11+ exams – a full guide for parents on how to prepare their child


If the thought of sending your children to independent schools or grammar schools has crossed your mind then you may have already started hearing several references to the 11+ exams.

This article will help you get to grips with the basics of the 11+ exams as we aim to answer frequently asked questions that parents ask.

As a starting point, you should be aware of when any 11+ exams in schools you may apply to take place and that the school is operating to a high standard. Ensure you check the most recent inspection report.

What are the 11+ exams?

The 11+ exams refer to a selective entrance examination for secondary schools. These are used by both state-funded grammar schools and several different private schools. These aid in identifying able academic children.

The exams take place during the academic year for Year 6 pupils, although many are in January and February.

What do the 11+ exams test?

What children are tested on can vary in different parts of the country and even from school to school but many will have exams on the following:

Non-verbal reasoning

Verbal reasoning



While it is easy to coach for English and mathematics tests, it is important to be wary that this is trickier for non-verbal and verbal reasoning as these test a child’s ‘natural’ intelligence.

Does my child have to take 11+ exams?

The 11+ exams are not compulsory. It entirely depends on you and if you decide for your child to apply to a state grammar or private school.

In some counties like Buckinghamshire, children are automatically registered for a Transfer Test (previously known as the 11+ exams) and this exam is to check whether they are of grammar school ability.

If you are not sure about the registration process is in your area, check your local authority website.

How would I know if the 11+ exams are perfect for my children?

The 11+ exams are created and designed to get children that excel academically into a grammar or private school that will offer them a great next step in their education. Consider the below:

Do you have a child that has an academic gift?

Are their reports properly above average?

Are their results above average from their SATs/CATs/PIEs/PIMs or any other system which the primary school makes use of?

Speak to your child’s teacher – do they feel your child would achieve highly on 11+ exams?

How can I, as a parent, prepare my children for the 11+ exams?

Before you start preparing your child for the exams, be aware that they may feel daunted by the process. In the first instance, you should look for all available information about the 11+ exams in your area. Next consider how you will prepare – how often will your child need to commit to practicing? Do you have practice papers you can access and print? Will you require a tutor? Make a plan and stick to it.

Places to get great sources of information

Information on the 11+ exams can be sourced from the following outlets;

  1. Websites of schools you want to apply to
  2. Your local authority website

Essential Guides to the 11+ exams

You may have just started looking and researching your child’s options for secondary school. The following guides discuss what parents need to know in preparing their children for the 11+ exams:

1. Free Bond 11+ Starter Pack
If you are in doubt as to whether the 11+ exams are best for your child or you have not registered with your local grammar school, this pack has many resources for you to take a flick through.

2. Bond Placement Test
You could use this test to fully establish your child’s weaknesses and strengths in English, non-verbal reasoning, verbal reasoning, and mathematics.

3. Ten minutes tests
Using these allow you to develop and test your child’s skills all across four 11+ subjects in bitesize chunks.

4. Parents’ guide to the 11+ exams
This has the essentials for every parent to understand what their child will need during the 11+ process and is written by experienced 11+ exams tutors.
You can fully understand what the 11+ exams are all about using the information on covered subjects and tested skills too.
You can also assess your children using tests which will give you a good overview of where your child is at in terms of ability. Get prepared for the examination using step-by-step plans as strategies, plus many tips are included to help motivate your child.
You can also manage the post-exam process as what happens next is explained too.

Now you have a full guide and some resources on various ways you can prepare your child for the 11+ exams. Ensure you are well-equipped to navigate and support your child through the process to alleviate that sense of pressure. The exams can prove challenging but with the right amount of guidance and preparation, your child can thrive. This is why girls from Falcons Girls succeed year-on-year, with the right balance of academic rigour and co-curricular opportunities. Ensuring the children also have enough time to engage in creative and sporting endeavours is important to ensure our children are active, confident, and ready to pass these 11+ exams when they arrive.

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