Q & A: How much time does my child really need to prepare for the 11+ exam?

This is a great question and one that many parents ask.

Before I begin to address the issue of how much time and money is needed to increase your child's chances of passing the 11+, I must emphasise that there are no guarantees. 

The 11+ exam: how much time is needed to prepare

Some of the brightest children fail the 11+ and sometimes children who don't seem to be academic connoisseurs pass. It's just the way things are.

Now, let's answer this very important question:

How much time does a child need to prepare for the 11+?

In reality, students should ideally prepare for at least two years in order to stand the best chances of succeeding in the 11+ exam.

High quality preparation should include ensuring that your child has excellent Maths and English skills that are ideally one or two years above their age group in terms of academic ability.

For instance, if they are 9, they should be studying books aimed at 10-11 year olds.

Having excellent Maths and English skills is vital because firstly, these are key subjects, which are assessed throughout your child's academic life.

Furthermore, strong Maths and English skills ensure that your child has the right foundation to succeed in related subjects like Science, History, Modern Languages and Humanities. It's therefore important that you really focus on helping your child to master these two key subjects.

Alongside Maths and English, most independent and grammar schools will expect your child to sit Verbal and Non Verbal Reasoning exams.

Before embarking on these subjects, it's important to check with the schools that you're applying for so that you know which subjects your child will be required to study for the exams.

The more you know about the exam, the better!

After all, it would be a waste of time preparing for a Non- Verbal Reasoning exam if your child isn't going to sit it. 

Now, if you're wondering what Verbal Reasoning and Non Verbal Reasoning are let me explain.

Verbal Reasoning (or VR) is defined as "understanding and reasoning using concepts framed in words. It aims at evaluating the ability to think constructively."

In other words, VR is a test of a child (or adult's) ability to understand the relationship between letters or words and to spot patterns and meanings of such words. VR tests usually examine a child's English ability but nowadays many VR tests assess their mathematical skills.

The best way of getting to grips with VR is to purchase some VR papers (they're available at most book stores and online stores like Amazon, WH Smiths or Barnes and Noble). 

In comparison, NVR (Non-Verbal Reasoning) assesses a child's ability to spot visual or graphic sequences and patterns.

Usually, children who have strong Maths skills tend to find NVR less challenging than VR.

At first glance both NVR and VR can seem very daunting so it's important to help your child by gradually introducing it to them and encouraging them to practice the questions on a regular basis.

There are several publishing companies that produce excellent books that are particularly helpful because they allow children to practice VR and NVR at different levels and they have papers for different age groups.

Many publishers produce 10 Minute Test Papers which enable students to practice VR and NVR in as little as ten minutes a day - this is great for younger children in particular as they are less likely to have the stamina to sit through a fifty minute or one hour test paper. 

In summary, it's best to give your child two years to prepare for the 11+ so that your child can gradually practice the various question types. As a parent, you know your child best so try to take their individual learning style and needs into consideration when introducing them to the 11+ process.

That's it for today's Q & A. If you have any questions about the 11+ process, send us an email and we might just answer your question in an upcoming blog post.

Here's to your child's success,


Founder, TheTutoress.com.