We receive many phone calls to our office each year from parents who had not realised that preparation for the 11 plus is increasingly common. The conspiracy of silence that surrounds the test prevails until they suddenly stumble upon the fact that other children are being tutored either by their parents or professionally. This can often be quite late in the day – perhaps as little as a month or two before the tests.

Naturally every parent wants to do the best for their child and discovering that you may have placed your child at a disadvantage can be quite distressing for parents. In this section we aim to give you advice on how to cope with the situation.

  • The first and most crucial piece of advice is DON’T PANIC! Bright children can and do pass the 11 Plus every year with little or no preparation, even in unfamiliar topics such as Verbal and Non-Verbal Reasoning. Many children have a natural aptitude for one or both of these topics which is precisely why they are used so frequently by Admission Authorities to test for grammar school entrance. They are believed to be good indicators of innate ability (although there are those who argue that point).
  • Secondly, do your research. On our 11+ Schools pages we aim to provide the most up-to-date information possible about the exact type of test that your child will face for your preferred schools. We also recommend appropriate practice materials wherever possible, even for the so-called “tutor proof” tests.
  • Buy some initial practice materials or download sample resources so that you can see what topics and types of questions your child may face in the test. (See below for some general suggestions).
  • Prioritise according to how much time you have. If you have only a few weeks left before the tests, you need to:
    • focus on any known weaknesses in your child’s knowledge of English and Maths
    • teach them the basic techniques for Verbal Reasoning and/or Non-Verbal Reasoning
    • help them to get used to the length of time that they have for each test

You will also need to ensure that their times tables are secure. The biggest challenge will be if your child’s vocabulary is not up to scratch. With a very short time-frame there is not a great deal that you can do, but if your child will cooperate, you can create vocabulary flashcards and practice as many as possible each day. There is advice on how to do this on our 11 plus English section. The 11+ Vocabulary Builder App was created specifically target vocabulary required for the 11 plus exam and is a useful tool to use when time is short.

Preparation for English and Maths Tests

If your child will be taking these curriculum-based tests you should assess their current academic strengths and weaknesses. With very little time to spare you need to be as focussed as possible in your preparation. There is no point in coaching your child intensively in either subject if they are already secure in many of the concepts they will need for the tests.

Make a list of the key areas that you need to address with your child. If your child’s teacher is in favour of the 11+ (and not all of them are, by any means – tread carefully!) he or she might be willing to draw up a list for you. A sample list might read as follows:


  • Rule “i before e except after c”
  • Use of apostrophes
  • Variations on using the word “said”
  • Essay planning – “beginning, middle and end”
  • Underlining key points in comprehension tasks

There are books in our English Bookshop that address grammar, punctuation and spelling issues, and also a number of other books that provide topic-specific support. They will allow you to really focus on the weaker areas, rather than wasting time on areas of strength that will – hopefully – be evident in the test result anyway.


  • Highest common factor and lowest common multiple
  • Perimeter and area
  • Angles
  • Algebra
  • Percentages

Again, to help your child practice specific aspects of maths, use practice materials that allow them to do that. There is an 11+ Maths App. Software has the advantage that they are rather popular with PC-loving children. Paper practice is still essential, but computer-based materials may increase their enthusiasm for the task and thus the amount of time they are willing to spend on preparation.

Preparation for Verbal and Non-Verbal Reasoning Tests

Again, the key to last minute preparation is to focus completely on areas of weakness. As both of these topics are likely to be new to your child you will need to introduce them to the question types and techniques for solving them before you can decide where to put most effort in.

Buy (or download) some initial materials, particularly a basic How To guide for the topic. You can find several in our Bookshop, so select the one that is most appropriate for the tests in your area. For the most common Verbal Reasoning test, the GL Assessment (formerly NFER) tests, your best buy is probably the IPS 11 plus Verbal Reasoning Method and Technique Guide for Parents and Pupils. There are several “How To” books for Non-Verbal Reasoning to choose from.

Once you have explained the techniques to your child, allow them to practice “banks” of the same type of question. Suggestions for materials at this stage are:

Your child will probably be instinctively good at certain types of question, and if that proves to be the case, you can now cross them off your “hit list”. Return to those that are more problematic and double-check that they are secure in the technique. Continue to practice sets of those questions until their accuracy improves. If necessary that process can continue while you move on to full practice papers.

Moving on to Practice Papers

As soon as you have most of the basics in place you should move on to practice papers. Look for recommendations for materials for your area on our Schools pages, or ask for information on our 11 plus Forum as to which materials are appropriate for your area.

Once you have that information, you can decide how many papers your child can realistically hope to complete before the test date. Any papers you buy at this late stage should be full length, e.g. 50 minute papers for GL-Assessment Verbal Reasoning tests. Your objective is to get your child working at speed from the very first paper, and for them to get a clear sense of how long they have to complete the test. Small rewards for completing more and more questions on each paper withint the 50 minutes may prove helpful.

Once you have marked the paper, try not to dwell on the actual score your child has achieved when talking to them. Instead, go through the paper with them to help them understand any areas of difficulty or unfamiliar vocabulary, because this maximises their learning from each paper. Your aim is to get as much practice as possible in before the test, and the only score that matters in this situation is the one they get in the real test. The practice papers will give you an indication of whether your child will qualify, but your child is probably best off not knowing their chances if you can avoid telling them, because poor scores will only create panic in a late starter.

Further Help and Advice for Late Starters

If you are starting out late we strongly recommend that you become a member of our 11 plus Forum . Your questions about emergency preparation will usually be answered very promptly by a member of the community, and you should also receive moral support from other members to help you through a stressful time.

Do also take a look around the rest of this website. Now that you have a basic plan, you will find a great deal of other information that will be helpful to you, and lots of hints, tips and resources that may come in useful for dealing with your child’s specific difficulties ahead of the tests.