Your child will need to demonstrate good 11 plus exam technique to do well in the test. After all, it doesn’t matter how well they know their methods if they can’t get to grips with timing or using a multiple choice answer sheet.
The summer after Year 5 is a great time for your child to complete some mock exams or practice papers, so make sure they’re focused on improving their exam technique while they do so.
I’ve been providing practice papers and teaching students how best to complete them for many years now, so here are my top tips for getting your child’s 11 plus exam technique sorted.
Tip #1: Timing is Key
Your child could be a maths genius or a comprehension prodigy, but none of that is going to matter if they don’t have the time to get their answers down during their 11 plus exam!
Preparation is key, so make sure your child is aware in advance of how their exam will be timed. Timing can differ across exam boards, regions and individual schools, so I recommend checking the admissions section of the websites of any Grammar schools you’re interested in. These usually contain information about the board that administers their exams, as well as familiarisation materials that will really help you to figure out the specific timing of your child’s exam.
Many GL Assessment and Durham CEM 11 plus exams now consist of individually timed sections, whereas some allow between 45 minutes – 1 hour to complete a whole paper. Although many watches (especially smart watches) have now been banned, your child will be in clear view of a clock during their exam.
If you know how your child’s 11 plus exam will be timed, you can ensure they are able to practise this timing in advance with the right type of practice papers.
Tip #2: Get to Grips With Multiple Choice
The vast majority of 11 plus exams now use the multiple choice format, which allows for a much easier, computer-based marking system.
In a multiple choice 11 plus exam, your child needs to choose the correct answer to a question from a list of possible options. Because the paper is likely to be marked by computer, it’s really important that your child fills out the sheet accurately.
The multiple choice answer sheet is often on a separate sheet of paper to the question booklet, so the most important thing is that your child doesn’t forget to fill it in!
Other 11 plus exam technique tips involving the multiple choice answer sheet include drawing a straight line through the box, rubbing out wrong answers, and making sure your answers match up between the question paper and the answer sheet.
Tip #3: Pay Attention to Example Questions
No matter how much 11 plus exam preparation your child has completed, they still need to pay close attention to any example questions and instructions given.
11 plus exam boards such as GL Assessment and Durham CEM make no secret about the fact that they can change, reformat or add entirely new question types with no advance notice. So, your child needs to be prepared for this to stop them making any unnecessary errors.
No matter how well-practised your child is at all the common 11 plus question types, they must understand that these may appear slightly differently in the exam, and that they may even be faced with an entirely new question type!
The key is not to panic if this happens. If your child has never seen a question type before, chances are no one else has seen it either. Their study so far will have given them the skills they need to apply to anything slightly different to what they’re used to. I have deliberately included ‘unseen’ types in my mock exams for a while now – it keeps children on their feet, and prepares them for the scenario if it happens in the real exam.
Tip #4: Sometimes It’s Best to Move on
There are going to be some very tricky questions in your child’s 11 plus exam, but there will also be a lot of questions that they can complete confidently and quickly.
Because of the above, it’s really important that your child is able to recognise when a question is slowing them down. Rather than spending ages trying to figure out a single answer, it’s usually much better to move on and use the time completing other, easier questions.
Some children find it useful to put a small mark or star next to any questions they’ve missed, as this helps them to easily find it and have another go at it later if they have time.
It’s usually a good idea to guess the answer on the multiple choice answer sheet before moving on, as this will still give your child a chance of getting it right (and prevents them from putting the next answer in the wrong place).
Tip #5: Checking is a Child’s Best Friend
If I had a pound for every time I’ve reminded a child to check their answers during their 11 plus exam, I’d be a rich woman by now.
For some reason, children seem to HATE checking their answers, but I really can’t stress enough how much of a difference it can make to their final score!
The timing of the 11 plus exam is notoriously tight, so many students don’t get any checking time at all. That means your child is at a huge advantage if they do have any checking time, so it’s really important that they don’t waste it.
It’s so easy to make small mistakes under pressure, so even if your child is sure they’ve completed everything correctly during a section of the exam, they still need to spend time redoing sums and checking their vocabulary whenever possible.
Tip #6: Panicking Will Do No Good Whatsoever
We’ve all felt those exam nerves rising up at one time or another, and banishing them is much easier said than done!
However, it’s important for your child to know that feelings of dread or panic during their 11 plus exam will only slow them down and cause them to make silly mistakes.
Reminding your child that the exam isn’t the ‘be all and end all’ and that you’ll be very proud of them simply for doing their best, will be much more effective than trying to scare them into performing well on the day!
Informing your child of other techniques such as slowing down and taking a series of deep, calming breaths will also mean they are better equipped to keep panic at bay during the exam.
Need More Help With 11 Plus Exam Technique?
I take a lot of time to run through exam technique with my students, both throughout the teaching phase of the course and during the mock exam period. For more information, click here.