Preparing your child for Pre-Test and 11+ exams: when to begin?
By Natalie Bailey
17 May

Pre-Test and 11+ preparation is something many parents and children dread. When the school day is already full and evenings are taken up with activities and homework, it is tempting to wait until the last few months to concentrate fully on the tests – but this can be a mistake.

Building familiarity takes time

Whether we like it or not, the truth is that the 11+ tests are an important stage in your child’s school career and the results matter. It is also true that these are likely to be very different to other tests they will take, both in content and approach.
Despite all the stories about new tests that cannot be revised for, we are all aware that familiarity with a new subject or situation is the key to facing the challenge with confidence. Unsurprisingly, the 11+ is no different.
Crossword puzzles are a good analogy for these assessments because they are looking at our ability to think through a situation or problem. You can’t be taught how to solve crosswords, although practice quickly increases your ability and confidence. Over time, you find familiar patterns emerging and begin to observe the style of different compilers. Completing crosswords can also be a relaxing pastime, although this would quickly change if you were asked to solve twenty a day!
11+ practice works in a similar, gradual way, and the process of learning how these problems and puzzles work can be a lot of fun. The 11+ is a challenge for the whole family, not just your child, so building the learning process into family life well in advance of the tests can not only significantly reduce stress but can also build their confidence and a greater chance of success.


The challenges in choosing the correct resources

Of the many choices you will face in the 11+ preparation process, two of the most important are as follows.

  • How much practice should you give your child?
  • Which resources will best suit the entrance exams they are taking? 
Any time spent on practice is precious time away from school and leisure activities, so it is essential that the resources you choose support their learning effectively.
Nearly all products target specific 11+ tests, such as GL or CEM, although many independent schools set their own entrance exams. These bespoke exams are often more challenging than the specific tests targeted by the published resources – so the likelihood is that most market products could be pitched too low.
Added to this, the testing companies are adding an increasing variety of questions each year to make the 
11+ more difficult to revise for – so even their published tests may not cover the questions in the actual test.
A final factor to consider, especially if your child is taking a 
Pre-Test, is whether they will face an online assessment. These are often adaptive, which means that if a question is answered correctly, a more challenging question is then set. Speed is an important factor since the faster a child answers the questions, the more marks they can potentially gain. This means that the children who excel are the ones who work quickly and accurately and can consistently answer the most challenging questions.

Resources that cater for these modern 11+ tests
So, what are the choices?
Independent schools often provide sample tests from previous years, so these are always worth looking at. However, using 
11+ resources that explain what the examiners are looking for and contain the variety of questions they may encounter are essential preparation as well.
Begin by finding out which subjects your child will be tested on and any background information about the tests they will face, and then look for a resource that fits in with these criteria. A well-constructed resource will work as a series giving a clear path from explanation through guided practice and test papers to provide understanding, build familiarity, speed and accuracy.
Galore Park’s new flagship 11+ series, produced in conjunction with 11+ tutors, independent school teachers, test writers and specialist authors, represents the new wave of publishing specifically designed to support children and their parents through entrance exams for independent schools and adaptive testing.
The books uniquely cover the wide range of questions that typically occur in the new tests and, as your child works through the series, they are challenged with different formats to develop familiarity in dealing with different questions presented in a variety of ways.
The revision guides work in separate topics and are designed for short bursts of study that can easily be fitted around homework. Each topic explains how to work through problems, followed by questions to test understanding. There are further tests throughout the book, mimicking questions set in 11+ papers in preparation for the focused training in the workbooks and practice papers.
Each workbook contains between 160 and 260 questions to provide further guided practice in the different question types, with more techniques to improve accuracy and develop fast response times.
Final preparation is given in the practice papers, based on previous 11+ tests and designed to be taken in test conditions. Short- and long-format tests build in speed and difficulty towards the most challenging tests set by independent schools.
Working through this and other series at a pace that is comfortable will generally take around 12–18 months, so careful planning can clearly make the difference between your child sitting their tests in a state of confidence or anxiety.

Tags: 11+, English, Exam Preparation, Learning Journey, Maths, Non-Verbal Reasoning, Practice Papers, Pre-Test, Revision, Revision Guide, Science, Verbal Reasoning, Workbooks

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