11 Plus Exam Day- Key tips for a successful outcome.
Preparation for the day of the test isn’t rocket science but all of the following can help.
In the days leading up to the test
- Piling on the work is not the way to go, it will lead to the kind of pressure that will actually harm performance. During the last few days do a few Maths/VR/NVR questions and perhaps a comprehension but nothing intensive. Focus on accuracy and speed.
- Exercise is important. Children need to get rid of energy to enable them to relax and concentrate, don’t let them sit in front of the TV or computer all the time, encourage them to go and play outside or take them to the swimming pool for instance.
- Try to avoid fizzy drinks, sweets, too many carbs (bread/pasta/potatoes) in the run up to the test. These types of foods create pent up energy which raises pressure and doesn’t help concentration.
- Do make sure they have plenty of water, fruit, veg, fish or protein (eggs, meat etc).
- Bed times are important. Children need to be properly relaxed prior to the test, going to bed on time and reading a little is a good way to prepare during the last few days.
- During the last few days one of the most effective things parents can do is actively reduce pressure.
- Children need reassurance, they need to feel that they can really go for it without fear of failure. You could try talking to them about what will happen if they are not successful. Some children have no idea what will happen if they do not succeed and feel reassured if you explain things to them. Some children need to know that they won’t be letting their parents down if they are not successful. Some children need some help approaching the test as a positive challenge rather than a test they are frightened of failing. Ask them how they are feeling , what their thoughts are (sometimes what they say will surprise you). As their parents you will know your own child best. All we can do is emphasise that anything you can do to reduce the sense of pressure and tension that all children feel will help.
To organise before the test day
- Some test centres provide HB Pencils for the test, others don’t. Try to find out. We suggest if you are at all unsure that you buy some HB Pencils, a sharpener and a clear pencil case and bring it with you. Test centres which provide these things often don’t allow anything to be brought into the exam room. Better to be safe than sorry.
- If necessary buy a large simple face analogue watch. It should be as clear as possible and it doesn’t matter whether it is something you or your child like or not- clarity is the thing. Please don’t make the mistake of going in without this or hoping to rely on a clock, all too often this goes wrong.
- Do plan your route, think about the time it will take bearing in mind it may well be during rush hour. Many a carefully planned 11 Plus campaign has gone wrong here. It is worth doing a test run in our view.
On the day of the test
- Be calm yourself, any sign of tension in you or your manner at all will transfer itself to your child. If you are calm, happy and relaxed then they will stand a chance of being the same.
- Make sure your child has a good breakfast, drinks properly etc. Try to avoid overly sugary breakfast cereals (we have seen many parents who think they want to give their child a treat on the morning of the exam and so give them their favourite sugary breakfast- this is likely to set them on edge due to excess energy levels).
- It is a very good idea to have a plan and then to leave even earlier. Getting there early and parking and having a little walk can make all the difference.
- Mornings can be rushed. On the 11 Plus day make doubly sure yours is not. Remember any tension will be communicated to your child. Any urgency to get up, get dressed, wash, get to the car, annoyance with other drivers etc all adds unduly to the pressure. Please try and avoid it.
During the test
- Expect distractions in the exam room. Discuss this openly with your child beforehand. In many exam rooms around the country (especially for the tougher entries) you will unfortunately experience children who have been put under too much pressure. It is not unusual for children to wet themselves, to be sick, to cry, to keep lifting their hand, to want to go to the loo during the test. In many cases children will need to be answering a question every 30 seconds to a minute so even the slightest distraction can have an effect. If children are prepared to expect the worst then they may well be less distracted by events.
- Sometimes seating arrangements are not ideal. Being near the entrance isn’t great, having the sun beaming down on your paper is hardly ideal. Your child won’t know until they get there, but it helps them to get used to the idea that they will just have to block these sorts of things out. Where you sit will be luck of the draw.
After the test
- It’s a good idea to have a little discussion after the test. Don’t expect to have any decent steer on how your child has done. Positive children tend to think that they have done better than reality, less confident children have often done better than they think they have. The reason for the discussion is two-fold- Firstly to close the whole 11 Plus experience down for your child in a positive way and secondly to make a note of any issues which might be relevant for an appeal.
- Appealing and complaining about things which don’t go our way has become more common place. In the 11 Plus some things are grounds for appeal others won’t really help.
- Child ill on the day. This rarely works, the examining authority will tell you that you shouldn’t have put a child in for the test. The advice usually is to declare illness and then use the secondary day most authorities have set aside (check what arrangements are in your area).
- Child ill during the test. This is difficult because plenty of children are ill during the test but more often than not this is due to exam nerves which is not a viable reason to excuse performance.
- Distractions in the exam hall. Most of the time this is the same for everyone, so unless there was something very unusual (think fire or flood) then it is unlikely to be a factor. The view will be that everyone was in the same boat.
It will be very difficult to base an appeals case purely on what happens on the day…. If you have a claim about acceptance based on geographic location, your child is very close to the mark, and they have a great school report then news that they also had some distractions during the exam may help but it would be rare for these to be the main reason for appeal.
Children who are relaxed , happy, confident and ready for the challenge will do much better than a child of similar ability and level of preparation who is nervous and worried about what will happen if they don’t succeed and concerned about how things may go. On the day of the test the difference can be quite startling (10%-20% would not be unusual).