4 Key Strategies To Help Your Child With The 11 Plus


Is your child sitting the 11 plus this year? Are you feeling overwhelmed by your child’s forthcoming 11 plus exams? Here are key tips to help your child prepare.

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Helping Your Child With The 11 Plus

There is a growing trend in my town. Since starting my education centre 12 years ago, I have seen an exponential increase in children applying to get a place in grammar school. Grammar schools have grown in popularity since the last recession and parents are now more aware of school standards.

The thought is “if I can’t afford to send my child to a private school, I’ll send him to a grammar school even if it is 30 miles away”.

1.  Don’t Start Too Late

Cramming for exams doesn’t work and it’s a short-term solution. You should start preparation at least one year before the exam so ideally at the start of year 5. If you leave it too late it will build unnecessary pressure on you and your child. I find that children who start early also adopt a good work ethic. They get into the habit of regular daily study on top of their school work and these skills will be invaluable at grammar school.

2.  Build a Good Foundation

Grammar schools take the top 5% of students.  For a child to have a good chance of passing the 11 plus exam, I recommend that the child should be in the top set and the top table in both English and Maths.  This alone is not enough, children must be keen readers.  Reading improves vocabulary and general knowledge.  General knowledge cannot be learnt by reading an encyclopaedia, rather it is learnt through experience or through reading around the subject.

3. Involve Your Child In Every Step

A child who is included in decision-making will be more willing to put the work in. It reduces the burden for you too.

  • looking at the websites of all the grammar schools you want to see

  • going to school open days

  • choosing the grammar school

  • knowing what is going to come up the exams – is it just verbal reasoning or is it more?

  • taking charge of preparation; your child should be organised and know what to revise

  • teach your child to mark the practice questions and tests

  • teach your child to monitor and record scores

4. Use a Variety of Resources

Use books. The popular books are by Bond, CGP and  Letts.

Use worksheets. You can download practice questions by searching “practice 11 plus worksheets”. Worksheets are better in some ways because once you have downloaded them, you can print them as many times as you need.

Use online sites. Online sites like 11plus.co.uk provide online practice tests and exercises and also do mock tests.   Wordbuilder is an excellent site for vocabulary practice.

Use practice papers. When doing practice tests, first focus on ensuring that your child answers every question without a time limit. Work on accuracy and technique and let your child familiarise themselves with the different question types.  You don’t want your child reading the instructions on how to answer each question in an exam situation, they should just start working it out. After that you can start doing practice tests under timed conditions.

Play games and puzzles. This blog article talks about how you can still practice verbal reasoning skills to keep your child interested.

Experts say that you cannot prepare a child for grammar school because they either have it or they don’t. I’m not here to argue that point, I’m just here to help you help your child. Whether they get into grammar school or not, it’s the journey that matters more than the outcome.

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Brain Active Summer School – Kip McGrath Luton Summer School 2014


Are you looking for ideas for the summer holiday?

Are you worried about your child sitting the 11+ exam in September?

Does your child lack confidence/ need to catch up/ forget what they have learnt too easily?

WE CAN HELPsummer school

The Kip McGrath Luton South summer school has successfully helped students aged 4 – 16 to:

  • Bridge the gap when going into a new school year, moving from primary to secondary or nursery to reception

  • Help children catch up if they have fallen behind at school

  • Learn how to revise, study and prepare for GCSE exams effectively

  • Prepare for the Buckinghamshire (and other counties) 11+ exams in September

  • Build confidence and enjoy learning

  • Be one step ahead when they start the new school year

When a child starts school in September after a 6 week summer break, teachers have to help them catch up on all the work they have forgotten. Most teachers will tell you that this is called “THE SUMMER BRAIN DRAIN”.   But this can be avoided by enrolling your child on our summer school.

The sessions are in the mornings from 10.00 am, so it still leaves the rest of the day to enjoy the summer.  There are only 20 places available, so book now.

