English Resources for Independent School Exams

Children who are going to be doing an Independent School 11 Plus Exam will need to keep working between any Grammar School 11 Plus exam they have done (normally done in September) and their Independent School Exams which normally take place in January.

Independent School English 11 Plus exams tend to use more complex or old-fashioned comprehension texts so it will be really important to keep reading every day and where possible to up the level of sophistication. Children will find the exam much easier if they are used to reading classic texts.

Of course, the key element of difference between Grammar School exams and Independent School exams is the creative writing element which most Independent Schools will include in their 11 Plus English exams

English exams and scholarships or bursaries

While it is quite easy to see how a good performance in the more difficult questions at the end of a Maths paper might relate to brilliance, in an English exam it is not so straightforward because every child will do the same tests and there are no clearly more difficult questions.

Independent School English exams tend to have a comprehension section (including vocabulary) and a creative writing section. Some also have sections on punctuation and grammar.

In essence, to do well, children will need to answer at a more sophisticated level.  Their vocabulary, as an example, should be more mature and show greater breadth than that of their contemporaries. This is most easily evidenced in a creative writing test but equally can also come through in the comprehension where answers need to be written (not multiple-choice).

If you can, do get hold of some past papers from the school to help you decide what to focus on.

Final three or four months before the exam

For lots of children, the period from October until they sit the exam in January is crucial.

While doing the activities we have highlighted above will really help there also some resources which are useful to use.

Creative Writing

Lots of children need help in this area and lots of parents don’t know how to help them or what to do. There is an excellent resource we are aware of which really helps children in this area of their work. It is this creative writing course. We like it because it helps children in all sorts of ways, with vocabulary for story writing, with a focus on accurate spelling and punctuation and with the structure of their stories. Most importantly, however, it helps them to focus on their descriptive writing which will be the key difference between getting high marks and not. It can be done in ten to twelve weeks mixed in with other work and activities and so slips perfectly into this space. Give it a go!


Children need to work on their comprehension skills throughout the process. Independent schools set written comprehension exams and to ensure high marks children need to be practicing written questions, not just multiple-choice. We particularly recommend this comprehension course as it covers every type of comprehension question your child could face, in even the toughest exam. It also includes helpful tips so that your child’s exam technique will be perfect. This course uses extracts from classic texts, which is especially useful as it prepares children for the level of difficulty they will face in the exam and helps to expand their vocabulary. The course takes around 8 weeks when done alongside other work and so is perfect to do in this period.

English Papers

It is useful to do some English papers in the run into the exam. We have lots of independent school English papers for free download listed on the site. In addition, you may want to use these papers from Galore Park who publishes the ISEB English Exam papers so they are especially relevant.

Galore Park ISEB English 11 Plus Papers