How to prepare for the 11+

You’ve found the dream secondary school for your son or daughter! You are thrilled to flip through the school brochure and see all your boxes ticked - but you then discover that in order to gain a place at the school, your child has to sit the 11+. But is your child ready for their first real exam?



What is the 11+?


The 11+ is a selective entrance exam used by grammar schools or certain selective private schools to identify academic ability and potential. It is usually taken towards the end of Year 5 or start of Year 6 and whilst the content of the exam can vary in layout and length, it generally focuses on the following four disciplines:

  • Maths

  • English

  • Verbal Reasoning

  • Non-Verbal Reasoning

For further information on what is covered in the 11+, head to our 11+ page.



How can I help my child prepare for the 11+?


For the best chances of success, it is very important to start preparing your son or daughter far enough in advance to ensure that they can achieve their full potential on the day of their exam. To help you, we’ve compiled some of the most important tips for creating your roadmap to success:


  • START EARLY: Success is highly dependent on the amount of preparation taken so we recommend starting preparations around 12 months before the date of the exam. This provides enough time to cover all the content at a relaxed pace that won’t overwhelm your child. .

  • DO YOUR RESEARCH: Contact the school to find out exactly which exams your child will be taking as exam boards can vary between regions. As well as the exam board, find out how many papers there are and how long each lasts. Some schools also post sample papers or past papers on their website so be sure to check for these as they will provide a more accurate picture of what your child can expect.

  • UNDERSTAND YOUR EXAM BOARD: Your child will be sitting one of two exam boards - either CEM of GL Assessment - and it is important to ascertain which board is used by your preferred school. Preparation for GL Assessment tests will rely on lots of past paper practice whereas CEM papers require a rich vocabulary as well as past paper practice and time-pressure practice.

  • CREATE A PLAN: In order to make sure that everything is covered in time, plan out a schedule that allows time to cover all of the core content, time to revisit and strengthen identified areas of weakness and time to practice plenty of past papers under timed conditions. Choosing a regular weekly time slot will also improve engagement as your child will be expecting the work time and will provide important structure for both of you. Make sure to also leave breathing space for sick days or holidays.

  • FIND RESOURCES: if you are looking for the practice questions or past papers, you can source a huge amount of free material online via a quick internet search. You can also consider purchasing more formal textbooks that can address both general and specific areas, if you prefer the structure provided by a textbook or you would like for your child to practice writing by hand. You should also invest in several interesting children’s books for your son or daughter to read everyday to expand their vocabulary and improve their reading and comprehension skills.

  • KEEP IT INTERESTING: Over the course of several months, students can start to fatigue if they experience the same work day in and day out. Make sure to keep things fresh but rotating through all the subjects and utilising a variety of mediums such as playing online maths games, creating posters of important vocabulary or talking through creative writing ideas.

  • PRACTICE UNDER TIME PRESSURE: all tests will include multiple pages of questions to be answered in just 45-60 minutes so it is very important that your child practices their time-management skills, especially in CEM-examined tests. Practising past papers under strict timed conditions will get your child accustomed to working quickly under pressure.

  • WATCH OUT FOR BURN-OUT: Overdoing it can affect performance just as much as under-preparing so keep an eye out for signs of burn-out. If you notice a dip in past paper scores or an increase in resistance to work, consider taking a week off that is filled with fun activities and then re-evaluate the workload when you resume - we find that working little and often has the best results.


Preparation can seem like a daunting task but thankfully, the internet has a wealth of resources that should help guide you every step of the way. Eleven Plus Exams has a host of paid and free practice materials as well as guidance on how to structure your preparation whilst 11 Plus Guide has resources and information specific to each individual region. Sats-Papers also contains one of the largest selections of free past papers we have ever seen!


Alternatively, if you would prefer to put your child’s future into the hands of professionals, you may also consider seeking support from a tutor that has experience in teaching the 11+ exam that is used by your preferred school. The tutors at We Make Academics have hundreds of hours worth of experience in teaching both the academic skills and exam technique necessary to sail through the test, so that your child is well-placed to achieve their full potential on the day of the exam.


Are you ready for your child to sail through their GCSEs? Book a trial lesson with one of our tutors today.


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