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Our Favourite Grammar School Tips

If your child is sitting the 11+ exams this autumn, it might be time to start thinking about how you can prepare them this summer to ensure they'll be ready when the time comes


We asked Charlotte Thomas, Education Director of The Learning Factor, for her best advice on grammar schools, what you need to think about and how you can best prepare your child for the entrance exams.


Grammar schools are notoriously competitive and the mental preparation combined with skills and knowledge required to get into one are immense. The competition in London in particular is very tough, partly due to the high academic standard but also the sheer number of children living in each catchment area. As an example, up to 12 children compete for each place available at Tiffin School, Kingston upon Thames, known for its high achievements.

Means of testing

Critically, every school will be looking for the same core skills: Verbal Reasoning, Non-Verbal Reasoning, Maths and English. Schools can choose the structure for their entry tests, and there is now a new format for the test to be presented in CEM which can be another hurdle to undertake as the timings are very different.

CEM stands for Centre for Evaluation and Monitoring, and the tests produced by the centre differ in that they are interactive computer based questions where the next question or 'task' is based on the response of the previous question or task. Only some schools have opted into this, and the information about which schools will be using these tests is readily available.

Top tips for the 11+

CEM testing on computers
  • Be prepared - research and discuss with your child and their teachers what they should be doing to prepare themselves in good time before the exam is approaching
  • Start with learning the concepts of Verbal and Non-Verbal Reasoning before going straight into practise papers, as these are often very new concepts to learn
  • If you introduce the 11+ practise early enough it can actually be quite enjoyable
  • Practise the timings of the paper and help your child understand how long they should spend on each question and how much the marks are worth
  • Try to access some past papers from your target schools in the local area
  • When choosing extra support, do your research to ensure you make the right decision for your child. What is their learning style? Once you know how they learn best, tailor the extra support you choose for them accordingly. The extra support may be a 1:1 tutor, a tuition centre environment, group practise with friends, new workbooks, or a mixture of all
  • Practise, practise, practise and remember to praise your child when they work hard, as this can be a stressful time for both you and your child!
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