What are the best resources to help your child with the 11 Plus Exam?
With the plethora of resources now available for 11 plus preparation, we thought we would take a look at the best resources available to help your child with the 11 Plus Exam.
This blog post breaks down the various types of resources available for the 11 plus and how to best utilise them.
The resources are split into 3 sections:
- Board games
Preparing for the 11 Plus Exam can be challenging, but this blog will provide you with vital pointers on how to improve your preparation process at home. Home support is invaluable in helping your child reach his/her full potential.
Our tuition programme provides our students with the skills necessary to shine in the exam. Of course, no amount of resourcing replaces expert tuition, but we understand how critical supplementary resources are to getting results. To put things into perspective, on average, for every 1 grammar school place there will be between 8 and 12 candidates attempting to gain places at Ilford County High School, Woodford County High School, Henrietta Barnet, Queen Elizabeth, Beths, Bexley and many more. Gaining even a slight edge can mean the difference between passing and failing.
Parents have a unique part to play in the process, and we know from experience that children whose parents are actively involved in the preparation process tend to do significantly better.
The Stages of Preparation:
Reading at Home
One of the best activities that are beneficial to a child’s learning, is to read more at home. Two main determining factors in reading allow a child to improve:
Volume: How much reading does a child do on a day-to-day basis?
Progression: Does the child move on to higher-level books consistently?
Note: the books a child reads need to be accessible to him/her, meaning that they need to understand what they have read. They should be able to articulate the relay text in their own words.
Why are both factors so crucial?
Volume – In acquiring any language, having enough input is critical to building fluency and confidence. A child’s language development is reliant upon the range and quality of language input.
To reach an eleven plus level of literacy, a child must be exposed to a sizable amount of reading material.
Progression -This is probably the less considered factor. Many parents come in and tell us that their child reads a lot. However, when you ask them what their child reads, it usually includes a small range of books that are of a similar level.
In the Eleven Plus Exam, children often end up reading comprehension texts from classic books and difficult sources. They need to be able to understand that text very quickly as the timing in the exam is extremely tight.
If they are not used to this, it will hamper them in the exam. If they cannot read one of these books casually, it is unfair to expect them to be able to complete a comprehension task based on such difficult texts.
Here are some suggestions for books that allow a child to transition (levels assume the student has built a firm foundation in the basics and can read a chapter book independently):
Audiobooks (link to our account)
Audiobooks can be a way for a child to get more excited about the prospect of reading. If the voice actor is skilled, an audiobook is capable of transporting the child into the book as the better voice actors put effort into making the dialogue and narrator sound exciting.
You may think that it is ‘cheating’ for the child to use an audiobook, rather than read. Or you may believe that audiobooks could set your child back in terms of literacy. However, the opposite is true; it can propel a child forward. Children who engage in listening to audiobooks are then more likely to pick up a book.
Audiobooks can also help the ‘reluctant reader’ to gain more access to content and vocabulary.
Children who struggle with linking sounds to the written word can use audiobooks to improve their range of words and their understanding of texts and storylines.
My child is a reluctant reader.
How can I help my child?
One way you can assist your child in gaining independence over their reading by using audiobooks in conjunction with reading material. This will help your child to follow the text, and learn the pronunciation from a skilled professional.
As a tutor, one of the main observations I can make is that many children lack input in English. In Ilford and the surrounding area, many families have English as an additional language at home. While it is beneficial for a child to grow up bilingual, it can mean that a child lacks the level of exposure to English that is required for The 11 Plus Exam.
There are many ways in which this exposure to the English language can be increased. Watching the news (the UK not the US), listening to the radio or watching educational YouTube videos will all help.
A great way to purchase audiobooks at a low cost is through Audible, as they have a credit-based purchase system. They also hold many sales throughout the year.
Furthermore, it is possible to connect to Audible through multiple devices, and there is a sleep timer (something I find especially handy). Some audiobooks also come with pdf versions of the books! Many of our staff also use Audible so we can attest to its value.
Vocabulary-based exercises can be challenging in the Eleven Plus Exams. Some students end up guessing the answers in synonym (same meaning) and antonym (opposite meaning) exercises. There are a few ways to help students improve their vocabulary:
The old-fashioned way – Using a dictionary to create a word bank
It may not be the most fun method, but it works. Whenever a child encounters a new word, he/she needs to look the word up in the dictionary and then write the newly-discovered word to a notebook and then use that word in a sentence. This method is an effective way for a child to learn a word in context, but this process takes a long time. It is also a reliable way for a child to learn independently and not be so reliant on the adult giving the meaning.
