top of page

Preparing your Child for the 11+

It might not seem like it with the current heat and sunshine, but September is just around the corner and with it, the all-important 11+ examinations. The results of these exams determine whether or not your child will gain a competitive spot in attending some of the most prestigious grammar schools.

Child sitting 11+ exam

Fiercely competitive, the 11+ exam is typically composed of four papers: Maths, English, Verbal Reasoning and Non-Verbal Reasoning. Keep in mind, however, that each school sets their own individual admissions criteria and what weighting is given to each paper. So the question remains: how can you ensure that your child excels across all tested areas?

Contrary to popular belief, having a naturally gifted child is not enough! Gaining confidence with the types of questions being tested is key - take time to expose your child to the different problems and practise with them on a regular basis.

We’ve compiled a few tips according to each paper to help you get started:


From arithmetic to geometry to word problems and algebra, the Maths paper is a comprehensive test which challenges your child’s numeracy skills.

Typically, this will be based on both the National Curriculum guidelines for Year 5 and 6 students, which will mean a solid understanding of several areas, including but not limited to: Fractions, Decimals and Percentage Equivalents; Area, Perimeter and Volume; as well as Graphical Knowledge.

I would recommend reading this article which goes in-depth about how to plan lessons geared towards a primary-level child in order to embed mathematical thinking throughout everyday learning.

The key to acing the Maths portion of the 11 plus is to tackle as many different types of maths problems as possible. This will help you navigate what your child’s key strengths might be and what they need to work on even more.

Primary school children in class


The English paper tests your child’s English skills: from reading and vocabulary to grammar and writing.

Take a look at the ‘Taking the time to read’ segment of this article where we go into detail about the importance of reading and why your child should be reading books to develop the key skills examiners will be looking for, including their breadth of vocabulary.

Verbal Reasoning

Unlike the Maths and English papers, the next two sections aren’t typically covered in a school setting which means that it may even be the first time your child encounters these types of questions!

Verbal Reasoning tests your child’s ability to spot patterns, including analogies, word associations, and logical puzzles. A good way to prepare for this paper is to familiarise your child with cryptic crossword puzzles and lateral association puzzles, which you can find online. Even game apps like the popular Wordle or a family game night of Scrabble can act as excellent springboards.

In brief, the most important step in tackling these questions is to look for patterns within the example and establish the rule. Let’s take a look at some typical questions:

11+ example question

What could the rule be between the first set of words (search, near, lotion)?

11+ example question

One way to tackle this is to underline the commonalities and identify where they occur in each of the base words. Identifying the pattern, we can now spot the rule: the middle of the first word and the last letter of the second word makes a third word.

Putting this rule into place using Camera and Strong, we get the word ‘game’: the solution to this question.

Let’s take a look at another example:

11+ example question

Again, underline the commonalities you can spot in the initial words. What is the pattern? What is the rule?

11+ example question

Taking these steps, we come to the conclusion that the correct solution would be star.

Non-Verbal Reasoning

Much like Verbal Reasoning, Non-Verbal Reasoning is another area not fully explored in a typical classroom setting. This paper tests your child’s ability to dissect and predict sequences and patterns; unlike Verbal Reasoning, this focuses on images and shapes rather than words using different codes and symbols. Spatial awareness is an essential skill.

A great way to prepare your child might be for them to create their own pattern and sequence using a rule you establish: this could be that every 3rd shape shifts counter clockwise or something more simple like an added line.

Let’s look at an example question. What would the logical progression be?

11+ example question

First, isolate the recurring symbols and determine a rule. We can see that there are two sets of symbols: what occurs in the middle and the circular lines.

We can see that from Image 1 to Image 2, the centre symbol turns and inverses whilst an extra line appears on the perimeter.

The rule must be that the middle symbol switches back and forth and that a line is added counter-clockwise until a full circle is achieved, at which point the pattern restarts to Image 1. This means the solution to this problem is B.

Excelling in the 11+

Finding free papers online and studying them will give your child the familiarity they need to feel more confident about their upcoming examination, but to really enable your child to excel in their papers, we highly recommend finding a tutor with Titanium Tutors. A tutor who can guide you and your child through the 11+ is especially crucial with regards to specific schools you are looking to gain entry into.

An experienced tutor familiar with the schools in your area would be a major asset! Moreover, they can also identify key gaps in your child’s knowledge and consolidate learning more effectively. They also possess a wealth of knowledge and can best advise what key problems and skills may be tested on again and again.

Click here to contact us to help you find the right 11+ tutor for your child.


Blog Post Crafted by Cheryl

Cheryl manages our Admin Team, and is a qualified teacher with 5 years' experience in schools across England and Canada.

Cheryl graduated from McMaster University with an Honours Bachelor of Commerce and a Minor in English, and from University of Toronto with a Bachelor of Education, with a specialisation in Aboriginal Studies. She tutored secondary school students in English for over nine years in Canada.

Cheryl speaks Cantonese, English and French, and in her spare time, she can be found illustrating and reading children’s books for inspiration.


bottom of page