Test papers Practice, practice, practice

11 Plus Practice Papers


Get ahead of the game with our range of 11 plus practice papers, created to suit the latest requirements of independent schools.

The use of practice papers as part of your 11 Plus campaign is nothing short of essential. This is effectively where your child will learn what sitting their 11 Plus exams will really be like, and have a chance to become familiar with layout, time pressure, different answer formats and practice their 11 Plus exam techniques

For parents managing their child’s 11 Plus journey, practice papers will give you many important clues as to how your child is getting on. In the first instance, looking closely at the sample papers on a school’s website will be the clearest indication of the standard expected from their 11 Plus cohort. You can see where the game is being played.

When it comes to practice papers it is important to get organised! Once you know which schools you want your child to sit the 11 Plus for, you should research the schools’ websites and find any sample papers they have released. More can be found on various 11 Plus forums online, and we have some over on our school admissions guide pages. Another important consideration is to understand which exam board sets the exam for the school, usually CEM, GL Assessment or ISEB. These exam boards produce fundamentally different exams, and it is important to practice the correct type.

You can also research further into each school’s exam in detail, and this can help you plan the remainder of your campaign in terms of resources and 11 Plus tuition. For example, in respect of the English exam, 11 Plus comprehension tests range from digital multiple choice answer questions to extended written ten-mark answers. If your child is sitting for multiple schools, you may need to practise both, but they will certainly require practising different exam techniques.

When to start using practice papers with your child

You should start adopting practice papers with your child once they have a secure knowledge of the Key Stage 2 Maths and English syllabi up to the end of Year 6. It is important not to start too early with practice papers, as there is little point if your child has not been taught the topics that will come up on the papers and in fact, this can be very demotivating for them. Practice papers should be a tool of encouragement for your child over time, as they see their scores improve, and they will not be able to achieve this until they know the syllabus. 

We recommend you start practice papers from the beginning of the summer term of Year 5 at the earliest. Always discuss with your 11 Plus tutor as to whether your child is ready to move onto this stage.  

How to work through practice papers 

During the summer term of Year 5, we suggest you download and print off all the sample papers available on your target schools’ websites. This will hopefully be at least two for each school. Also try and work out some proxy schools of about the same academic standard and download these too. Then sort them from the easiest to the hardest papers, leaving your number one school choice until last.

Create a spreadsheet, noting all the exam papers you have from the easiest to the hardest and work backwards from the date of the exams, placing a date for each paper to be completed at regular intervals. Hopefully, this will mean your child will need to complete 1-2 papers per week over the summer holidays and into the Autumn term. Start earlier if you need to.

For this phase, don’t worry too much if your child takes longer to complete the past papers, it is more important that they work through all the questions and get through all the papers. We suggest:

  • Saturday – Maths practice paper 
  • Sunday – English practice paper

Practice papers – speed work

We cannot stress how important it is that all concerned in an 11 Plus campaign are fully cognisant of how fast children need to perform in their 11 Plus exams. We believe this is one of the major reasons that children fail their 11 Plus. They know their stuff, but they can’t work their way through the exam papers quick enough to get to the hard questions at the end, where they can really show their abilities and differentiate themselves.

We find this problem particularly acute in children who attend state primary school as they are less likely to have been regularly tested in school under exam-like conditions and under time pressure.

Therefore, the final element of working with practice papers must be about speed. From September onwards, you must practice exam papers strictly to time and be aware of how far through the paper your child is getting and if the requisite speed is costing them accuracy. You must work up to 1 mark per minute and only practice can help this. 

Practice papers – exam technique

Finally, children need to be taught the basics of exam technique in an age appropriate way. The most important concepts for them to grasp are to:

  • Leave questions they don’t understand or are struggling with and come back to them if they have time at the end
  • Give an answer for every multiple choice question, guessing if necessary
  • Take appropriate time on each question relative to the marks available. 

These concepts are hard for children and they must practice them practically over time. 

children studying for the 11+ exam

Mentor Education are incredibly proud to share the news that over 90% of their 2020-21 11+ graduates gained places at their first-choice schools (100% first and second) with many scholarships!

We recognise that schools are looking for children who can demonstrate individuality and express ideas fluently and naturally – which sounds far easier than it actually is! Find out more about how we can help with exam technique and interview practice.


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