Book Now

summer school 2014

5 Minute Verbal Reasoning Activities


A large part of the 11 plus verbal reasoning tests is vocabulary knowledge.  And most parents will be familiar with the Bond 11 plus practice books and thousands of online resources you can print out. However, children can get bored and frustrated with doing just these.

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So I have compiled a list of 5 minute activities that children can do to practice their verbal reasoning vocabulary.  Perfect for children struggling with concentration and to make it more interesting.  I regularly create games and short, sharp activities for the children to do at my centre and they don’t even realise that they are studying.  So have a go and see for yourself.  But if you haven’t got the time or struggle to explain things simply to your child, let us do the work for you.  Book your child for a free assessment and let us take care of things.

Children need to know the meanings of the words, their opposites, whether they are nouns, verbs or adjectives, and in some cases the multiple meanings of the words.

First of all you need to have a list of the most commonly used words.  You can get them from here.

Make these into flash cards and print them out on card.  You can get flashcard templates off the internet, but I like to use Quizlet to make flash cards.  It’s so simple.  All you do is cut and paste the words into the flash card set wizard and it generates them for you.

Take any set of 10 words and then try the following:

Alphabetical Order

Practicing using the alphabet is essential for verbal reasoning.  If a child knows that there are 3 letters between “m” and “p”, then it’s quicker than working it out.

Put the words into alphabetical order.

Put the words in reverse alphabetical order.

To make it more difficult, pick words beginning with the same letter and then put them in alphabetical order.

Write Synonyms

A synonym is another word with a similar meaning.  This may not be possible for all words.  When your child first does this, allow them to use a thesaurus (online is acceptable as well) and choose the synonym that they are most familiar with.  I taught a child once who was looking up synonyms for the word “rich”.  He chose the word “prosperous”, but a week later, he couldn’t tell me what the word “prosperous” meant.

Start of by choosing just one synonym, then build up to maximum 5 per word.  As your child gets familiar with the word list, get them to choose synonyms from the word list.  For example “oppose” and “contest” are synonyms and both are in the list.

Write Antonyms

Antonyms are opposites.  Again you can allow the use of a thesaurus and as with synonyms, make sure your child knows the meaning of the antonym they choose.  Start off with one antonyms and build up to a maximum 5.  Try to get your child to choose antonyms from the word list.

Write Sentences

Sentence writing helps children to understand the meaning of the word.  The sentence must make sense and use the word in he correct way.  This is especially so for words with multiple meanings.  For example the word “permit” has 2 meanings.  The child must write a sentence using both meanings.  the sentence must also illustrate the meaning of the word.  So writing “I got a permit” is not enough.  Writing “I got a permit to go and work in America” is better.

the verbal reasoning type 8 questions requires the child to find hidden words in a sentence.  Once your child has written the sentence, see if they find any hidden 4 letter words in it.

Make Smaller Words

For each word, make smaller words from the letters in the word.

Start with making as many 2 letter words as possible

Then build up to making bigger words.

Nouns, Verb or Adjective

Sort the words into either noun verb or adjective.  Some of the words may go into more than one category.  This is a great exercise for grammar skills.  With nouns, you can go further and categorise them into abstract, proper or common nouns.

Use Quizlet

Quizlet is a free website providing learning tools for students, including flashcards, study and game modes.

You start by creating your own study sets with terms and definitions.

Next, you can add images, copy and paste from another source, or use Quizlet’s built-in auto-define feature to speed up the creating process.

Track your progress with 6 powerful study and game modes!

Flashcards—Review your material, shuffle/randomize, or listen with audio.

Learn—Track your correct/incorrect answers and retest the ones you’ve missed.

SpellerType what you hear in this audio-powered study mode.

Test—Randomly generate tests based on your flashcard set.

Scatter—Race against the clock to drag and match terms/definitions.

Space Race—Type in the answer as terms/definitions scroll across the screen.

Compound Words

Compound words are words made up of two words joined together.  Here is a list of compound words and some suggested activities to try.  They come up in verbal reasoning type 11 questions.  

