How to develop a wide vocabulary for the 11 Plus.

Because vocabulary knowledge is so important we believe children preparing at home simply do not do enough work on this particular area. This is partially because the topic is so large and varied that there isn’t (and could never be) a single book that would cover everything for a child.

Most tutors do insist children do a great deal of vocabulary development work BUT parents must also do their bit by making sure children read every day at home, without the reading element the money spent on tutoring may well be wasted.

Children ideally should be doing the following each week during their preparation:

  • They should have a blank form on hand each week for new words they discover- Here is a sample sheet they can use to help them acquire new words.
  • They should read every day, seven days a week for at least half an hour- Here’s some help with book lists for 11 Plus .
  • They should be doing some additional spelling work each week- These are the books we recommend for 11 Plus spelling development
  • Families should try and do some paired reading each week (where you both read a book together. This helps accelerate both reading fluency and vocabulary knowledge)- Read the guide on paired reading.
  • Children should read at least some classic books, guidance on which books to read is included here – 11 Plus classic book reading list.

Children should (at the end of each week) do their own personalised spelling test incorporating the most difficult words they have either found themselves and added to their word list, or words they struggled with in their spelling exercises or words they found in their reading which were particularly difficult. (Here is the type of form you can use for this end of week spelling exercise)

In addition there are some English exercise books which are particularly useful for helping to develop a wide vocabulary. We have listed these books on this 11 Plus vocabulary development books list. Children can work through the books we have recommended doing a page or two each week depending on how much time they have available.

For those that are really keen we have developed a list of 500+ 11 Plus words which have come up before. These words have been developed from a  knowledge of what has come up before and it includes words that test publishers have used, words from exams themselves and the more difficult words from the current national curriculum. This can be used by splitting the list into sections. We have included some instructions with the list to make it easier for you. Download the 500+ 11 Plus Vocabulary List.

Finally there are some games which can deliver welcome relief from the more labour intensive parts of the learning process. We’d encourage families to play these games because they really help to keep a wider vocabulary going. The two games we’d recommend are either Boggle or Scrabble or ideally both- Boggle is useful when you have a short period of time, Scrabble is useful when you have longer.

Boggle is less advanced but perhaps more fun and is really useful. Because it is a game with time limits it helps children to recall words under some degree of pressure. If you have a spare ten minutes at the end of a session a game or two of boggle can be a fun way to end things.

Scrabble is a little more advanced but does takes longer so perhaps is more useful on a rainy Sunday afternoon, or on a day when no work is scheduled. Scrabble will encourage to think of longer words and will stretch their spelling knowledge.

If a word comes up that children don’t know then you can of course add it to that week’s list of words to learn.

Additional advice-

Adult discussions help vocabulary development

Talking with your child, letting them overhear adult conversation will expose them to useful words they might not otherwise be exposed to. A conversation about a recent news event can be particularly rich in new vocabulary for a child.

Television used in the right way is a great aid for vocabulary development

Equally don’t forget about the positive impact television can have, watching a mix of programmes in a balanced way will help add variety to the vocabulary development process.