Final Stage Independent School Preparation and Revision

This advice is relevant for anyone sitting an Independent School 11 Plus entry test.

It is designed to fill the period September to the January when the Independent School exam season starts.


Children going for normal entry to selective but not overly competitive schools

For many children, their place is reasonably secure (in other words the school is selecting to ensure you meet a standard but the entry isn’t particularly competitive). In this case where a child is reasonably bright doing a few Maths and English papers of the right standard will work well for you. In this case, we normally recommend both Learning Street and the Galore Park Papers for this purpose:


In addition, children will benefit from boosting their vocabulary during this period and for that purpose, the very best resource is this home study vocabulary boost course (you use it in the same way you would a book).

For children with weaker core skills who make quite a few silly errors in their Maths work then we’d recommend using Schofield and Sims Mental Arithmetic book 3 (and book 3 answers) then book 4 (and book 4 answers). Working through this book and focussing on accuracy will really help to raise a child’s core skills (do not be tempted by the higher skill level books – if your problems are with basic core skills than that’s the level you need to implement the fix at).

Many tests will include a creative writing element which may have a large portion of marks behind it. There aren’t many or indeed any books which give parents the skills to help their child at home but there is this one resource which is a home study creative writing course that does work well in the home environment and can result in a real step change improvement in a child’s writing ability.

Independent school tests also include a written comprehension section. Whilst there are many books available to help with comprehension skills, these usually focus on multiple-choice questions. In order to help prepare your child for written comprehension questions, we recommend this at-home comprehension course.

Where verbal reasoning and non-verbal reasoning are also included (as they sometimes are) take care. If the school won’t tell who the publisher is then we’d suggest doing the following home study course (it includes all the material in the vocabulary boost course plus all the detail you’ll need for verbal reasoning). This course focuses on GL style questions.

Some schools use CEM tests and will say so. If you know this then use this home study course which combines vocabulary and verbal reasoning (CEM Style) into 10 parts which really suits the time window you have to prepare.

For non-verbal reasoning, we’d suggest raising familiarity using the following book

Schofield and Sims Non-Verbal reasoning

And then doing the following papers

Galore Park Non-Verbal Reasoning Papers


For children going for scholarships and bursaries or trying for the tougher entries

At this level we’ll assume children have already done quite a lot of preparation and that most will have sat an 11 Plus Grammar School entry test. That being the case the period remaining (Sept-Jan) should be used to consolidate knowledge and in some cases move it forwards a little more. Learning Street has been proved to provide excellent materials for those who are looking for some practice but are well prepared. These mock exams will give children a good opportunity of what to expect in the real exam. We have included these below:




For Maths the resource we’d recommend is this Maths Stretch and Revision home study course. If you have time to only do one thing then do this as it balances developing core accuracy skills alongside stretching skills to focus on the more difficult questions (NB there’s no point just focussing on the tougher questions, the scholars and those who are successful in the tougher entries will not make mistakes on the easier questions – accuracy is important).

If you want a little more reasoning stretch then try this maths reasoning stretch resource which is free.

If you have time and want to do more then these three books  (below) focus on the tougher questions which there may be two or three of in any test- please DO NOT do these unless you are certain that your child can get 100% on the easier ones. There’s no point in seeking to gain marks on harder questions if silly mistakes mean marks are dropped on the easier ones.

For papers then please feel free to use a range of the free Independent School Maths Papers we have on site or use the papers below:

Galore Park Maths Papers

Literacy/English – Vocabulary

Great vocabulary skills including spelling are essential and it’s never too late to improve in that area. With the time window you have available we’d suggest using this Vocabulary Boost course (you download it for home study) which will really help to improve the breadth and immediacy of your child’s vocabulary knowledge. Sometimes 60% of the marks in English are related to vocabulary- the broader a child’s vocabulary the better they will do.

Literacy/English – Comprehension/Punctuation/Grammar

Often the tests will be based around a comprehension test which could be a classic book text extract. For this reason, we’d recommend children read lots of classic books during this three-month period. The best way of doing this because it mimics comprehension tests is to buy three or four classic books and just open them up anywhere and read for twenty minutes. Do this every day and the child’s comprehension ability with classic book texts will improve markedly. We also recommend children do this comprehension course because it uses extracts from classic texts and therefore helps prepare children for the level of difficulty they will face in the exam.

Revising or keeping current punctuation and grammar skills is a good idea as many tests build this in. For this, we’d suggest working through the following book.

Letts Grammar and Punctuation

Literacy/English – Creative Writing

Most tests will include a creative writing element and this is the area where parents can struggle to help their child at home as there aren’t really the books available which do the job well. However, this home study creative writing course will work very well in the context and it is what we recommend that you use.


And Finally…

Remember that children will need some breaks and time to switch off. For those who have prepared for a grammar school exam and then switched into independent school tests, it is a long haul. We’d suggest having two weeks off after grammar school exams and starting again only once schools have gone back and children are settled in.

Over Christmas, it’s a good idea to have break again. A good process is to do the bulk of work you want to before Christmas. Have a little break and then do a few papers (not too many) to keep things going in the final ten days or so before their test in the new year.

Remember children who are at all stressed or worried will not do nearly as well as they could do in a test. It’s a parents role in these circumstances to take the pressure off not to pile it on. If children are worked too hard they will fail. It is also important for them to understand that everything will be fine if they do not get in. It’s a tough message to get across as we know parents want the best for their children but frankly, hundreds of very capable children will be disappointed this year (as they are every year) because, for whatever reason, their child felt too stressed/nervous/tired on the day.