Section 1 – Flashcards
A method that I like to use with students is the flashcard method. There are many packs available online, but there are two series that I like to use:
Whizz Match 1
Whizz Match 2
Foxton’s 300 Vocabulary Flash Cards for the 11 Plus Exam with Synonyms & Antonyms
Whizz is useful because it comes in the form of a game. Students to race each other to complete sets. The issue with these cards is the lack of context provided on each card, so students cannot understand how to use words in a sentence. The overriding benefit, however, is that children enjoy the gamelike aspect of these sets.
On the other hand, Foxton’s vocabulary cards are useful because of the sheer number of vocabulary items provided. Furthermore, the explanations and the example sentences supplied on the back provides students with the context they need to understand how to use words.
Quizlet (An Online Flashcard Solution)
One of the best applications I have used with students to help them expand their vocabulary is Quizlet. Quizlet allows parents or tutors to upload words or definitions to a library and create decks. It is also possible to request access to other vocabulary banks, but this requires payment, and decks vary substantially in quality.
Section 2 – Board Games
The beauty of board games is that they allow parents to challenge their children and introduce a competitive aspect to their learning. Board games are a fun way for families to spend time together.
Articulate is a brilliant game because it encourages children to explain concepts in detail. I recommend the Junior version first because most children will struggle with the wide enough of a knowledge base of the adult version.
Junior Articulate [Product Link & Image]
Articulate [Product Link & Image]
Who knows where is a genuinely challenging board game that gets people thinking about geography. As it is even a challenging game for teenagers and adults, children may need to resort to guessing answers a lot, and you may need to introduce variations in the rules to give them more of a chance. Despite these difficulties, it is still a brilliant game that encourages children to think about the world more expansively.
Boggle is a word-search game that children of all ages can play. Children need to pick out words and receive points for each word. The number of points is dependent on each word’s length. Boggle is a great game to play before Scrabble.
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Scrabble is an excellent game for children preparing the eleven plus because it gets them to think tactically, and also forces them to use advanced vocabulary.
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Section 3 – Books
General English Books
At times, books are not written with the 11 plus in mind, but they nevertheless provide excellent support. For example, Hodder has several series of workbooks available.
Junior Hayden Richards (Books 1 to 4)
For the child who needs to work on the absolute basics and progress into building more complex sentences, the Junior Hayden Richards series is well-constructed and allows a child to build up confidence. However, moving slowly through Junior Hayden Richards is not sufficient for success at an eleven plus level.
We recommended The Illustrated First Aid in English and answers because they provide excellent value. It is a superb (but dry) book for a sharp learning curve.
There is considerable content in the book, and it deals with many of the core skills. A student who has gone through the book in detail will certainly be well-prepared for secondary school at least.
The main issue with the book is that the book can be quite dry for a child, and the information is dense. Although it was not designed for the 11 Plus Exam, we (along with many tutors) recommend that all students have (and more importantly use) a copy.
We have used these books for a long time and they have proven to be very useful tools. The English Skills series provides students with assorted practice. The best thing about this series is that there is a suitable book for most children; There is a set of 6 books in increasing difficulty. A child going for 11 plus should generally be aiming to complete book 5 with high accuracy.
These comprehension books, along with the teacher’s guide, provide students with a firm grounding in the skills of comprehension. Furthermore, the series contains multiple types of texts, and as with most Schofield and Sims books, the levelling is planned-out and well-structured.
Some children have immense trouble with spelling. The best aspect of this book series is that they have logically organised the series according to the phonetic characteristics of each set of words. The upshot of this is that students can better understand patterns in the English language.
Building Foundations in Question Types
It is necessary to spend time learning exam techniques to help children reach a level of optimum performance in the Eleven Plus Exam. I believe, by far, the best books on the market for a child to acquire verbal reasoning test skills are our own.
The first three books include detailed step-by-step breakdowns of each question type and allow a parent to understand how each question type works.
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Our verbal reasoning books 4 to 6, provide children with additional practice so that these skills become second-nature. Each book also contains a test, mark schemes and answer sheets.
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This series provides students with quick tests. CGP have done their homework and research well. A child can meaningfully improve his or her performance by taking tests regularly. It is essential, however, that the mistakes that your child makes in these small tests are reviewed.
If not, the child’s subject knowledge will not improve, as learning from mistakes is the most valuable form of learning. CGP’s series is useful because they explain all of their provided answers in the pull-out mark scheme.
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This series of books is especially challenging for even the top 11 plus students. I would not recommend the series for students who have their confidence easily affected by low test scores. For the children who have mastered the basics and need a new challenge, this series pushes them to the limit.
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The Eleven Plus Exam requires more than just close preparation with a tutor. The combination of hard work and the right resources can make all the difference in today’s competitive environment. It is a holistic process and every child’s preparation process is different.
While this blog has attempted to discuss many resources, it is by no means exhaustive. Redbridge Tuition is always on your side, and our tutors and management team are happy to offer advice throughout the preparation process.
We are continually adding free resources to our website. Please feel free to use them or pass them on to someone who may find them helpful.