11+ Exams and Entrance Exams
Entrance Exams for Local Grammar Schools
The Bacup and Rawtenstall Grammar School entrance exam is held in mid-September (when your child begins Year 6) and consists of two one-hour tests covering the following skills: Mathematics, English/Verbal Reasoning and Non-verbal Reasoning.
Children will not usually come across 11+ style questions during normal Year 5 work. In my sessions students work through various 11+ question styles, developing not just knowledge but also speed, which is a vital aspect of the test. (I like to use the term ‘tests’ with my students rather than ‘exams’ because they’re used to doing all kinds of tests in school, whereas ‘exams’ sound a lot more daunting!)
For many entrance exams, there are no set pass marks. Instead, schools choose the top scorers, but I do monitor students’ progress and performance throughout the year and work with parents to take action if something extra needs doing.
The competitive nature of the 11+ exam can make it a very stressful experience for both parents and children and I help minimise this by increasing confidence in tackling the types of questions and getting children mentally prepared for a morning of what is quite rigorous testing. Many of my previous students found the test morning itself ‘easy’ because of all the work they’d done with me. I can’t guarantee their parents felt the morning was ‘easy’, however! Having had four of my own children sit the test I think it is definitely easier for the children than their parents on the morning of the test… and up to results day in mid-October.
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MORE ABOUT THE SUBJECTS
11+ English/Verbal Reasoning
- Comprehension skills
- Word definitions
- Synonyms and antonyms
- Sentence structure
- Cloze tests
An easy way to improve vocabulary is to read every day and as widely as possible. It’s always preferable to read for pleasure but one way to gain vocabulary from classic novels is to just read an extract. If you use a search engine you’ll easily find many sites featuring class novel extracts. It’s helpful to have a dictionary (or adult) handy to help with the understanding of difficult words. Word games like Scrabble and Boggle are also good for vocabulary skills.
11+ students should definitely have a good grasp of the four basic mathematical operations (addition, subtraction, division and multiplication) and the ability to apply these elements to word problems is absolutely essential. I ensure students have an excellent grounding in all areas of the KS2 Maths curriculum and give them experience in lots of different types of maths questions. Some of the work on an 11+ syllabus isn’t covered in schools until year 6 so it’s important that children are familiar with these topics.
One way to help prepare for tuition is to revise number bonds, times tables and division (find a fun children’s app for phones or tablets to help with this) and to learn the 15x and 25x tables. These are not covered in school but help immensely when problem-solving. If a child has to work out what five 150g bags of sweets weigh in total a knowledge of the 15x table comes into its own.
11+ Non-Verbal Reasoning
Non-Verbal Reasoning is not taught in school.
NVR questions test the ability to work with patterns and shape rather than words and verbal processes. This part of the test is designed to assess a child’s problem solving and processing skills using abstract symbols and objects (both 2D and 3D). The student needs to work out similarities and differences in sequences of shapes or graphics.
- Be confident in symmetry and rotation
- Have a good spatial awareness
- Pay attention to detail
- Use counting skills (counting lines and shapes)
- Be able to figure out how shapes relate to each other
- Apply logical deduction skills to solve problems
- Identifying which shape is the odd shape out.
- Working out cube nets and how shapes will look when folded.
- Mirror images and reflections.
- Figuring out which diagram comes next in a sequence.
- Finding 2 identical shapes in a series.
- Predicting shapes after reflection, rotation and/or symmetry.
Answer Sheets and Multiple Choice Questions
The 11+ exam is often marked electronically and children benefit from practice in filling out the answer sheet properly. It is easy to get mixed up when an answer sheet has sections that look identical.
Added to this, the completion of each section is strictly timed. Children can only answer the questions in one section at a time and they cannot go forward to the next section or back to one completed earlier.
There is often an audio accompaniment to the test. Children can be put off by a voice telling them how long there is left because it breaks their train of thought and can make them panic. We practise using an audio accompaniment for tests to help with this.
There is a certain skill to multiple choice questions, and given the strictly timed sections of the test, children need to recognise that looking at potential answers before working out can help save time. The child might only need an approximate answer to a maths problem to find the correct option, and in comprehension reading questions before they attempt the text means they have key ideas to look for in the passage. Children get lots of practice in multiple choice questions and answer papers in the lead up to the test to help boost their test technique.