For parents with children taking the 11+ exams, there’s plenty of revision to come including timed tests and revision papers.
One BritMums Dad weathered the storm last year and is preparing for it again. The most important elements for success are planning and support: get sample tests, allow time for practice and to go over what your child struggles with and give them lots of encouragement. Ultimately, he says, you want your child to know that you support him or her, regardless of the outcome.
Top tips for revising for 11+ exams:
- A lot of what helped our girls boiled down to good exam technique/common sense (learning to pace themselves, allocating time according to the marks available, reading the question carefully, etc). Go over these elements and keep reinforcing them.
- Practicing under “exam conditions” also helps. For example, for mental maths, having somebody read out the questions at a fast pace; for essays, tackling a new practice subject uninterrupted for the time allocated in the exam.
- We came across two schools of thought on how to prepare for essays: A) Memorise some previously written essays and tweak the closest fitting one on the day, or B) Practice writing essays, but avoid memorising anything. Most schools are expert at spotting heavily coached candidates, and something that looks like a regurgitation of an essay prepared by a tutor will backfire. We went with a hybrid approach of having some previously written material fresh on their minds, but with the understanding that the essay subject would most likely require new material to be written. In some cases our girls were able to weave in ideas or fragments from favourite essays, but still had to write most from scratch. Googling along the lines of “popular essay topics for 10 year olds” offers some ideas for practice.
- One thing you can prepare for is to make sure essays are well-structured and set out in paragraphs.
- For essays, exam markers look for “wow” words (words that demonstrate a good vocabulary e.g. intangible, gregarious, ubiquitous, benevolent)
- As part of the exam process, many schools might try to identify off-the-scale exceptional candidates and set some questions that are out of reach for almost everybody, so it’s important not to become demoralised if tough questions are encountered (for maths these are usually at the end).
- Also suggest that your child takes the claims made by other candidates at break-times with a pinch of salt!
- Some categories are difficult to prepare for (e.g. originality, spelling) so best not to stress out about these.
- Talk to your children about the areas in which they feel most comfortable and which make them nervous. Their feelings about how they’re doing are almost as important as how many answers they are getting right. Being relaxed and confident is paramount!
- We always aimed to avoid last-minute revision and tried to generally dial down activities during the week before the exam.