common entrance exams

How To Start Preparing For The 11+ Exam

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“My child’s 11+ exam is next year, how do I start preparing for it?”

This is a great question and one I hear often.

In fact, I wrote a guidebook on this very topic almost a decade ago. It’s rather dated now, especially as the CEM was only introduced in 2013, but I’m hoping to produce an updated version of the book in the nearby future.

In the meantime, here are some tips to help guide you through starting your child’s 11+ prep. These tips are also somewhat applicable to the 7+, 8+, 9+ and 10+ exams.

Be Honest

I know we all think our children are perfect but the unfortunate truth is that not every child is suited to the 11+. Some children don’t have the drive or determination to study for what can feel like hours on end. Some (in fact most) children would rather watch TV all day or take part in tons of activities after school than to spend their evenings or holiday periods studying for an exam. Before you even begin to consider the 11+, think about whether your child is naturally bright, be honest with yourself. Does your child have natural academic potential or are they lagging behind academically? Does your child want to sit the exam? Do they want to go to a grammar or independent school? Think about these things and be honest with yourself. Don’t hesitate to ask your child questions and discuss whether they’d like to go through the 11+ process.

Start early

I know that not all parents are fortunate enough to have discovered the 11+ early, but as a general rule of thumb, early preparation makes a tremendous difference. If you can, start laying a foundation for your child’s educational success as early as possible and avoid leaving exam prep to the last minute.

Begin with research

Research which schools you’re applying for and if possible, consider visiting them now. Sometimes parents start 11+ preparation and then find out months later that the school they’re applying for doesn’t even test a certain subject so it’s best to know where you’re applying to first. Then you can plan accordingly.

Start small

The Bond books are a great starting point. Start with the lower age bracket (e.g. 7-8) and then work upwards. Go through questions that your child is struggling with most and check the ones they got wrong so they don’t repeat mistakes.

Get focused

Focus on improving your child’s overall vocabulary, English and Maths skills. These skills aren’t just important for the 11+ but for life! The stronger their English and Maths, the more likely they are to do well.

Find a routine

Get into a routine. This is important so that it becomes a habit for your child to study every day and it helps them to manage homework alongside 11+ work.

Don’t solely D.i.y

Find a good tutor. You don’t have to use one but it’s a good idea to see which tutor your child clicks with and then to join their waiting list early so that your child can have a few lessons with them closer to the time of the exam. Some parents don’t use a tutor at all and that’s fine but it’s good to have a second opinion from someone who has a strong track record of getting children into the particular school(s) you’re applying for. If you don’t want regular lessons, just book a few assessments with them and they should be able to give you a report of their observations.

Stay calm

Stay calm and don’t panic because children pick up on these things. Try to encourage your child to have a positive mindset about exams and education in general.

I hope these tips have been useful.

Here’s to your child’s success!

The Tutoress Team.

3 Fun Ways To Build Your Child’s Vocabulary In Preparation For The 11+

3 fun ways to improve your child’s vocabulary in preparation for the 11+

3 fun ways to improve your child’s vocabulary in preparation for the 11+


Vocabulary is one of the most important areas of  11+ preparation as it’s a skills that’s assessed in Verbal Reasoning and English exams. Furthermore, research shows that children who possess higher levels of vocabulary tend to outperform those with limited vocab. 

Vocabulary is extremely important and creates the foundation for outstanding academic standards in the 11+ and beyond.

To help your child improve their vocab, check out these three tips. They’re based on my experience of teaching hundreds of students in preparation for school entrance exams.

Use higher level vocabulary when talking to your child. 

Children learn vocabulary best when hearing advanced words in context. It’s therefore more effective to speak to your child in a way that they’ll understand, but will also challenge their knowledge of more complex words. For instance, you could throw in a ‘big’ word when asking a question or when talking about your day. You can also encourage your child to respond back to you using the same word.

Have a word of the day or week. 

In the 11+, SATS, ISEB and GCSE Facebook group that I’m an admin of, we have a Word of The Day. I love the concept and have seen it used successfully for helping children improve their vocabulary skills. You can choose a WOTD or WOTW (word of the week) and really get involved by making a big deal of that particular word. For instance, you could create word posters or cartoons with that word - an activity that visual learners love. I actually started implementing this in my lessons and was amazed to see that one of my international students still remembered the words several months later. It made me realise how powerful it is to incorporate images and pictures into English and Literacy lessons.

Put down the “baby”books. 