You can also take any group of 10 words from the word list, and try to break each one down into compound words.

My previous post called “4 Games to Help With Verbal Reasoning” can also be used to improve verbal reasoning skills.

Fast Track To Success – Kip McGrath Summer School 2013


When a child starts school in September after a 6 week summer break, I have to spend at least a couple of lessons going over work they should know.  Sometimes I have to go down a level of work because the child has forgotten the basics.  Most teachers will tell you that this is called “THE SUMMER BRAIN DRAIN”.

Children have too much time on their hands during the summer and they forget some of what they learn during the school year.  Avoiding this can save time, and for children who have exams coming up, this can be the difference between a pass and a fail.  Academic summer schools can help, as long as the work is tailored to your child’s needs and they have a target to aim for.

How To Avoid the Summer Brain Drain

Past experience has taught us that parents want a more structured approach to their children’s summer learning.  They want to see proof of progress.  Parents want to take advantage of the free time available during summer and are looking for more than just a child care provider.

The Kip McGrath Luton Summer School will run every Tuesday and Wednesday in August from the 6th August 2012 to the 28th August 2012.  Classes are from 10.00 am with lesson durations of either 1 hour 20 minutes, 2 hours or 3 hours.

This year, the format of these classes will be the same format as normal term time Kip lessons, but with a little added extra to cater for your child’s needs.

We will be running specialist workshops in the following areas, so when booking your child’s place, please specify which workshop you would like to enrol your child on.

To enrol your child or for more info, please call Dr Samina Rashid on 01582 402225 or fill in our online form for a free assessment.

If you are a new student we can offer you a free assessment to pinpoint your child’s learning needs and design an individual programme of work to target their areas of need over the summer months.

11+ and Common Entrance

The 11+ exams for Buckinghamshire will be brought forward to early September 2013.  Common entrance exams for private schools will be in either December 2013 or January 2014 depending on which school your child will be going to.

Kip McGrath Luton will be offering intensive summer workshops in 11+ and the common entrance exam. The workshops will familiarise the students with all the types of questions and teach them strategies and techniques to raise their chances for success. Children will be tested before and after the workshop to monitor progress.  It is recommended that children attend the Tuesday and Wednesday classes for this programme.  We will cover:

  • verbal reasoning

  • non-verbal reasoning

  • English

  • numerical reasoning/Maths

Example questions in the new 11 + tests can be found here.

GCSE Maths

Many schools enter all year 11 children for early entry GCSE English and Maths exams in the November before they leave school.  This means that when children start year 11 in September, they have just less than 2 months in which to prepare for the exam.  Children (and parents) panic when they realise this and often it is too late to get help. Please my blog post on this topic to get a more in-depth view.

The summer break is an ideal time to work on key skills needed to pass exams.  After the initial assessment on your child’s academic ability, we will design a unique programme for your child to follow.  This means that we will work on your child’s weaknesses and gradually tailor the programme so that they are working at a level above their expectations.

Students need to know what the best revision strategies are. Effective revision methods like using mind maps, flash cards, colour coding and using practice questions are taught hand in hand with subject knowledge so that your child can see which ones work the best for them.

All too often children lose valuable marks in exams because they have mis-read the question or not answered it fully. Students on this workshop will learn how to read exam questions properly, how to understand the language of exam questions, how to keep track of time, how to judge the difficulty of a question and how to tackle exam nerves.

Spoken English

The speaking and listening unit in English is often overlooked and teachers will focus more on the writing and reading units.  In this workshop every student will learn to improve their speaking and listening skills and apply them to their english lessons at school as well as their daily life.  Improving speaking and listening reinforces and extend children’s developing reading and writing skills.

  • Students will prepare and present a 10 minute presentation on a subject of their choice.

