Tutoring to support children’s preparation for entry tests like 11 plus exams

Time has really flown and my son Diego is already in year 5. When you reach this stage you start worrying about secondary schools and the daunting entry exams that children have to go through before starting the final year in primary school to be accepted in their schools of choice. Apparently children in England are among the most tested in Europe. I did a lot of research and came across great tutors from my local Explore Learning centre so I decided to give it a go and get my son to learn and practice for his 11 plus exams with them. Here is a full report of our experience hoping that it can help other parents understand how it all works.

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11+ Exams

During my first meeting at Explore Learning in East Sheen I asked the tutors to enlighten me on what the 11 plus exams were as I wasn’t really sure on their importance and the skills required to pass them. They explained that 11 plus exams include a range of verbal and non-verbal reasoning tests which require underlying skills in Numerical reasoning, Literacy, and logical thinking.

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Explore Learning run specific courses for 11 plus exams but due to lack of time my son focused on preparing for these tests with two 1 hour sessions per week revising 11+ tests and individual tutoring when needed to explain how to tackle tricky questions. After each session I was handed written feedback from the tutor on duty on how Diego performed on the test as well as receiving an email after submitting a test.  Tutoring to support children's preparation for entry tests like 11 plus exams explore learning 2

Diego had access to online resources with his own passwords and could do extra work at home using a special area on the Explore Learning website dedicated to 11 plus exams. Three months of two sessions per week is the minimum time required to start cracking 11 plus tests. After that children have to keep practising to make sure they understand how these exams work. Only practice can help improve.

Motivating the children

The toughest challenge for parents as well as tutors is keeping the children focused and motivated. What I have learnt from the tutors at Explore Learning is the right ‘dosage’ of rewards for each task. The rewarding scheme was well balanced.

Tutoring to support children's preparation for entry tests like 11 plus exams explore learning 4At every session Diego received between 3 to up to 5 lizard cards which he collected and could exchange for prizes at the end or keep the various animal cards. I also liked the presentations that the tutors initiated after the kids reached a milestone in the big board. It worked like a huge board game and the children could see their weekly progress benchmarked with their colleagues.

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They received also a couple of certificates for completing various challenges. Since then I have introduced the same rewarding scheme at home to keep him motivated and it seems to work.

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Verbal and Non-verbal Reasoning

Three years’ worth of research by Explore Learning has developed a comprehensive course that teaches children the methods needed to answer every type of question in the Eleven Plus exam. The tutors helped Diego learn some tricks to solve complicated questions. This is more important than resolving each tests perfectly as it is a long-term strategy. The tutors were really motivated and helpful. I personally found the centre a very friendly environment for both children and parents.

Diego told me that his tutors’ approach to testing was both fun and relaxed which helped him with his motivation. They also helped boosting his confidence and eliminating anxiety for the exam. After three months he feels more at ease when starting a test. It’s a great lesson for life.


Access to extra practice tools from home

As a member, Diego had access to Explore Learning’s dedicated online practice tool ‘Explorer Maths’ which has many additional questions to improve speed and accuracy in maths. Diego could earn rewards by working regularly on these activities, and I was able to see his progress by accessing the website from home.

In addition to this, as 11+ and entrance exam member we had access to a non-verbal reasoning online practice resource. This tool was crucial in building up skill level in this style of questioning and working Diego from ‘Beginner’ level right up to ‘Expert’.  As a parent I received regular emailed reports of tests taken, allowing me to see how Diego was progressing.


Why Verbal Reasoning (VR) and Non Verbal Reasoning (NVR) Tests?

I always wondered why the children had to go through these daunting exams at such young age and I often questioned the tutors in search for answers. They explained to me that the nature of the questions used in Verbal and Non Verbal Reasoning exams requires a different range of mental processes to a written test. Using pictures and designs instead of words ensures these tests can be accessed equally by pupils where English is an additional language or by pupils who think more visually or have difficulties with a more written format. The tests are considered to be non culture or gender specific. They provide a contrast to verbal tests and English exams and are felt to be more indicative of a scientific or mathematical mind.


What are the 11 plus exams?

There is no national exam for the Eleven Plus, and this makes it very confusing. People refer to different exams for different types of schools as the Eleven Plus. Many private / independent schools, state schools and grammar schools set their own admission arrangements and as part of these have exams they call the 11-plus. These exams all vary in content and form.

Schools traditionally refer to any entrance exam, taken for entry in the school year after they turn 11, as the Eleven Plus. Your child will take these exams sometime between September to January of their Year 6 schooling, when they are aged between 10—11. You should check with individual schools and Local Education Authorities for exact details of exam dates and test arrangements.

Explore Learning VR and NVR tests are designed for use by all children who are sitting school entrance exams, whether called 11-plus or not, whether for state, grammar or independent, who face a Verbal and Non Verbal Reasoning test as part of that process. 


How to practice at home over the school holidays

During the Summer Diego will keep practising how to solve VR and NVR questions as learnt from Explore Learning’s tutors using Bond Assessment papers which can be purchased in any bookshop or ebay.

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