11 Plus Exam Preparation in Years Five and Six
Years five and six are interesting because, while there is still plenty of time to go, for some a sense of panic begins to set in.
The first thing we’d suggest you do is read our section on 11 Plus Pressure and Stress. Undue pressure is one of the biggest reasons for 11 Plus failure so it’s best to think about this before thinking about what you do.
When children get to year five they need to keep acquiring the following skills:
Building a wide vocabulary and accurate spelling skills are essential for the 11 Plus exam
This has a huge impact on Verbal Reasoning tests, on comprehension tests and on their ability to write descriptively.
Children need to do activities to improve their vocabulary and spelling skills throughout year five all the way through to the 11 Plus exams.
Work should be done every week. Children can help develop these areas through reading each day, but during year five they can also do some specific development work. We’d suggest focussing on Synonyms, Antonyms, Plural structures and Homophones as a start point.
Comprehension preparation for 11 Plus exams
Most children will do a comprehension test when they do their 11 Plus exam. We suggest that in addition to reading every day that children continue to do regular work on comprehension exercises.
We’d suggest doing a variety of different tests as this will help children to develop flexible skills.
Times Tables – very important for 11 Plus exam success
This is the very last chance to develop the strongest possible times tables skills. Children will need to work through their tables quite intensively to bring these skills up to scratch. Any improvement will drop through to additional marks because of improved speed and accuracy.
We would suggest at least one tables activity each week throughout the first half of year five.
Mental Maths and Maths Problems preparation
Children need to do plenty of questions to make progress in Maths. Doing questions helps them focus on accuracy which will be critical for any 11 Plus exam.
We would suggest children work on Mental Maths questions and Maths Problems throughout year five until they start doing timed papers.
Verbal Reasoning preparation in year 5
Children normally find Verbal Reasoning quite easy to get to grips with as long as they have developed strong vocabulary and spelling skills. Remember the role pressure can play in this area, it is particularly important.
We’d suggest children spend a couple of weeks just learning about the 21 different question types and having a go at some questions. They can then do some weekly varied tests to further develop their skills. ( NB CEM VR tests can include the 21 types so this is still worthwhile work to do).
Non-Verbal Reasoning preparation in year 5
There are no special core skills children need for Non-VR ( although some children continue to be caught out by not reading the question properly). 11 Plus Non-VR tests normally reward the ability to work quickly and accurately.
We’d suggest spending a couple of weeks getting to grips with the 7 or 8 different formats of question and then doing some practice questions.
Doing 11 Plus exam test papers in year 5
We’d suggest that test papers are not done until the majority of skills necessary have been acquired (you’d be surprised how many attempt 11 Plus papers before learning the skills necessary to answer them).
We’d suggest children generally start with slightly easier papers and then move onto doing more difficult papers later on. The reason for this is that initially the point of doing papers is to get children working to the correct speed and working accurately.
Working on harder papers later on will then help flush out any gaps in learning and help children improve.
NB Where children are making mistakes regarding spelling and vocabulary or tables related mistakes then this is indicative of not enough work having been done early enough on these core skills. Of course some remedial work can be done as mistakes emerge but the latter half of year five is really too late to effect core skills weaknesses to any great degree.
How many 11 Plus exam test papers to do as part of a preparation exercise
We’d suggest test papers don’t need to be started until children have at maximum 25 weeks to go until their exam. The reason for this is that children simply do better if they focus on developing their core skills before doing any tests papers at all.
If children don’t start test papers until 20 weeks before any test then we’d suggest doing easier papers for ten weeks and then moving onto the real standard in the final ten weeks will produce the best results.
The one point that many parents miss is that it is not the doing of the papers which produces improvement but the marking and feedback and encouragement and gap filling. Done properly this takes a great deal of time. Doing paper after paper without spending a lot of time on the feedback and gap filling part will not result in much improvement in performance.
If a child is doing Maths, English, VR and Non-VR then if they did 40 papers ( 10 on each topic ) and feedback happens properly then they will have got most of the benefit from the exercise. There is a finite amount of improvement that can be derived from doing paper after paper.