The world of 11+ entrance exams can seem an intimidating one. When should children start preparing for the assessments? Do they need tutors, or can parents provide enough support by themselves? Do students sit standardised tests, or does each school assess pupils in a different way?
This blog post seeks to answer some of your questions and to show that entrance exams need not be as intimidating as they seem.
When should I start preparing my child?
Hampstead and Frognal Tutors recommends that children start to prepare for 11+ examinations in either Year 4 or Year 5. This gives ample time to familiarise them with the different assessments they will face and for children to develop the skills they need to succeed.
Much depends, however, on how quickly your child picks up new things. You don’t want them to be bored rigid with verbal reasoning before their ninth birthday. It is helpful to identify their strengths and weaknesses early on, therefore, and to home in on possible problem areas. Numerical reasoning, verbal and non-verbal reasoning, comprehension and creative writing are frequently tested at 11+ level.
It is a good idea to step up your child’s revision as the exam gets closer. If you do decide to hire a tutor, it is often beneficial to increase the amount of one-to-one tuition your child receives in the weeks coming up to an exam.
Do I need to hire a tutor?
Parents can make a valuable contribution to their child’s learning. If you have the time and knowledge to tutor your child, you may not need to bring in professional help. There are many parents who manage successfully without a tutor, particularly if both parents are not working full-time. However, if you are often at work, it can be difficult to find the time and energy to commence extra schooling.
There are many other reasons why private tuition is useful. If English is not your first language, helping your child with verbal reasoning, comprehension and creative writing can be daunting. An 11+ English tutor can help in ways that you feel you can’t. Similarly, if you are not a confident mathematician, you might find it difficult to prepare your child for numerical reasoning tests.
You may also like use a specialist tutor who, in the past, has prepared students for the same schools that you have applied to. These tutors will be familiar with the content of the various 11+ exams and know how to prepare students for the different assessments.
Online tuition can also be a fantastic and convenient resource. If you live abroad — or simply live outside of London — an online tutor can boost your child’s confidence and improve their exam performance.
What sort of tests should I prepare my child for?
There is no standardised 11+ exam that all school children sit. Instead, different schools assess children in different ways. Here is a selection of the admissions procedures adopted by London independent schools and English grammar schools:
The 11+ London Consortium (formerly known as the North London Girls’ Consortium).
This is a group of twelve independent girls’ schools in North London who collectively manage their admissions procedure. Parents typically apply for places at the same schools. The consortium seeks to make the process less arduous and more consistent across the board.
- A 70 minute cognitive ability test which is mainly multiple choice. This test incorporates mathematics, verbal and non-verbal questions.
- A common reference form providing detailed commentary on a candidate’s academic performance.
- An interview assessing ‘skill, aptitude and intellectual acuity’. The interviews are unique to each senior school.
- Girls sit the exam in the January of Year 6.
The schools which form the consortium are: Channing School, Francis Holland School (NW1), Francis Holland School (SW1), Godolphin and Latymer School, More House School, Northwood College, Notting Hill and Ealing School, Queen’s College London, Queen’s Gate School, South Hampstead High School, St. Helen’s School London, St. James Senior Girls’ School.
City of London School for Girls
City of London School for girls is no longer a member of the 11+ London Consortium. The school admissions process now puts greater emphasis on a child’s writing ability.
- There are no verbal or non-verbal reasoning papers.There is one Maths paper (1 hour and 15 minutes long) and one English paper (1 hour and 20 minutes long). In the English paper there are three sections — one reading and two writing.
- Girls sit the entrance exam in Year 6, at the beginning of January.
ISEB Common Pre-Test Schools
The ISEB Common Pre-Test is a standardised, age-adaptive test designed to measure a student’s ability and attainment. It is an online assessment consisting of multiple-choice questions in English, Mathematics, verbal reasoning and non-verbal reasoning. It takes 2 and a half hours to complete, however the sections can be completed separately. The tests can be taken either at home or at school.
A number of independent schools use this test to assess students before inviting them to take school-specific entrance exams at the age of thirteen.
Schools that use the ISEB Common Pre-Test include: Harrow, Eton College, Westminster School, Radley College, St Paul’s School, Brighton College, Bedford School.
The tests are normally taken in Year 6 or Year 7.
State Grammar Schools
There is no standardised, nation-wide test for entry into state grammar schools. Tests are set locally, either by individual schools or by consortiums of schools. If you have set your heart on a particular grammar school, therefore, it is advisable to check exactly what the exam covers.
For Henrietta Barnett School in Hampstead, for instance, there are two rounds of assessment. The first round involves verbal and numerical reasoning, whilst the second round involves an English and Mathematics test.
School admissions procedures are something of a maze. However, with the right information and support, it isn’t difficult to find the right path. Good luck!