English revision challenge for 11+ and Pre-Test students
By Sarah Collins
12 Jul
Revision time can be a welcome break for parents with a quiet hour or two while your children are occupied… but times may be changing after new research!

Finding the revision techniques that work best for your child is an important part of this first stage of revision. We talked about how short periods of exercise can help children to focus more effectively in the Maths blog last week. In this week’s blog we look at how talking and visualising can help some children to retain important facts, then explain how some basic English knowledge can make all the difference to your child’s exam success.

1.  Use your senses

Research has shown that up to 50% more information is retained if it is spoken out loud, so it might be time for revision sessions to get a little louder! This technique can work well with spelling difficult words as children can pronounce them in different ways to emphasise the way the words are written. 

In fact, most people learn using a combination of their senses and helping your child to understand what works for them at an early stage will make their revision more productive, effective and enjoyable. Some people find listening to an explanation works for them; for others the physical act of writing something down works better. For visual learners, reading, highlighting text and using diagrams is most effective.

Because technology uses sound and graphics as well as text it can be a particularly powerful aid for children who learn using a combination of senses.

Creating revision aids can be part of this learning process and programmes such as PowerPoint or a flashcard app on a phone allow children to explore effective ways to learn. They might find that reading the content out aloud, adding colour or animation and even printing out screens then manually highlighting difficult words works for them.

Set aside some time for this exploration as your child begins their revision and revisit these aids during the revision process to help them retain what they have learned.

The Galore Park 11+ Revision Guides all begin with basic facts about the subject and provide an ideal source of information for children to create their own flashcards. The Galore Park 11+ and Pre-Tests Study Skills book gives further tips on developing learning skills and helps you assess the most effective ways for your child to retain knowledge.

2.  First steps

Basic spelling, punctuation and grammar skills are tested in both the English 11+ and Pre-Tests and should have been comprehensively covered in school. Nevertheless, beginning your child’s revision with a review of these areas will plug any gaps and build their confidence in answering these questions.

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A confidence in spelling, punctuation and grammar will also give your child a deeper understanding of comprehension texts and allow them to concentrate on the creative process in their writing tasks. Writing composition is often an important element in the English tests and can be a deciding factor amongst closely matched candidates.

The Galore Park Learning ladders (shown at the front of each Revision Guide) help to guide your child through the key steps in their revision from basic skills at the bottom to the most demanding skills at the top. In this blog we are looking at extracts from the first two steps on this ladder. [graphic from page 12 of the Galore Park 11+ English Revision Guide]

You will find more information about grammar skills in, ‘Raising your grades with grammar’.

3.  Building the basics


A group of letters added to the end of one word to make another is called a ‘suffix’. Adding a suffix can change the tense of a verb or the word class, e.g. verb, noun, adjective, adverb. Consequently, as well as improving spelling, a basic knowledge of how suffixes work is useful for understanding the grammar in sentences too.    
Verbs and word classes

An example of a suffix changing the tense of a verb is ‘-ed’:

-ed            I call (present)                I called (past)

Here are some examples of suffixes changing the class of a word:

-able          changes a verb into an adjective meaning ‘able to be’     comfort     comfortable
-ion           changes a verb into an noun                                              compress  compression
-ful            changes a noun into an adjective                                      event         eventful
-ly             changes a adjective into an adverb                                   slow          slowly
-en            changes a adjective into an verb                                        light          lighten

Knowing these facts about suffixes makes it easier to work out the role of a word in a sentence. Using the last example in two different sentences illustrates how this helps:

The painter decided to lighten the colour of the background.   verb (‘lighten’ is an action)

The painter gave the picture a light background.                     adjective (‘light’ describes the picture)

Spelling rules

In the examples above, the suffix doesn’t alter the spelling of the word, although there are many that do! Here are a few rules for your children to brush up their spelling skills.

When adding a suffix to a word ending in ‘y’ with a consonant before it, change the ‘y’ to an ‘i’ before the suffix:

fry             fried
vary           varied

When adding ‘-ing’ to these verbs, however, the ending doesn’t change:

fry             frying
vary           varying

Nor does it change if there is a vowel before the ‘y’:

prey          preyed
stay           stayed

When using the ‘-ly’ suffix, if the word ends in ‘-le’ this ending changes to ‘-ly’.

single        singly                                                                                            
giggle        giggly

If the word ends in ‘-ic’ this ending changes to ‘-ally’.

drastic       drastically                                                                                            
comic        comically

‘Publicly’ is an exception to this rule and there are others.

Once your child has revised these basic rules, the following questions should be straightforward.


English Challenge Question One...

1. Name the word class of each of these words both before and after the suffix has been added.   
     i)   care                         careful
     ii) sharp                       sharpen
     iii) sink                         sinkable
     iv) soft                         softly

2. Find the spelling mistakes below, then rewrite your chosen words correctly.

drying            cryed           magneticaly         tingly           praying            plaiful

The answers to these questions will be available at the end of the Summer Challenge. If you think you have the correct answer, why not let us know on Twitter @galore_park, Instagram @galore_park or Facebook @galore1park.

Pages 16–19 in the Galore Park 11+ English Revision Guide reviews suffixes, includes more examples and provides further practice exercises.


Using parentheses in the correct way can add variation and detail to a piece of writing. These are phrases that can be taken out of a sentence without altering the meaning. Understanding the style of a piece of writing is important so that parentheses can be punctuated correctly.

