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Now is the time to start preparing for the 11+ exam

Aug 13, 2013

On September 21st 2013, Year 6 children across Essex will be sitting their 11 exam; a highly competitive test in which more than 800 pupils per selective school competes for a limited number of places available in each Grammar School which are part of the consortium of selective schools in Essex (CSSE).

Three tests form the selection process – a Verbal Reasoning test (50%), Mathematics test (25%) and English test (25%), which are devised by the CSSE. Each test is highly demanding and has strict time limits. Successful pupils will have excellent academic skills in Literacy, Numeracy, Comprehension and Reasoning. Often they will display a reading and spelling age of at least two years above their actual age and yet this still doesn't guarantee success as gifted children from across the county are all competing for the same places, many of whom have regular tuition or attend private school in which 11 exam preparation is covered as part of the curriculum. 

Director of Kip McGrath Education Centre, Brentwood, Schalk Meyer explains: “The format and demand for the state grammar schools has changed and increased considerably over the last two to three decades, and the biggest changes are probably taking place now!  In the current financial climate more parents understand the importance of their child’s academic success, which increase the demand for sought after grammar schools each year. Transport and travel are a lesser influence and it is not uncommon for students to travel an hour by train to reach the grammar school of their choice.”

Am I too late to give my child the best start?

It goes without saying that a lot will depend on your child's natural ability; however, professional tuition is going to make a huge difference to your child's academic life and development. Based near Brentwood, Kip McGrath Education Centre provides trained and qualified teachers who understand the 11 curriculum and have the knowledge and experience to teach pupils both effectively and to the highest level.  

It is unfortunate that some first time parents leave preparation too late, waiting instead for their school to raise the option of sitting the 11 exam. Only the students with the highest average percentages will receive a place in their chosen grammar school, leaving many gifted children unsuccessful. Parents often enrol their Year 2 and 3 children to start working towards the 11 standard; however, the ideal time for your child is in Year 3 or about to go into Year 4, which allows enough time to start steady and focused exam preparation. This will give them two years to get ready for the exam (taken in September year 6) making sure that they are not under unrealistic pressure and have plenty of stress-free practise, working at their own pace to conquer higher level Maths, English and Verbal Reasoning.

If you have a child going in to year 5 now, it is crucial that they start to prepare now for the 11 . They will need to have competed all of the Key Stage 2 curriculum by the beginning of year 6 and some of the maths included in the exam – such as Algebra equations and Geometry – is work reflected at Secondary School, so may not have even been covered at primary level.

So why the need for tuition?

Whilst your child should demonstrate academic talent and a natural love of learning, it stands to reason that extra tuition will always be beneficial; after all, even the most gifted athletes need to continually train to remain at the top!

“Private schools have Verbal Reasoning as a subject in school each week from Year 3,” says Schalk. “The Verbal Reasoning counts for 50% of the total assessment. State schools don’t do it, so the children from private schools already have a head start. The majority of the children sitting the 11 (including those from private schools) have had tuition.”

“The increase in demand unfortunately forces the CSSE (Consortium for Selective Schools in Essex) to increase the standard of the papers each year. As the Consortium write their own Maths and English papers and outsource the Verbal Reasoning, they have the flexibility to bring in new topics annually to ensure only the most able AND best prepared students get a place. Without a tutor who specialises in the 11 and keeps track of the changes, re-adjusting the focus where appropriate, your child has a lesser chance of being successful. 

“The 1999/2000 entrance papers were a walk in the park compared with the standards set in the last three years.  Having a tutor dozing next to your child, while he/she works through stacks of “off the shelf” 11 books has long ceased to be adequate! Preparing for the 11 is not a beneficial option any more, it is an absolute necessity! 

“When our successful students drop by with a thank you card and a beaming smile, telling us that they were the only ones in their school to have received a grammar school offer, I catch the parents’ eyes and nod: 'They made the right choice'.”

What about CCHS?

Please note that Chelmsford County High School for Girls (CCHS) is no longer taking part in CSSE testing arrangements for 2014; however, although its new CEM (Centre for Evaluation and Monitoring) 11 exam is designed to more accurately identify pupils who will be best suited to a grammar school environment, both tests will contain many of the same elements.

Kip McGrath can do a great deal to help pupils develop core skills such as English, Mathematical Reasoning, Verbal Reasoning and Non-verbal Reasoning. If your daughter is thinking of applying to CCHS, please let your tutor at Kip McGrath Education Centre know and lessons will be tailored to suit.

Want to find out more?

Last year, Kip McGrath Education Centre near Brentwood had really good results, with six of their girls gaining entry to Chelmsford County High School for Girls and six boys receiving places for King Edward Boys Grammar School.  Many more were successful in Grammar Schools elsewhere in the county as well a bag full of scholarships for the Brentwood Private School.

Kip McGrath offers a free assessment which will provide honest feedback on whether your child is able to cope with the course and if your child has a realistic chance of passing the 11 exam. Please visit the tuition specialist'sthebestof Brentwood feature for further information and relevant contact details.

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