When should I start preparing my child for the 11 plus exam?

Posted on June, 2021

11 Plus Exam Preparation

11 plus exam preparation can be confusing, and even at times, frustrating for parents to understand.

For those parents thinking about entering their child for the 11 Plus, on average it requires 18 to 24 months of preparation. This is regardless of whether you are preparing your child at home or you have a tutor involved.

So where to start?

Over the last year or so the majority of parents have at the very least had a taste of what it is like to help their children academically. This may have meant simply being within earshot of the daily online lessons or at the other end of the scale, actually sitting down and explaining concepts in maths, English, history, geography etc. to one or more children.

The one thing that almost every parent will have learnt is whether they can tutor their child; I mean properly tutor them with a timetable and no tantrums!

The Challenge of the Eleven Plus Exam

Every parent whose child has taken the eleven plus exam knows that it requires work beyond school homework. It is a challenging exam, of that there is no doubt.

Preparing Your Child for the Verbal Reasoning Test

If you are unsure of what you are doing, with the plethora of materials available, it can be quite confusing and daunting. For example, how do you know if one publisher is better than another? When faced with a wall of books in Waterstones or over 20 pages of 11 plus books on Amazon, how do you know where to start?

We regularly get phone calls from parents whose children have just started school (I mean literally only just gone into year 1) who want to prepare their child for the 11 plus exam. That means 5 years of 11 plus exam preparation in front of books and papers. It is unrealistic and in most cases, unsustainable.

Your First Step on the 11 Plus Exam Preparation timeline

The best way to start a child on their 11 plus exam preparation journey is to ensure that they have a wide variety of experiences to widen their awareness of the world in general.

Many parents assume the exam is simply practising exam papers. To stand the best chance of success, your child needs to have a wide vocabulary and quick calculation ability as an absolute basic start.The 11 plus preparation timetable

The 11 plus exam is probably the first formal exam most children will sit. While there are end of term and end of year tests in school, these are not ‘formal’ exams.

The eleven plus exam will test maths, English, verbal reasoning and non-verbal reasoning.

Preparation can be broken down into five components:

  1. Topic knowledge
  2. Topic application
  3. Exam technique
  4. Exam practice
  5. Assimilation time

Each of these 5 areas needs to be given time. How much time depends on your child, but on average, it is widely accepted that the prep for the 11 plus exam takes around 2 years.

The Eleven Plus Exam: Secrets of Success

What is the Cost of Tutoring for the Eleven Plus Exam?

The financial cost of 11 plus exam preparation will depend on whether you tutor 1-2-1, in small groups or in large groups.

11 plus tutors will vary from £5.00 an hour to over £50.00 an hour. Most tutors will prep children from year 4 and will cover the relevant subjects for the exam. The average annual cost will be around £2,500.00.

If you prepare your child at home, then the cost will be the purchase price for the materials you use as well as your time. With the average 11 plus test book costing around £10.00 each, home prep will cost anything between £100.00 to £600.00. OF course, if you are given practice books by friends or family, then the cost will be nothing!

Some Dos and Don’ts:

  1. Avoid constant criticism
  2. Avoid comparing your child to other children
  3. Avoid telling your child they are clever- tell them they have done well and worked hard instead. (Studies show that this serves the child better in the long run
  4. Gamify your child’s prep

The 11 plus timeline

So when should I start preparing my child for the 11 plus exam?

The best time to start informal preparation for a young child is now! 11 plus exam preparation is not just about mastering exam technique; foundations need to be in place early on.

The best way to start 11 plus exam preparation at this age is to read, read, read. Make sure that your child is confident in decoding words using phonics at this stage and build a positive can-do attitude so your child feels they can achieve anything they set their mind to.

The 11 Plus Exam Preparation Timeline

Year 3

Year 3 is the first year of Key Stage 2. In year 3 the foundation blocks are laid for the rest of key stage 2. Make sure that your child continues to read a variety of books and ensure that the basic maths and English skills are strong.

Here are just a few examples of what to do:

  • Play mental maths games with your child
  • Ask them to work out change when shopping (I know everything is electronic now but go into corner shops and buy one or two items and use cash)
  • Make sure they can tell the time
  • Take your child to museums and galleries and talk to them about what they have seen and learnt
  • Let them articulate their thoughts
  • Ask for synonyms to words they use regularly
  • Play board games, so they can develop problem-solving skills and agility of thought
  • Play general knowledge games with them

Year 4

This is the time to make sure that basic maths and English are completely secure. It is vital that your child knows how to use all 4 operations and be aware of basic grammar rules. We run our year 4 11 plus classes from the second week in September. This gives children time to settle into their new year group in school before starting tuition.

The majority of the time in year 4 needs to be spent on this rather than doing papers.

Year 5

An initial 11+ assessment will help assess your child’s current ability. Now is the time to start building on those firm foundations that were built in Year 4. At Redbridge Tuition, our 11 plus year 5 courses commence in the second week in September. This is to give children a week to settle into school before embarking on preparing for the 11 plus exam.

January to Easter

In these 4 months, we spend time building on concepts and introducing new topics. Our classes are tutor-led and in small groups. This gives children a chance to compare themselves to their peers as well as build relationships with them. It also gives every child the opportunity to learn at their pace.

Every week a new topic or concept is introduced and children have ample opportunity to ask questions and make sure they understand each new topic.

Easter to July

There is a holiday course at Easter. In this course, we begin to introduce formal testing techniques coupled with revision.

From Easter to July, the most challenging topics are tight and children start to practice questions in timed conditions.

By the end of the academic year, everything that needs to be covered is usually covered and now is the time to start sitting mock exams. The Redbridge Tuition mock papers are written by experienced 11 plus tutors and closely resemble the final papers that your child will sit.


During August we also run our final two holiday booster sessions to ensure that children have a chance to revise as well as fill in any gaps in their knowledge base.

Year 6

September is crunch time- all that work that has taken place will now be tested. The 11 plus exam usually takes place throughout September. Check your local area for exam dates. Alternatively, click here for details.

The Art of Persistence in the Pursuit of Success (Free Persistence Quiz Included)

Know your child!

I have worked with children for 6 to 8 weeks to prepare them and they have gained entry to their choice of grammar school.

I have also worked with children for 2 years and they have not succeeded in gaining entry. It is not just about subject knowledge. Exam technique also plays a big part in this. For that reason, if your child’s subject knowledge is secure or above average, it is possible to prepare in a very short space of time.

My advice would be to at the absolute minimum start at the beginning of year 5 to give yourself the best chance. Use the timetable above to find out what stage your child ought to be at, and simply go from there.

Download our free Eleven Plus Blank Weekly Timetable below:

When do I apply for the 11 Plus Exam?

The application dates for the 11 Plus exams usually depends on the school you are applying for. However, as a rule of thumb most applications open from April or May and close in July. The criteria for applications are very strict and the cut-off is very specific.

It is best to always check with your local borough as to the cut off and the requirements. Almost all applications are online.

How can Redbridge Tuition help?

At Redbridge Tuition, we are very experienced in teaching for the 11 plus exam. Our tutors are extremely experienced and knowledgeable about the 11 plus exam. We have worked with children to prepare for the eleven plus for almost 15 years and are very proud of our success.

We produce our own materials for the 11 plus and are currently preparing to franchise our tied and tested model.

As we work in small groups, our tutors are able to give every child close attention that 1-2-1 tutor would give. However, your child also benefits from group interaction and competition.

If you feel Redbridge tuition can help you, then please contact us.

How to find the best tuition centre near you

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