What is the 7 plus exam?
Preparing children for the 7 plus exam is no easy task. This blog, written by our founder, Rupa Harji, explains the various challenges that occur in 7 plus exam preparation.
I’ve been tutoring for more years than I care to admit.
In that time, I would say I have learnt more than the children I have tutored.
Not only have I refreshed my knowledge in science (as I very occasionally had to take a class if a tutor were sick or stuck in traffic), but my pedagogy has also improved tremendously.
As a tutor, my target is always to deliver the best lesson the class has ever had, regardless of what I am teaching.
A few years into my tutoring career, I was asked to tutor for the 7 plus exam. Easy, I thought to myself. Some of my colleagues said there was no way they would take that on.
There is no way it can be as challenging as teaching for the 11 plus exam.
I could not have been more wrong!
Why is tutoring for the 7 plus exam so challenging?
Imagine a little 5-year-old child. Imagine they are born in the summer, so they are one of the youngest in their class. This means they have only recently passed their fourth or fifth birthday. Now imagine that this child is asked to focus on a task for a whole hour- and not just any task, but something that they find mentally painful- writing, or working out change from a £10.00 note, or telling the time and converting this into a digital clock! Remember, they have only recently turned 5.
This is a big ask.
No tutor wants a child to make the association of learning with pain, and especially not me. So we never begin with full-on formal maths and English. It is always best to spend time with each child and establish a bond with them before introducing the formal aspects into the equation.
The one thing that makes teaching for the 7 plus exam so challenging is that the teaching style needs to be adapted to sit the younger child. This means explanations need to be shorter and very concise and exact.
Children at this age will have fewer filters and so what they say can sometimes be hilarious but also challenging. Last year, I tutored a little boy who would well up every time we approached the subject of writing a story because he found this just so challenging.
Find out more about Nicholas’ 7 plus journey by watching the review:
This is where the tutor’s skill comes in. A good tutor needs to be able to turn that around without losing the child’s interest; not always an easy task.
When do I start preparing my child for the 7 plus exam?
We would strongly recommend that you begin at the start of year 1. As children need to develop their skills of concentration, compete for limited spaces, and build their confidence in a vast array of skills, it is better to start them earlier.
My child attends a private school- Do I still need to prepare them for the 7 plus exam?
If you have no intention of moving your child in year 3 then, there is no point in preparing for the 7 plus exam. If your child’s school only teaches up to year 6, then the school will be preparing them for the 11 plus exam. Remember that all independent schools are businesses. It is therefore in their interest to keep your child there for as long as possible.
The flip side of that coin is that the 7 plus exam is every bit as challenging as the 11 plus exam. So if you feel you do not want to put that sort of pressure on your child or simply that they will not cope, then it is best to leave them in their current school. If, however, your child goes to an independent school that runs up to GCSE or even has a 6th form, then the chances are that your child will need no exam at all, as long as you are happy for them to remain in that school until they do their GCSEs or A-Levels.
Do grammar schools have 7 plus exams?
The 7 plus exam is for entry into year 3 of independent schools. All grammar schools are secondary schools only and are not fee-paying. So, there are no 7 plus exams in grammar schools.
Do all independent prep schools have the 7 plus exam?
In a word, no. For example, Forest School has decided to scrap their 7 plus and opt for the 4 plus exam. This means that all the children in the nursery school at Forest will move straight through to the prep school. Prep schools that only run up to year 6 will also generally not have the 7 plus exam or any formal entry requirements (apart from affordability I guess).
Is it better to sit the 7 plus or the 11 plus exam?
There is no one size fits all with any entrance exams. The decision of whether your child is the 7 plus exam or the 11 plus exam is purely down to your circumstances and choices. Many people believe that it is better to get the whole process out of the way at 7, and then not think about it at all. Certainly, when my children were younger, we took that view and both agreed that taking the 7 plus exam would be a better option, so we would not have to worry about the 11 plus.
An unusual thing happens in many cases though. Many children who sit the 7 plus then also sit the 11 plus exam. Sometimes it is just because the parent wants to see where the child is, or in the case of the grammar school 7 plus, they think that there are no fees to pay if the child gains entry to the local grammar school. Sometimes, it is because the parent is unhappy with their child’s progress in the current school and wants to move them into a different secondary school. Obviously, there are many other reasons also, but these are probably the most common.
Do I need to employ a tutor?
As in all of the other questions, the answer is, it depends. If your child works well with you and you have the time and the patience, then the answer is no. If, however, you find that you are constantly frustrated and repeatedly asking your child to do things they are refusing to do, then it is probably best to get a tutor. There are several reasons for this. It means that you are not constantly fighting to get things done. It also means that you get the time to enjoy time with your child as you now have clear segregation.
Find out more about Anna and Jelena’s 7 Plus Experience working with us:
You can then be guided by your tutor to get things done at home that perhaps may prove challenging otherwise. (Yes, you read that correctly! Just because you have a tutor does not mean that no work is done when at home – homework is a crucial part of the preparation for the 7 plus exam).
What is covered in the 7 plus exam?
Generally, there are 5 categories. Your choice of school will almost certainly use at least the first 3 of these. We have added links to a full breakdown of what topics need to be covered in maths and English.
The 5 categories are
- Interview (formal and/or informal)
- Verbal Reasoning
- Non-verbal Reasoning
Where can I find sample papers for schools that have 7 plus?
As well as our own 7 plus exam papers, we have put together many past and sample papers to help you navigate the 7 plus exam. Click here for sample papers.