Our education consultants offer their top tips for surviving the 11+ tests...

Surviving the 11+ Season

May 4th 2015

Whether you hire an 11+ tutor or help your child prepare for the tests yourself, here are some survival tips from our education consultants...

It’s that time of year again – up and down the country, anxious parents and stressed out children have been getting the results of the 11+ tests which will determine whether children gain admission into one of the UK’s selective state grammar schools. Parents of children a year or so younger have no doubt been watching the stress with nerves of their own – because it’s about time to start preparing next year’s candidates for the torture of the 11+.

The 11+ exams are set by individual schools or by a consortium of schools, or sometimes at county level. The tests vary slightly from place to place, but most include a mixture of verbal reasoning, non-verbal reasoning, maths and English. Competition for the few places available at selective schools is intense – in 2013, one London school reported over 2000 applicants for just 96 places. So it’s important for children to do well in the 11+ – but how?

For increasing numbers of parents, private tutoring is the answer. Although it’s perfectly possible to tutor your child for the 11+ yourself, this just adds to the already intensive stress and can easily disrupt the parent-child relationship. Tutors have a major advantage over parents in this regard, as Steve Spriggs, MD of consultancy William Clarence Education, knows. “There’s an emotional distance between a child and a tutor which simply isn’t there between a parent and a child,” he points out. “Tutors often command more authority than Mum or Dad, and aren’t so easy to wind up! This leads to less stressful practice sessions, and more useful preparation time.”

Tutors also have a more objective view of a child’s abilities, and will easily understand where the child’s strengths and weaknesses are, and where more practice is needed. With the actual test preparation and test technique in the hands of an experienced and qualified tutor, however, parents still have a major role to play in helping their child cope with the stress of the Eleven Plus.

For the frazzled and the faintly frantic, here are our top tips for survival:

1. Try to avoid starting preparation too early.

The tests are not exactly riveting by nature, and your child will bore very quickly if he or she faces two years of repeated practice. Ten months or so is fine, and little and often is better than extensive sessions.

2. Get your child to buy into the process by enthusing them about their prospective new school.

If they can’t see the point in passing the test, they’re not really going to try.

3. Do not show your own anxieties in front of your child.

Yes, these tests are hugely important and can impact your child’s future educational chances. However, most bright children who fail the 11+ still go on to gain good academic results in other schools. Failure is not the be all and end all, however much it might feel like it at the time. Do not add to the pressure your child already feels.

4. Nearer the time, get the practicalities sorted out.

Drive to the school before the day to suss out the route and the parking. Arrive in plenty of time and show your child that you are relaxed and confident on their behalf.

5. Once the tests are done, they’re done.

Avoid the temptation to nag your child for every last detail about how they may or may not have done. You can’t change anything at this point – help your child relax, and try to relax too.

Pass or fail, the 11+ results will be an important moment in your child’s life. “The key is to remain positive,” says Steve Spriggs. “If they get in – fantastic! If they don’t, but it was close, you may be able to appeal. And even if they still don’t get into the school of your choice, it’s not the end of the world. Good parenting and good tutoring going forwards can still help your child achieve all of their dreams and more.”




William Clarence Education is the leading education advisory and consultancy service in the UK. With an unrivalled reach into the UK Schooling and University network, we help and advise families from around the world to reach their maximum potential and gain access to the very best of British education.  

William Clarence put the student’s needs and welfare at the centre of every programme of study we deliver with a focus on integrity and discretion.  Services include UK School and University Placement, Residential Tutoring, Oxbridge Application, US College Admission and Homeschooling.

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