No offence to certain authors, but I often observe my students reading books that limit their vocabulary. For instance, some of the most popular children’s books of the moment are filled with lovely cartoon pictures but very limited vocabulary-building words. I won’t name the books in question but they’re extremely popular and they’re great as light reading but when I see students ONLY reading those books, it makes me wince. Your child should be reading a wide range of books including reputable newspaper articles and magazines, novels and autobiographies.

Choosing to read just one type of book or books by one author and never branching out, is a recipe for limited vocabulary so I highly recommend encouraging your child to read slightly outside of their comfort zone.

But my child hates reading “smart” books, can I just let them read the “baby” ones?

The answer is NO!

Yes, it’s hard to get them reading some of the more difficult texts but you can branch out a little by encouraging them to read a small snippet of a newspaper article or a page or two of an autobiography and then build up from there. Diversifying the types of books they read will pay off later down the line, trust me.

Do you have any additional tips for boosting vocab? If so, share them by leaving a comment below.

If you enjoyed this blog, share it on social media or forward it to a friend or family member.

Here’s to your child’s success!

The Tutoress.

Do you have any additional tips for boosting vocab? If so, share them by leaving a comment below.

If you enjoyed this blog, share it on social media or forward it to a friend or family member.

Here’s to your child’s success!

The Tutoress.

How To Help Your Child Improve Their Comprehension Skills (Audio)

Happy Sunday!

I’ve been thinking about recoding audios instead of written blog posts for a long time and finally had the chance to record one today.

In this audio, I discuss:

  • The tactics that parents can use to help their child engage with literature and improve their comprehension skills.

  • Strategies that students can use to improve their comprehension skills and score higher marks.

If your child struggles with comprehension (especially inference, elaboration and deduction) then this is for you.

Here’s a summary of some of the tips I share:

  • Be involved in your child’s learning, especially with regards to their reading. Let them read to you as often as possible.

  • Read in short bursts rather than forcing your child to read for long periods. It’s better to read little and often than not at all.

  • Read a wide variety of texts including poetry, biographies, newspapers and age-appropriate magazines/comics.

  • Incorporate your child’s passions, interests and hobbies into their reading - make it fun.

  • Be strategic about approaching exam questions so that your child can maximise their scores (I talk about this in a bit of depth so it’s worth listening to hear the tips shared).

I hope the audio is useful and if you have any questions or comments, please click on the comment box below and share them.

Here’s to your child’s success!

Victoria, The Tutoress.

Why Being an Early Bird is Key to 11+ Success

Are you the parent that hasn't read a single book, article or blog post about the 11+ and have no idea about what the process involves?

Are you the parent that's left everything to the last minute and now you're nervous about how to help your child pass?

Or are you the parent that's researched every area of the 11+ since your child's first birthday? 

Are you the parent that's immersed themselves in reading as much 11+ guidance material as possible?

You see, there are two very different types of 11+ parents.

The first type is the one that leaves everything to the last minute and then freaks out when they realise that their child doesn't even know the basics.

The second type is the parent that's so well prepared that they've studied every piece of literature known to man.

As 11+ experts, we've noticed that the second type of parent is far more likely to have a child that passes the exam simply because they are prepared! They are an early bird and as they say, the early bird always catches the worm.

Time and time again, we come across parents that are the first type and they leave everything to the last minute. As a result, their child is overwhelmed and struggles to score higher than 50% in practice tests. Such parents have no idea how to help their child improve and quite frankly, they often expect miracles from tutors like ourselves. They expect us to magically take a child that doesn't have a grasp of the basics and turn them into geniuses.

Sometimes, there are rare instances where we can help such students but often enough it's the children that have been studying for at least 1.5 years and have worked consistently hard that end up passing the 11+.

So what can you take away from this?

Start preparing for the 11+ as early as possible! 1.5 years is the ideal amount of time.

The exam is meant to test natural ability and potential so ultimately a child that has built an exceptional vocabulary and has a wonderful grasp of English and Maths from an early age is much more likely to pass than one who is trying to cram at the last minute.

Leaving things to the last minute is one of the worst things that you can do when it comes to the 11+ so try to prepare as early as possible.

PS. It's okay to teach your child yourself but it's also good to have your child assessed by a tutor at least once before they sit the exam. It's even better to enrol your child in an 11+ mock exam so that you can find out how they're doing in comparison to other students and identify any weak spots that need addressing.

If you liked this post, please leave a comment below or share it with a friend that might also benefit from reading this advice.

Wishing you the best of luck with exam preparation.

TheTutoress.com.