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Is the 11 Plus right for my child?

There are many things to consider when deciding whether to register your child for 11 plus admission to an independent or grammar school. Is the rigour of prep for the exam and their interview right for them? Your decision will depend on multiple factors.

1. What is my child’s character? 

By the time you start to consider whether an 11 Plus is right for your family, your child is probably going to be around 8 or 9 years old. Their attitude to learning, their anxiety or sensitivity and their maturity should be clear at this point. You may well find that they have changed a lot in Infant School or pre prep, and your thoughts around their personality and capability need to be refreshed and updated. Children that were total refuseniks in their toddler years may have become much more cooperative as they matured. Equally children may develop anxieties and sensitivities as they grow older and start to be tested and assessed at school. 

From this perspective it is wise to consider if the pressure of the 11 Plus exam is a fair one to place on your child and some questions to consider would be: 

  • Do they worry about failing or not doing well?
  • Do they become anxious about school tests? 
  • Do they enjoy and thrive in competitive arenas in other aspects of their life such as their hobbies or do they shy away from competition? 
  • To what extent do they do things they don’t want to, to try and please you? 

2. Family life, commitments and lifestyle 

Although most families go through the same routines of school drop offs, sport and music clubs, in reality, families can be very different and have very different values even within the same geography and even school. 

The senior school your children go to will affect the journey of life they will start on. The school should reflect your family values. You may assume a general commonality in that most parents considering 11 Plus wish their child to end up with good exam results and the opportunity to study at a good university. However, there are many different environments that will lead to the same result. As your child gets to age 9 and 10 you may be starting to get a few clues as to the kind of educational establishments they, and you, might be comfortable in. 

An 11 Plus campaign will undoubtably be demanding and difficult. If your values are strongly linked to relaxation and quality time, you should consider whether it will be worth it to sacrifice weekends and holidays. Will you as parents find this so negative that your child will pick up on this? Equally, if you are all crazy about archery or line dancing, are you ready to sacrifice time spent on a family passion to ensure the required work is done? 

If you go away a lot or have caring responsibilities, this needs to be taken in to account, in terms of how and when you will get the required 11+ work done. 

3. How bright is my child? 

One of the most important data points you need when starting to plan for 11 plus options is to understand your child’s current academic attainment in relation to their peers. 

You need to understand this at a level deeper than say, “they are third in the class” or “she got 75% in a Maths test”. You need to understand where your child sits within bigger cohorts such as their national peer group and the peer group for grammar or independent selective entry. 

The reason for this is that all children effectively operate within the small bubbles of their classrooms and consequently don’t give you any context in relation to their ability and placement for the 11+ test. 

Do some research 

Ideally try and find some data about your child that places them relative to their peers on a national basis. If your child is at a State Primary school, they will hold this information about your child although they may not wish to share this with you in the first instance. You are however entitled to see this information and especially since the introduction of GDPR, they must be able to show you any data that they hold about your child. A State Primary will test your child at least once a term and this data is fed into a national database which will place your child relative to their peers on a national basis for key skills linked to the National Curriculum. 

If your child is at a private school (or a free school) they will most likely have opted out of the national testing environment and it is likely to be harder to place your child’s attainment relative to a large enough group of peers. Instead, many prep schools use University of Cambridge CEM computer-based tests, also sometimes called CAT or INCAS scoring, to understand and benchmark their cohorts and suggest appropriate next schools to parents.  

Consider an Academic Assessment 

We are one of the only educational consultancies with a licence to provide Cambridge University CEM tests as a diagnostic assessment for parents seeking to understand their child’s 11+ suitability. 

We believe this is the best academic assessment your child can sit because over 70% of independent secondary schools use CEM to create their own entrance exams, leaving you with a close correlation between the strengths and weaknesses your child displays during the assessment and those they may exhibit in their 11 Plus. The assessment is therefore a great way to identify gaps in knowledge, inform the most effective tutoring and help parents place their children in the correct cohort of schools where they will thrive.  


Find out how Mentor can help you support you and your child as you approach the 11 plus. We are here to help, get in touch today.