  • Students will learn how to recite a poem

  • Students will lead discussions and debates

  • Students will read with expression, a chapter from a book of their choice

We teach the students about:

  • maintaining a physical presence through effective body language and eye contact

  • having a clear voice with effective use of volume, pace, rhythm and intonation

  • using dramatic appropriateness for different activities

  • engaging the audience

Creative Writing and Essay Writing

This workshop will encourage students to tap into their natural creativity and imagination.  Students learn how to express themselves and tell engaging stories, while picking up good writing habits for a lifetime.

Essay writing is an essential skill for senior secondary and tertiary students.  Kip McGrath’s popular Essay Writing workshop covers all the essential essay writing skills from analysing the question to editing the final draft.

Our in depth and comprehensive essay writing workshop covers common areas of weakness in student essay writing including:

  • Not answering the question – learn how to analyse the question, plan a well structured answer and write a proper opening and concluding paragraph

  • Poor opening argument and essay structure – learn the features of a good thesis, develop skills in analytical reading, presenting a balanced argument, supporting that argument.

  • Editorial writing – learn how to advocate a specific point of view and write a convincing and clear argument

  • Exam essay writing – learn how to write a clear, concise and well structured answer within a time limit.

  • Speech writing – learn how to write an essay designed to be spoken, understand the key elements to successful speech writing, learn how to deliver and present a speech

Taught by qualified English teachers this Essay Writing workshop will give senior students the skills and confidence they need to approach the rigours of both assignments and exams with confidence.

Science

Our science classes always have a practical activity followed by activities to explain the science behind them.  Students will learn to use scientific terminology in their lives and apply the science they have learnt to their own experiences.  The classes are packed full of information covering the national curriculum, but with plenty of opportunity to have discussions and ask questions.

We also cover exam technique and revision methods in this workshop.  The new GCSE has “6 mark questions”, which require a good understanding of the topic but also the ability to understand what the examiner is looking for.  For students doing triple science at GCSE or the Higher paper, we teach them how to approach these type of questions effectively.

Get Ready For School and Little Learners

The transition from pre-school to more formal learning is a significant one for children. It can affect their interest, motivation at school and their future school success. Kip McGrath’s specialised Get Ready for School programme is a gentle introduction to learning which aids the smooth transition from pre-school to “big” school.

Our Get Ready for School programme is an essential for parents who want to ensure the initial school experience is a positive one for their child.

The programme includes activities that promote both learning concepts and school readiness skills.

  • Alphabet

  • Counting

  • Recognising letter sounds and names

  • Writing letter sounds and names

  • Shape Recognition

  • Number Recognition

  • Identifying colours

  • Visual Discrimination

  • Memory Skills

  • Learning behaviours

  • Fine motor skills

  • Hand & Eye Coordination

  • Writing one’s name

  • Pencil grip

Course Highlights

  • Fun and stress free learning

  • Carefully structured course introduces new concepts each lesson and revises previous concepts.

  • Build children’s confidence in their ability to learn and interact in a learning environment

  • Reduce the stress of the initial formal schooling experience

Little Learners

Little Learners education programme for nearly new school children.

Develop a love of learning in your child from the start of school years. Help your child transition from Kindergarten to Year 1 and improve the chances of school success.         Little Learners focuses on building the foundations of literacy and numeracy by engaging children in a variety of structured, yet fun learning activities.

How will your child benefit?

Develop, improve and reinforce learning in:

  • Basic reading including phonemic awareness

  • Comprehension

  • Alphabet and counting

  • Addition and subtraction

  • Number recognition

    Kip McGrath Luton Summer School
    Kip McGrath Luton Summer School

Fast Track to Success – Kip McGrath Luton Summer School 2012


Click here for the 2014 Summer School Programme.

When a child starts school in September after a 6 week summer break, I have to spend at least a couple of lessons going over work they should know.  Sometimes I have to go down a level of work because the child has forgotten the basics.  Most teachers will tell you that this is called “THE SUMMER BRAIN DRAIN“.

