Fire up your summer 11+ revision with our top seven sizzling tips!
By Natalie Bailey
22 Jul
It’s the summer holidays and time for adventure, barbecues and picnics. So, do you really want to subject your children and yourselves to weeks of desk-bound revision? We suspect the answer is ‘no’ and you’ll be pleased to hear that we would agree!
The 11+ and pre-tests are designed to select children who show exceptional skills in thinking and reasoning, so happy children who enjoy a range of stimulating activities and interests are much more likely to do well. Unsurprisingly, a lively and enquiring mind rarely comes from many hours of intensive study with a pile of books.
Adaptive pre-tests and many 11+ tests also look for speed and accuracy as a sign of mental agility, therefore building your child’s confidence in their own abilities is essential preparation for these quick-fire tests.
Here are our top tips to ignite your child’s thinking skills this summer …

1) Confidence through knowledge

Post times-tables around the house, create a word wall with difficult spellings (fridge magnets work well) and ask your child to keep a word journal to add interesting words that naturally expand their vocabulary. Many children learn visually so highlighting words that they find difficult and writing them out can be helpful.

Rapid recall of tables is essential for maths and reasoning tests. Accurate spelling and a varied vocabulary is essential in both English and verbal reasoning tests. The ability to recall them quickly means children can respond confidently in test conditions.
Quick-fire tests for all the family over breakfast or dinner will build familiarity, speed and accuracy.

2)  Speed through understanding

When working through revision materials, if you come across a helpful way to understand a difficult concept or remember a fact you often forget, record it separately to the rest of your notes.

Then rewrite these handy snippets together in memorable and exciting ways. 

For example, type/write them in different colours for each subject, make coloured flashcards or PowerPoint slides. The colours can help stimulate visual memory.
Remembering facts that constantly occur in a subject reduces the time needed to work out or recall information and speeds up answering times. Here are some ideas from maths, English and science ...

For Example:

a) Addition and subtraction, multiplication and division facts work together in fours, e.g.
3 + 7 = 10        7 + 3 = 10        10 – 7 = 3        10 – 3 = 7
b) Factor rainbows help to order factors of a number, e.g. write out the factors of a number into factor rainbows (as below) to see all the possible factors of a number quickly and easily.


Basic spelling rules apply to different types of word ending, e.g.
When adding a suffix to a word ending in y, if there is a consonant before the y, change the y to an i.
For example, fury – furious, envy – enviable

Simple phrases are often used to remember difficult concepts in science, e.g.
Solute or solvent? Remember: The SOLUte is the SOLUble solid.
Discuss the concepts and test each other using the flashcards with a prompt question on the reverse of each fact… and set a time limit!


3) Familiarity through practice

Find ways to practise maths and English skills in everyday life, e.g. working out how to divide a pizza so that everybody has two equal slices; calculating the distance left to travel when partway through a journey; working out the best offers in the supermarket; picking a word from a dictionary each day and finding ways to use it (homonyms are interesting words to pick and good for inventing jokes – these are words that sound the same with more than one meaning, such as band or bill).
A very large proportion of Maths questions and almost all those in English and reasoning tests ask children to apply their knowledge in new situations so understanding how these subjects are applied in the wider world is one of the best ways to prepare for the questions they will face in their tests. Homonyms commonly occur in verbal reasoning tests.
Try to come up with at least one Maths and English challenge each day and don’t be afraid to join in the games yourself. Sometimes beating a parent can be the best motivation!


4) Building thinking skills

Explore maths and English concepts using real life examples, e.g. challenge your child to find examples of 3D shapes (such as cubes) in everyday life and write down the number of faces, vertices (corners) and edges for each in a table for comparison; read different types of texts such as newspapers, blogs and magazines and ask your child to write something in the same style.
Working with 3D shapes develops analytical skills needed widely across the tests and imagining shapes when seen from different angles also tests memory. Questions involving rotated 2D and 3D shapes are very common in non-verbal reasoning tests and also occur in maths tests. English writing tasks often ask children to continue writing in the style of a comprehension text provided.
Set a weekly Maths and English challenge and a time to talk about them once your child has completed them.


5) Improving reasoning skills

Discuss any challenges you set, asking your child questions about what they have found, e.g. Which shape has the same number of vertices? Use questions beginning ‘who’, ‘what’, ‘where’, ‘when’, ‘why’, ‘how’, especially when talking about English tasks. 
Discussion helps you and your child to explore how clearly they have thought about their work and builds confidence in justifying their views.
Although English is the most obvious subject where explaining an answer is clearly tested, maths tests also give marks for a logical progression of thought,and some revision guides break down how these marks are allocated. 
The most complex verbal and non-verbal reasoning questions also test logic skills, and these can be very challenging, especially at speed.

Make notes about what your child found difficult in your weekly discussions and think about how you can ask similar questions when you talk again.

6) Developing mental agility and creativity

Find apps and websites that help build mental agility, memory, reasoning and creativity e.g. Mensa produce a brain-training app; websites exist where you can put photographs on nets (flat 3D shapes), others help you turn these into wrapping paper. 
Phones and tablets are used continually by children so they can feel more comfortable testing themselves using technology. Apps give scores and completion times so it is easy to see how you are developing. The websites mentioned encourage exploration of concepts, such as how the sides of nets relate to each other (useful in maths and very common in non-verbal reasoning questions) and creativity –an essential skill in problem-solving, common to all 11+ tests.
Download the apps yourself and try them at the same time as your child.

7) Becoming test-ready

Set aside time when your child can concentrate fully on short sections of revision guides and workbooks when you are there to support them. Don’t plan more than two hours in a day and do give them at least one day off in a week.
Concentrated work on timed tests can wait until nearer the test day (although some children prefer to have a go straight away).
Look carefully at the series you intend to use and plan out the work you and your child feel they need to do in manageable bursts. Books that are set out in two or four page sections (such as the Galore Park 11+ series) make this planning task much easier.
Always talk through the answers with your child and repeat the questions they found challenging again so that they are prepared when they face a similar task again.  

Many of the examples referenced in this article are taken from the Galore Park 11+ revision and practice series, designed to support and stimulate parents and children throughout their 11+ preparation.
Best of luck to you and your child as you face the 11+, Pre-Tests or 13+ exams.


Tags: 11+, English, Maths, Non-Verbal Reasoning, Practice Papers, Pre-Test, Revision, Revision Guide, Revision Tips, Science, Verbal Reasoning, Workbooks

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