Brackets are generally used in non-fiction; commas or long spaced dashes are generally used in fiction.
This example equally applies to other non-fiction texts such as recipes, instructions and technical manuals:

Begin the experiment (once the board is in place) by rolling the ball down the slope.

Descriptions in fiction mostly use commas:

The rabbit, spotting the carrots in the vegetable patch, ran joyfully across the garden.

Dashes are used if the break is a little longer:

The rabbit – a great vegetable fan ­– ran joyfully across the garden towards carrots.

Once your child has revised these basic rules, the following question should be straightforward. 

English Challenge Question Two...

Write a sentence including each of these phrases in parentheses. Choose the most appropriate punctuation for your sentences.
     i)   opening the door to the spacecraft
     ii) add the flour before the milk
     iii) the tastiest of them all

The answers to these questions will be available at the end of the Summer Challenge. If you think you have the correct answer, why not let us know on Twitter @galore_park, Instagram @galore_park or Facebook @galore1park.

Page 29 in the Galore Park 11+ English Revision Guide reviews parentheses, includes more examples and provides further practice exercises.

Colons and semicolons

Colons and semicolons can add meaning to a sentence although many children avoid them since they seem hard to use. Some tests ask students to punctuate or correct a passage so it is important to understand how to use them. Incorporating colons and semicolons in writing compositions demonstrates a confidence in punctuating texts to the examiners (although this is secondary to the quality of the content).

There are three main uses for colons in texts and all three should be understood.

1. They are used to introduce a list, either with commas between list items, or as a list of points.
There were so many fruits to choose from: strawberries, raspberries, apples, bananas, oranges and peaches.

Once I’d emptied my schoolbag I found everything I’d been looking for:
  • a pencil case
  • a calculator
  • a house key
  • an eraser
  • a bus pass.

2. Colons are used between two parts of a sentence when the second part explains the first.

Mum hadn’t got my text: she had left her phone switched off!
Think about what you intend to do: look before you leap. 

3. Playscripts use colons after the character’s name and before the words that are spoken.

Danny:      Where did you put it?
Kadir:        Somewhere behind the railings, but the plants have grown so I can’t see it now!

When a longer pause than a comma is needed in a sentence and the pause isn’t as strong as a full stop, a semicolon is used. Each part of the sentence either side of the semicolon should make sense on its own. Each part of the sentence is equally important. Here are two examples:

The kittens were nearly grown; soon they would be leaving for new families.
The term was nearly over; everybody in class was looking forward to the holidays.

Once your child has revised these basic rules, the following questions should be straightforward.

English Challenge Question Three...

1. Rewrite these sentences and put in the missing colons.

  i)   Five of us are enough six is too many.
  ii) There were only four ingredients flour, butter, milk and sugar.
  iii) Centurion One of us needs to go across or we won’t be able to spot them.
  iv) The horse couldn’t cross the river it was too deep.

2. Rewrite these sentences, adding a semicolon and a second clause after it.  

  i)   He didn’t realise the bell had gone.  
  ii) I’ve just finished my lunch.
  iii) My new bike has 10 gears. 
  iv) Dogs make excellent pets.

The answers to these questions will be available at the end of the Summer Challenge. If you think you have the correct answer, why not let us know on Twitter @galore_park, Instagram @galore_park or Facebook @galore1park.

Pages 32–33 in the Galore Park 11+ English Revision Guide reviews colons and semicolons, includes more examples and provides further practice exercises.

English Challenge Question Four...

This passage contains a few mistakes. Using the information learned from this blog your child should be able rewrite the paragraph correcting the grammar, spelling and punctuation.

It was the faintest of noises, everybody looked at each other but nobody moved. Time moved slow though our hearts were beating doubley fast. Only a tiny foot (small and green with wiggly toes) peeped out from beneath the community centre. Although advertised publically through the village magazine: few people had bothered to come and only the five worreyed children had heard the sound.

The answer to this questions will be available at the end of the Summer Challenge. If you think you have the correct answer, why not let us know on Twitter @galore_park, Instagram @galore_park or Facebook @galore1park.

4.  Conclusions

The last exercise in this blog is typical of many tasks set in the 11+ and Pre-Test. It is often the first one students face and there is generally a degree of time pressure involved too. Other questions ask them to review individual sentences and give the technical names to words, such as word classes, homonyms and devices such as onomatopoeia.

Once your child has revised their basic spelling, punctuation and grammar skills they should have no difficulty with these questions and the Galore Park 11+ English Revision Guide provides a summary with many exercises to help your child review and refine their knowledge. The Workbooks and Practice Papers provide further practice in these and the other aspects of the tests.

So, why not spend some time together and talk about all things grammatical – you may find you all remember more than you think!

Come back next week to see the next round of questions in this summer series.

 In the meantime, if you need a little English help, take a look at our English Revision Guide for 11+ and pre-tests. Covering all the key content for pre-tests and 11+ independent school entrance exams, this vital revision guide will ensure confidence in every topic with end-of-chapter tests and a comprehensive progress record.
Buy now for only £12.99

We also sell an 11+ English Revision Pack which will take your child step-by-step through their English revision - consolidating knowledge, teaching children how to apply this knowledge in questions, and finally building confidence and exam technique.


Tags: 11+, 11+ English, 11+ Revision, 11, 11 plus, 11plus, English, exam, Exam tips, Practice Papers, pre-test, pre-tests, revision, Revision Guide, Revision Tips, Study, Study Skills, writing

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