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5 Top Tips for Preparing for 11+ Grammar School Entry

Preparation for grammar school entry can begin at any point from Year 3. We recommend that the latest you should start preparing is in Year 5. In this blog post, our partners, Atom Learning, share their top tips on how to prepare for the grammar school entrance tests.

1. When and how to gather the essential information

As each regional area has different requirements, we recommend that the first thing to do when considering a grammar school is to discover what their application process is. You should be able to discover the process from your local authority or the school you are applying to. You can also email us (enquiries@atomlearning.co.uk) for free advice and information on the application process for a particular school.

Schools can and do change this from year to year so please do your research in the year of application. It is also important to discover whether the school will be using CEM or GL as the exam board as they have different requirements. Hodder Education (formerly Galore Park) and Atom Learning are optimised to help with preparing for both exam boards.

Some grammar schools have one round of tests for 11+ entry, and some will have two rounds. Knowing the dates and timings of the tests is vital for successful preparation.

Once you have discovered what the format of the test is and which subjects it covers, you can begin to prepare for the test.

2. How do I structure my child’s preparation?

We recommend that you discuss with your child what preparation they will do, how you will help, and what timings this will take. It is important to get your child on-board and engaged with their preparation.

Atom’s suggestion is that you start with 30 minutes every other day with a total of 2 hours of practice per week. This should be adjusted to the needs of your child.

If you are using Atom Nucleus to help prepare, you will find the weekly ALP targets a great way to stay on target and track your child’s progress. Hodder Education’s (formerly Galore Park) 11+ revision guides, workbooks and practice papers will also be helpful.

3. Should I do practice tests?

Practice tests are a key feature of preparing your child for 11+ grammar school entrance exams. At the beginning of Year 5, we recommend that your child takes an Atom Nucleus or equivalent mock test in each of the subjects they will be tested in.

This will give you a benchmark grade to track their progress. Familiarisation with the type of questions that they may be faced with in the real test results in a significant increase in children’s scores.

Around six months before the test, we would recommend starting to set practice tests more frequently; around one test a week for each subject is ideal as your child will be completely accustomed to taking tests by the time they sit their official 11+ for grammar school entry.

Each school will have different rules for the ‘pass’ mark, so your child will need to achieve consistently high scores across the board.

4. What score should your child be aiming for?

At Atom Learning, we mark using a Standard-Age-Score (SAS). The SAS is calculated using the number of questions answered and the difficulty of the questions answered and is standardised against the age of the child. 

To be on the safe side for 11+ grammar school exams, we would recommend aiming for a score of 117+ on Atom Nucleus in each subject. This is equivalent to scoring ~127+ in the CAT4. The 10-point difference is due to the average score being higher in the demographic than Atom Learning tests.

The ‘pass’ mark can change each year so please do check with your target school for their criteria.

Atom SAS Scores: A Sample of Grammar Schools

  Average SAS Scores (2019)     Number of applicants
London (Barnet): Henrietta Barnett & QE for Boys  117+  6,000+
London (Kingston-Upon-Thames): Tiffin Girls & Tiffin Boys 116+  10,000+
Essex (11 schools) 110+ 6,000+
Buckinghamshire  (13 schools) 109+ 5,500+
Birmingham Consortium (8 schools) 108+ 5,000+
Kent County (32 schools) 108+ 15,000+

As you can see from the table above, the ‘pass mark’ will vary from school to school so if you want school-specific advice, please get in touch with Atom Learning directly.

5. What should my child focus on while preparing?

All grammar schools will expect your child to have a wide vocabulary, accurate spelling, and a firm grasp on mental maths and number relationships.

Once you know what your child’s 11+ grammar school entrance exam will examine, we recommend ensuring your child has a really good grounding in each subject and knows the Key Stage 2 curriculum inside-out. This usually involves English and maths and sometimes also verbal reasoning and non-verbal reasoning.

Consistent practice is the key! Your child will benefit from a little-but-often approach far more than a 6-hour block. Atom Learning will identify the areas your child needs extra support and provide you with data on where they are strongest. We’ll suggest and set targeted practice sessions for your child to ensure a thorough understanding is reached prior to their exam date.

We strongly encourage parents to remain involved with their child’s preparation throughout. You should discuss the exam with your child to ensure that any worries or fears are addressed early on. 

Ultimately, we recommend that your child does not become overwhelmed by their preparation as this will be counterproductive. You should keep an eye out and, if your child is struggling, take an active role in reassuring them and helping them by supervising short and frequent practices.

If you want further advice on how to prepare your child for the 11+ grammar school entrance exam, please do get in contact with Atom Learning.

Atom Learning's online, adaptive mock test area features more than 20,000 questions in English, maths, verbal and non-verbal reasoning. Its tests are underpinned by an algorithm that adapts to the individual student's level in the same way as real pre-tests. Questions set are in the style of the online pre-tests. Progress reports can then be viewed by parents and schools to identify areas which need improving. Outside of the mock test area, Atom offers useful revision tips to hone exam technique.

Parents receive a 10% Atom Learning discount when signing up to Atom Nucleus by quoting code: HODDEREDUCATION. Start your 5-day free Atom Learning trial now. Find out more at www.atomlearning.co.uk

We are proud to be partnered with Atom Learning to give you the most comprehensive school entry preparation programme available. 

Atom Nucleus provides students with industry-leading Key Stage 2 and early Key Stage 3 content, unlimited ISEB, 11+ and school-specific assessments and engaging lessons. It is best-used alongside Hodder Education's 11+ and Pre-Test revision resources, which teach the skills needed to answer Pre-Test questions.

Buy our revision resources online here.

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