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Ensure Entry Exam Success

Author: Jack Claridge - Updated: 17 September 2012 | commentsComment
Lea Grammar School 11+ The 11+ Exams

The first thing one should say about entry exams, from a parent's perspective, is don't panic! It may sound daunting to try and help your child achieve exam success but it really isn't as bad as it sounds.

Why Are Entry Exams Necessary?

If you are sending your child to a mainstream secondary school then as a general rule an entry exam is not required. As long as you follow the general guidelines, as suggested by us, for obtaining a place at a secondary school - and also having a list of alternative choices - the process should go smoothly.

However it's normally when you wish your child to be educated at grammar school level that an entry exam becomes necessary. This entry exam is referred to as the 11+.

The 11+ Exam

The 11+ examination is used by those local education authorities who have grammar schools within their catchment areas, as a means of selection. The results of these examinations are used by the LEA to determine who will be offered places at their chosen grammar schools, should the places be available.

It is worth noting at this point that although your child may score highly on this exam, they are not necessarily guaranteed a place at their chosen school, and this is simply because the number of places that are available may well be outweighed by the number of applicants.The exam itself normally covers four main areas

  • Verbal Reasoning - problem solving questions with numbers and words
  • Non-Verbal Reasoning - reasoning with shapes and patterns
  • English
  • Mathematics
This said, it is not guaranteed that all of these will appear within the examination itself, this is at the discretion of the LEA. As a result of time-tabling issues, logistics and budget restrictions, pupils will normally take two or three tests with at least one practice test in most LEA's.

Helping Your Child Achieve

The first thing to remember about these exams is that they are a measure of your child's ability to understand, remember and use the information before them to its best effect. In this way the 11+ is a valuable benchmark when it comes to making decisions as to which children are accepted for a particular school.

With this in mind, it is a good idea to set aside a set amount of time each day to spend with your child, going through what might be required of them in the examination. There are websites operated by LEAs, which allow you to download practice papers from previous years but which will include the style of questioning that is likely to appear in the forthcoming examination.

If you can print these examination papers off then try to go through them with your child in a manner that will make the process fun and evocative and not as much of a chore as sometimes homework can be.

For those people with the finances at their disposal to do so, a private tutor could be incorporated to help your child, and they will also give you some advice as to how to best help your child in their absence. But for the most part, as we know, it is not always possible to be able to pay for outside help. So with this in mind it is important that you and your child understand what may be required of them.

Speak to their current teachers, or head teacher, and ask about how the LEA makes their decisions regarding the exam results. Also, ask them how the curriculum your child is currently undertaking affects the 11+ examination.

It is also important to remember that coaching and practicing are two separate entities. Coaching is simply showing your child the best way to answer the questions on the paper, while practising, although perhaps sounding as though it is the same thing, is actually answering the questions and giving the best and most concise answer.

Don't Overload Your Child

It is also worth remembering the law of diminishing returns. The longer and harder you coach, and have your child practice, the less they will take onboard. Set out a number of scheduled practice sessions with your child lasting a set period of time and try to stay within this regime.

It has to be interesting and fun for your child, otherwise you will find their attention span will diminish considerably. This also has a knock on effect during the examination, because your child will see this as just another boring exercise, and may not apply themselves fully.

In conclusion, keep it fun, keep it informal and keep it to the point. Engage your child's mind and let them see that you are as much interested in them as you are in their ability to answer the questions and most importantly - don't set your goals too high.

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