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11+ Preparation

Our Top Tips


Starting your 11+ campaign can be a little overwhelming, so you may not know where to start with your preparation. Read on for our top tips when starting out with your 11+ preparation.

child studying for the 11+

Preparing for the 11+ English paper

The 11+ English paper consists of two sections:

  • A prose passage followed by comprehension questions. The questions test understanding, both of what has been read and the impact of the writer’s use of language. This section is typically worth 60% of the marks.
  • Directed writing questions. Candidates may be asked to respond to a written or visual stimulus to write a description or a section of narrative. This section is worth 40% of the marks and the prime criteria are clarity, fluency, the accuracy of written expression and imaginative flair.

To prepare for the comprehension section, read aloud with your child regularly and discuss the text. Ask straightforward questions – can your child to point to a phrase that reinforces the answer? Follow up with opinion questions – “Do you like the main character?” Encourage your child to support their answer with a short quotation from the text e.g. “I think Tom is generous because he ‘shares’”. Make sure to include vocabulary questions – what a particular word or phrase means and –inference questions – inferring or suggesting a character’s feelings and thoughts based on their actions. 

For creative writing, the topics set for 11+ essays tend to have the same common themes and it is worth having a ‘stock’ story that can be used in each of the below settings:

  • Being lost, scared or alone
  • Doing something exciting or achieving something (’the best day of my life was . . . ’)
  • Having an adventure
  • Being in a city or the countryside.

Try and set aside one hour each week to write in different genres. Furthermore, build in ten minutes of preparation and planning time. Keep plots simple so as not to over complicate, writing from personal experience can often produce the most honest and emotional work.

Preparing for the 11+ Maths paper

The 11+ Maths syllabus tends to draw heavily on National Curriculum topics. Calculators are not required in the exam.

There are three key areas we suggest you prepare for:

  1. Numbers
  2. Data
  3. Shapes

It is vital to get your child’s mental maths up to scratch by working on their number bonds and times tables. Ensure that basic maths skills are strong enough to help them to solve maths problems quickly. Make preparation fun wherever possible, short bursts of ‘10 minute Bond Practice Papers’ are perfect for in the morning and evening. Build up to longer papers as confidence grows. Achieving progressively good scores in a practice test can also reduce anxiety in the run-up to the examination. There are many online resources however we recommend and BOFA and Chuckra for an excellent mix of questions.

We can also help find you a specialist 11+ tutor if you are struggling in any particular areas. Our expert teachers can make a significant difference during the final stages of preparation.

Preparing for the 11+ verbal, non-verbal and spatial reasoning paper

Verbal reasoning tests mainly involve reasoning with words and include question types involving the production of, use of, and relations between, words.

Non-verbal reasoning tests involve reasoning with abstract figures. For example, some questions might look at relationships between shapes and sequences of shapes, by identifying common features from a set of figures and applying them to a new figure.

Spatial reasoning tests are similar to non-verbal reasoning tests in that they involve reasoning with abstract figures. Question types typically involve the mental creation, retention and manipulation of visual images.

Practice is vital as questions do become familiar, and confidence will grow. Do small daily tests to keep things fresh, reward accuracy, encourage self-checking skills. We recommend the ‘10 minute Bond Practice Papers’ and there are various online resources available.

Try to reduce pressure. Research has shown verbal and non-verbal reasoning ability drops by 10%-30% in a situation where too much pressure is applied.


Find out how Mentor can help you support you and your child as you approach the 11+. Get in touch today.