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When should I start preparing my child for their 11 Plus exam?

This is a great question and as an Eleven Plus tutor, it is a question that I am frequently asked. Many parents are concerned that they may be starting their child’s 11 Plus preparation too late. They are concerned about leaving it all to the last minute. Doing so could result in putting too much last-minute-preparation pressure on their child. Or even worse, missing the opportunity to pass the 11 Plus exam altogether.

Nobody wants to live with the guilt of feeling that all could have gone better. If only they started preparing their child for their 11 Plus exam earlier. On the other hand, some parents are concerned that they may be getting it all wrong and starting too early. This can be an issue as children need time to develop their foundational skills.

Testing skills that have not yet been acquired is simply a waste of time. It can also have the adverse effect of knocking a child’s self confidence. This will eventually leave a child feeling that they are not “bright” enough.

Before I begin to address the issue of how much time is needed to increase your child’s chances of passing the 11 Plus exam, I must emphasise that regardless of effort or ability, there is still no absolute guarantee that ANY child will pass the 11 Plus exam. This may sound untrue; but unfortunately it is. A number of uncontrollable external factors can determine a child’s success. The best thing you can do as a parent and as a student, is to prepare for the big day as you possibly can.

This can be achieved by having an effective strategy that leverages your time and energy.

There is no hard and fast rule about when to begin preparing your child for their 11 plus exam; however in general, I would recommend focused preparation begins when your child starts year 4 in school. All is not lost if a child starts later. The success of passing the 11 Plus exam will be more dependent on the child’s current ability and already acquired knowledge.

Do Not Wait Until The Last Minute

I personally know of a child who successfully passed their 11 Plus exam after only 1 month of preparation. They came to the UK from abroad and was not aware of the exam. The secret of their success was not due to the child’s natural ability, as they were middle attainers at school, but mainly due to the parents’ seeking professional help that enabled them to use the little time they had to effectively prepare. I must stress that this was a very unusual case. I do not at all advise leaving preparation for such a life changing exam to the last minute. Even for the brightest of students, preparation, the correct type of preparation, is vital to their success.

Preparation Is Key

It has become increasingly normal to take more than one 11 plus exam. For example, you may be moving in the imminent future. You will need to allow yourself to have the option of two schools in case the move takes a lot longer than anticipated. Some grammar schools require children to only complete Verbal and Non-Verbal  Reasoning 11 plus exam test papers. Whilst others may only require the children to sit English and Maths. Whereas another school may require children to sit all four papers. This will mean more time is required to prepare for the different criteria of each exam.

I am not an advocate of overloading children with school work and stripping them of their chance to learn through play. I am always keen to ensure that children have a balance of work and play, and that they actually enjoy learning, even for such a rigorous exam. It is vital to keep your child motivated and ensure they do not become disinterested and “bored” as they can end up resenting their 11 plus exam preparation.

“What I like most about the lessons is how they make learning fun” a quote from an 11 Plus exam student that echoes what his classmates say.

Focused and consistent 11 Plus exam preparation should ideally start 1 to 2 years before your child’s exam. You can choose to help your child yourself or hire the services of a professional 11 Plus tutor. If you want to get your child a tutor, be sure to contact them as soon as possible, as spaces fill up quickly. You may even consider contacting the tutor when your child is still in year 3, so that your child can be put on their waiting list.

If you have any questions about the 11+ process, feel free to get in touch and I might even answer your question in an upcoming blog post.

Here’s to your child’s success,


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