Year 3 – 11 Plus Exam Preparation

What you do in year three very much depends on your child, which school they currently attend and your own motivations.

We wouldn’t recommend you specifically start preparing a child for the 11 Plus during years three and the first half four however there are some crucial aspects of their education that it is useful focus on. For the most part these concern the core English and Maths skills.

Year three should be about helping your child to perform to the best of their ability in Maths and English regardless of whether they are going to go on and try for a selective school place through a Grammar School test or not.

Year Three Literacy Skills Development

1/ Breadth of Vocabulary

One of the common reasons for not getting through any selection test is not having a broad enough vocabulary. It is the toughest thing to fix and requires the most effort. The simple fact is that children who read each and every day for about half an hour have a much broader vocabulary than children who do not read or read only a two or three times a week. If you want some ideas on what sort of materials we recommend to help you then see our section on improving vocabulary skills for  11 Plus.

2/ Good Spelling

Children need to be able to spell very effectively to do well in the 11 Plus and it is a core skill that will help them throughout their life. Many schools hand out a weekly spelling tests of about ten words but we’d suggest parents could be doing a little more. Remember that primary schools tend to hand out spelling work which is suitable for the whole form; children who are hoping to be at the top end of the performance range will find that they improve more by doing some more complicated spelling work. If you’d like some suggestions on what sort of materials to use then see our section on improving spelling skills for 11 Plus.

3/ Good levels of Grammar and Punctuation

Schools have recently started to focus more strongly on these core skills. However as these are core skills children often benefit from a little more focus on them than schools can provide. We wouldn’t suggest you necessarily forge ahead in this area much faster than the pace the school is moving at but consolidation can be very valuable. If you’d like some suggestions on what sort of materials to use then see our section on improving grammar and punctuation for 11 Plus.

4/ Improved core writing skills

Again while this is an area that is covered fully in schools the quality does vary from school to school and there’s no harm in doing a little consolidation work at home. If you’d like some suggestions on what sort of materials to use then see our section on improving core writing skills for 11 Plus.

So essentially on the English side we’d suggest that during years three and the early part of year four the most useful thing parents can do is to focus on core skills. At an absolute minimum we’d suggest children are genuinely reading for at least half an hour each night. Where possible we’d also suggest doing one or two sessions of paired reading each week.


Year Three Numeracy Skills (Maths) Development

1/ Times Tables

Learning times tables is a rite of passage for younger children, many of us can remember reciting tables over the kitchen table or in time with a tables tape.

Nothing has changed, it is still absolutely essential for children to have immaculate times tables skills. The problem is that while this is covered in schools many children manage to sketch through it and have a good understanding but that isn’t good enough.

When children come across an 11 Plus test they might be asked to answer a question a minute , being able to calculate in your head is essential and if times tables are even slightly slow or occasionally inaccurate then unnecessary mistakes will be made.

Our message is simply that you should get involved with times tables and don’t succumb to pressure to stop too early. Without this essential skill many children simply will not fulfil their potential in Maths. If you’d like some suggestions on what sort of materials to use to help your child then see our section on improving times tables performance for 11 Plus.


The biggest single issue is that some schools and most parents give up on formally learning times tables too early. Once dropped they cannot be picked up again and any hesitation with tables hinders their ability to work quickly and accurately.

2/ Confidence

The one characteristic of below potential performance that is commonplace is children not having a go because they are worried about getting things wrong. Many children have more skill than they give themselves credit for. Helping children outside a school environment is crucial if children are to shake this, but you’d be amazed by the transformational effect a little bit of encouragement and help can have. If children do not have the confidence to use their skills they will not progress as quickly as they could. This particularly applies to some girls.

3/ Rock solid four operations skills

Addition/Division/Subtraction/Multiplication are basic core skills but you’d be amazed how many children don’t really understand these things in depth and have not had sufficient practice to be able to work quickly and accurately. If most children did only 10 minutes of calculation work regularly then they’d make huge steps forward. The way to improve in this area is little and often with plenty of feedback and encouragement. You’ll also find that any times tables weakness also becomes quickly exposed. If you’d like some  suggestions about what materials to use then see our section on improving maths skills for 11 Plus.

4/ Confidence with mental calculations.

Children need to develop the ability to work quickly and accurately in their heads. This comes with time. Doing a little work regularly does the trick and you’ll find in three to six months  children will have made a leap forwards.