time. As such, you should remind your child not to worry or get upset if they don’t finish a paper. Rather, they should do the best they can and then focus their attention on the next part of the assessment. Many children gain entry to the top schools without completing all the questions. Mock exams are especially helpful here as they will give your child a good idea of what to expect.
Reasoning was varied and challenging this year. One school showed candidates a picture of four men and a ladder and asked the children what they felt about each man and to explain which man they would prefer to be and why. Non-verbal Reasoning (NVR) questions included rotation and birds-eye views of shapes, arrow patterns and odd one out.
Verbal reasoning (VR) questions included finding letters that completed one word and began another, hidden words, anagrams and cloze passages. Every school will have its own take on VR and how to test it, so be aware that it might not be exactly the same as in practice text books, though the skills being tested will be similar across the board.
Advice for the Reasoning section
Whilst NVR seems to fall into defined question types that can be easily practised, we have noticed a slight change in VR, which can be tested in multiple ways. Word patterns, missing letters, code words etc still all come up, but sometimes crosswords and word wheels are also included. Cloze passages, as referenced above, (where words are left out and candidates must find the most suitable word to fill the gap from a selection offered) are now featuring in VR sections, providing a combined test of VR, grammar and vocabulary. Therefore, it’s important to mix up your child’s learning, so they are exposed to as many different types of question as possible. If they are able to confidently recognise certain question types, then should they experience one in a different context or unexpected location in a paper, they will be able to take it in their stride.
We hope that you have found this article helpful! Please feel free to get in touch here if you have any questions or queries.
You can view our full range of 7+ practice materials here.
You can view our full range of 8+ practice materials here.
You can view our Mock Exam schedule here.