The 11+ exam is sat in Year 6 for secondary school entrance in Year 7. It is part of the selection process for Independent and Grammar Schools. Historically these exams take place in January (with the exception of 2020/21). Securing a place at a top London day school is not easy and the competition can be fierce. However, with such a varied selection in the capital, there is a place for everyone.
Should I register my child for entry at 11+?
If you are a parent considering the 11+ route, here are a few pointers that we hope will help you make the right choices.
- Before you embark on any preparation do your homework. Information is everything and open days will give you a great insight into a school’s values, both academically and pastorally. It is easy to get carried away with school tables and reputations, however central to any decision must be what suits your child and where they will thrive best.
- Hopefully, your child’s primary/prep school will be in the position to recommend schools that will suit your child. However, this information is not always sufficient for families moving from the State to the Independent sector. If you are unsure about your child’s academic potential, there are a few companies that can provide an assessment and report to help signpost schools. Prices can range dramatically for a similar product, so it’s best to shop around.
- Do not start planning before you need to, beginning too early can prove counterproductive. Year 5 is the ideal time to start considering the 11+ syllabus and question types. Consolidating the fundamentals and filling the gaps will be imperative before you embark on any test papers. The test usually consists of Maths, English (essay and comprehension), Verbal and Non-Verbal Reasoning papers.
- A key part of the preparation is reading, as it will help your child develop a good vocabulary, which plays a big part in the 11+. The ability to write well, understand challenging texts and answer tricky verbal reasoning questions will give your child an advantage. A year is plenty of time to nurture a love of reading. Most children naturally gravitate to contemporary fast-paced fiction but remember the Classics consistently feature in the exams. There are plenty of excellent reading lists to choose from – start with ours.
- Decide on a plan and agree on a reasonable schedule with your child. Help motivate them to feel in charge of their workload and try not to squeeze too much time, as 11+ fatigue will quickly set in. Bear in mind a little and often works well. Keep perspective and try not to let it dominate family life. For some children, the pressures of 11+ can feel quite overwhelming at times, so factoring in fun is vital to supporting your child’s mental well-being.
- Helping a child understand the nuances of the syllabus and practice papers, whilst maintaining a good relationship balance, is not for everyone and takes extraordinary patience. Fortunately, there is a wide range of great online resources available, and websites such as Bofa, Bond, Galore Park and Mentor Education will offer varied material.
- Finally… do not believe parents that purport to doing it all themselves! Research has shown that most children sitting the 11+ receive tuition. Finances permitting it can make sense, especially if you are having trouble getting your child to put the time in. If you do decide to go this route, ensure that you get a tutor with solid 11+ experience (preferably with the schools you intend to apply for) and a DBS check and references are always a good idea. It can be expensive, however knowing the syllabus and what is required, will save a lot of time. Research ahead of time as good tutors get booked up very quickly.
How has lockdown changed the 11+?
2020 saw extraordinary changes to education, and for Year 6 pupils sitting their 11+ a change in the status quo. Across the board, schools who would normally have produced their own bespoke 11+ exams were forced to introduce the ISEB digital test. Children who achieve good results were then invited to interview. The news that London schools had decided to switch to digital exams for the upcoming 11+ admissions took many by surprise. It isn’t yet confirmed whether they will continue with this format. However, the following information explains all you need to know about the ISEB Pre Test.
What is the ISEB Pre Test?
A digital exam, the ISEB Pre Test was measures academic ability, and also to assesses overall potential. In the past, the ISEB Pre Test was often used by leading independent schools to predict how likely a student would be to pass the Common Entrance. It was also a supplementary test to give a more well-rounded impression of a pupil’s capability.
ISEB Pre Test is delivered digitally and can be taken securely – and safely – online. With this in mind, the ISEB Pre Test is now used by many schools in place of the traditional 11+ examination, as a safe alternative to on-site exams.
The Pre-Test is a multiple-choice examination that takes around two-and-a-half hours to complete. It encompasses the following areas:
- English (including reading comprehension, spelling, and punctuation)
- Mathematics (includes National Curriculum topics taught up to the end of Year 5)
- Verbal reasoning (including word combinations; letter transfer; common words; synonyms and antonyms)
- Non-verbal reasoning (including shape analogies and horizontal codes).
How is the ISEB Pre Test Graded?
As mentioned, the ISEB Pre Test is a multiple-choice test; this is a departure from normal examination protocol that can be a little confusing (and even daunting) for pupils. Unsurprisingly, therefore, the scoring system also deviates from traditional letter ‘grades’.
Once the test has been completed, candidates are given what is known as a SAS (Standardised Age Score). This takes into account the number of questions answered correctly, as well as the age the candidate was at the time of taking the ISEB Pre Test. In addition, schools can see how much time a student took to complete each element of the test.
Note that parents can’t view their child’s scores: these are only made available to schools. Similarly, there is a lot of scope when it comes to interpreting the data. Academically competitive schools will look for higher average SAS scores, but the thresholds vary from school to school.
So how can one prepare? if the targets are unknown and the format is unfamiliar? Fortunately, the core syllabus for the ISEB is the same as any other 11+ entrance exam, therefore your preparation should still involve plenty of practice, general exam technique and time management skills. A thorough grounding in all elements will provide a solid foundation for ISEB Pre Test success.