11 Plus Exam Preparation – Using a Private Tutor

Private 11 Plus Tutors

The words PRIVATE TUTOR are overused in 11 Plus exam circles, in reality there are two types of tutor which parents use – a private tutor or a group tutor. Private Tutors see children individually either at the child’s home or at their own home.

What qualifications do 11 Plus Exam Private Tutors need to have ?

11 Plus Private Tutors need to have no specific qualifications. This may sound odd but actually only teachers in state run schools need to have formal teaching qualifications. There are many excellent teachers at Universities and at Private Schools who have no formal teaching qualifications at all. In fact the vast majority of University Teaching staff have no teaching qualifications. Our message is don’t get caught up with whether someone has a formal teaching qualification or not, it is their experience of the subject matter and their ability to take a child through the work which is the key.

What materials do 11 Plus Private Tutors use?

Many Private Tutors do not use their own materials to form the bulk of the work they give out to children, for the most part they tend to use published materials. Some tutors will have developed their own reading lists or vocab lists but aside from this it is the process they take children through which is where the value sits.

A good tutor will know through experience how much emphasis to place on each individual aspect of the work.

Be aware that many Tutors will charge extra for materials they buy in, so you might be paying £40 per hour PLUS a fee for materials (often around £200).

What are the benefits of using an 11 Plus Private Tutor

Private Tutors are expensive, in fact they are the most expensive way to prepare for the 11 Plus exam. However a good Private Tutor can help your child perform to the best of their ability so the cost may seem worthwhile.

To prepare a child from the middle of year four onwards costs can vary between £2,500 and £5,000 depending on hourly rate and the number of hours a tutor delivers. This however may well seem like good value when compared to private day school fees of £13,000 per year.

Tutors are most useful for parents who have little time, for parents who don’t feel helping their children at home would work, or for children who need the stimulation and motivation of working for a third party to deliver of their best (plenty of children will work to deliver excellent work for tutors but resist lifting a finger for their parents).

The best private tutors won’t just deliver the same work to each child, they will focus on an individual child’s needs and ensure that they pick up on the weak areas quickly and spend more time focussing on these. The idea is that while the costs are high, the tailored approach means that children spend less time working on topics they are already secure on.

What are the drawbacks of using a Personal Tutor to prepare for the 11 Plus

Leaving cost to one side, the potential drawbacks essentially fall into three areas:

Without lots of parental involvement the benefits of using a Tutor are vastly reduced

1/ For all Tutors (good or not so good) parents won’t simply be able to write a cheque and forget about it. Children will need to be reading every day (Tutors can’t do this for you), children will also be given something in the region of two hours of homework per week (some tutors will ask you to ensure this is marked by you and handed back). Using a Tutor doesn’t mean that there will be no effect on home life.

In fact we’d argue that if parents don’t get directly involved then there may well not be much point in involving a Tutor to start with.

Lots of parental time will be required

2/ Some parents with little time on their hands hope that employing a Tutor will mean the process is low impact. In fact (unless the Tutor comes to you) you’ll find the process of managing homework and reading at home and ferrying a child to and from a tutor does actually involve quite a large time commitment.

Management of success rates sometimes leads to children being excluded

3/ Some Tutors operate in too commercial a manner and don’t like to have any child failing their exams. In reality any Tutor (even the very best) who takes on children with a range of ability will find it very difficult if not impossible to attain success rates of over 70% except in areas of the country where there is full provision of Grammar places (like Kent). What Tutors unfortunately do sometimes is to let parents know towards the end of the programme that their child is not likely to succeed, when these children leave they are left with only the brightest children and can therefore publish high rates of success.

Where Tutors publish unfeasibly high success rates (over 70% in competitive areas) our advice would be to be suspicious and ask questions. We have over the years seen a very large number of parents who have been removed from their Tutor at the end stages when in fact their child does have a greater than 50% chance of a place and it is still worth trying for.

We’d emphasise though that most tutors in our experience want the best for the children they take on, and the vast majority don’t publish success rates because they know they are meaningless when you are taking children with a range of different abilities.

Some Tutors are better than others

4/ There are of course some Tutors who are better than others. The search for a tutor can be difficult. We’d recommend you see at least two and ask some questions of each (see below). We’d recommend you focus on what you actually feel about the Tutor and whether they will work well with your child. Your personal reaction to them is very important.

Questions you should ask when choosing an 11 Plus Tutor.

1/ Can you meet with them to understand what process they are going to go through. Many Tutors actually don’t offer much parent time because they are busy teaching so don’t expect too much upfront or on an ongoing basis.

2/ How much homework do they give, what is expected of you in terms of admin or marking, how do they manage reading at home and reading lists etc.

3/ When discussing their approach it is as well to ask them which, if any, schools they specialise in, what the exam entails and what materials they use. Where schools write their own tests it is particularly important to see what match up there is vs the tests a child will face and the materials a tutor will use.

4/ If you are trying for a Grammar and Independent place then it’s as well to understand what will happen during the gap between 11 Plus exams in September and Independent School tests in January. Some tutors may not have much knowledge of Independent School tests especially some of the harder final maths questions and developing essay writing skills. It is as well to ask specific questions about both of these areas.

Cost of using a Private Tutor to help with 11 Plus Exam Preparation

Private Tuition costs are normally quoted as an hourly rate and they vary between £12 and £60 per hour. Obviously the first thing to remember is that you need to compare like with like when looking at Tutors. The following information may help you:

1/ Tutor Experience- Is the Tutor a full time professional or someone looking to make a little extra money by helping students on the side. There’s nothing wrong with either approach but they do tend to come at different prices.

2/ What will actually go on in the sessions. It is not unusual for some Tutors to charge £40 per hour but during that hour every minute will be tuition and in other cases Tutors will charge £20 but at least half the session involves a child working their way through work sheets while a Tutor marks the work.

3/ What’s included. Some Tutors will include all the materials needed others will charge extra. Check what the cost is going to be overall. Charging extra for materials isn’t necessarily a bad thing, it is just that different tutors structure their prices in different ways.

4/ What’s required of you. Obviously if a Tutor is coming to your home then you can expect the costs to be much higher than if you go to them, this is only natural when you consider the time and costs involved. What’s more important is what they ask you to do at home. Firstly a Tutor should be giving out quite a lot of homework, if they aren’t then we would be concerned. Two hours a week is an average, some give more (amounts will vary by tutor and child need). Secondly you need to understand what is required of you.  You should accept that with any tutor you will need to make sure reading is happening, and that any work given is done (the tutor cannot do this for you), but what marking is needed? Some cheaper (per hour) tutors give you mark sheets and expect homework to be marked, others actually mark during tutor time, others will mark for you but outside tutor time.

5/ What kind of tie-ins are asked for. Many Private Tutors will ask for a commitment from you (3 months is not unusual), and most will ask for notice (1 month is normal). Some tutors however will seek to sign you up to the whole programme of work (6 months or more) with no opportunity to cancel or take a break. Make sure you have asked what applies.


Every method of 11 Plus preparation has positives and negatives but some are more suitable for individual family situations than others. Using a Private Tutor is not the gold standard simply because it costs the most but it is going to be the right solution for some families.

In some family situations only a Tutor will do and the involvement of a third party can magically make things work. Remember though that it is always the case that parental involvement and what work goes on at home will be an essential part of success. Without parental involvement at home then much of the benefit of using a Private Tutor will be lost.