Children have too much time on their hands during the summer and they forget some of what they learn during the school year.  Avoiding this can save time, and for children who have exams coming up, this can be the difference between a pass and a fail.  Academic summer schools can help, as long as the work is tailored to your child’s needs and they have a target to aim for.

How To Avoid the Summer Brain Drain

Past experience has taught us that parents want a more structured approach to their children’s summer learning.  They want to see proof of progress.  Parents want to take advantage of the free time available during summer and are looking for more than just a child care provider.

The Kip McGrath Luton Summer School will run every Tuesday and Wednesday in August from the 1st August 2012 to the 29th August 2012.  Classes are from 10.00 am.  This year, the format of these 2 hour classes will be the same format as normal term time Kip lessons, but with a little added extra to cater for your child’s specific needs.

The three programmes that will be running are the 11+ and Common Entrance Programme, the GCSE Maths and English Programme and the Kip Summer Booster Programme.

To enrol your child or for more info, please call Dr Samina Rashid on 01582 402225 or fill in the online form at the end of this article.

If you are a new student we can offer you a free assessment to pinpoint your child’s learning needs and design an individual programme of work to target their areas of need over the summer months.

The 11+ and Common Entrance Programme

The 11+ exams will be in November 2012 and common entrance exams will be in either December 2012 or January 2013 depending on which school your child will be going to.

Kip McGrath Luton will be offering intensive summer courses in 11+. The courses will familiarise the students with all the types of questions and teach them strategies and techniques to raise their chances for success. Children will be tested before and after the course to monitor progress.  It is recommended that children attend the Tuesday and Wednesday classes for this programme.  We will cover:

  • verbal reasoning

  • non-verbal reasoning

  • English

  • maths

GCSE Maths and English Programme

This programme is open to all year 10 and 11 students and any year 9 students who are sitting their exams early.  Many schools enter all year 11 children for early entry GCSE English and Maths exams in the November before they leave school.  This means that when children start year 11 in September, they have just less than 2 months in which to prepare for the exam.  Children (and parents) panic when they realise this and often it is too late to get help. Please my blog post on this topic to get a more in-depth view.

The summer break is an ideal time to work on key skills needed to pass exams.  As well the academic content of the GCSE subjects, we will also teach your child how to answer exam questions and how to revise.  All too often children lose valuable marks in exams because they have mis-read the question or not answered it fully.  Some children need to be taught how to revise and we will teach them different ways in which they can remember what they have learnt.

Summer Booster Programme

This is our most popular programme designed to give your child that extra boost before going into the next academic year.  All children from age 5 to 16 can attend.  The added extra options are:

    • spoken English

    • science

    • essay writing

To enrol your child or for more info, please call Dr Samina Rashid on 01582 402225 or fill in the online form below.

If you are a new student we can offer you a free assessment to pinpoint your child’s learning needs and design an individual programme of work to target their areas of need over the summer months.

6 Ways to Improve Your Child’s Vocabulary


Vocabulary building is a fundamental skill in english, as it improves reading comprehension, spoken english and written expression.  Learning vocabulary is not just a matter of looking up the meaning of a word in a dictionary, but a more complex skill that is learnt through seeing and using the word in a variety of ways.  Multiple exposure to the word in different situations and using different learning methods can help with vocabulary development.  A good vocabulary is also important in the 11+ exam and should therefore be started early.

The inspiration from this post came from a comprehension exercise that I was doing with one of my students.  The word “harmless” came up and I had to try more than one way of explaining it to her.  I learned that later she used the word “harmless” to describe herself and “harmful” to describe her little sister in a conversation with her mum.

It was ...

Here are 6 ways to improve vocabulary….

1.  Using Visual Props

  • Draw a picture to show the meaning of the word.

  • Make flash cards with the word on one side and the meaning on the other

  • Download and print pictures or photos of the word

  • Use WORDLE.NET to create word clouds.  Just type words with the same meaning and it generates a word cloud.  This example is all the words which mean “yummy”.

Wordle: Other words for delicious

2.  Acting Out

  • Write down 10 words on flash cards.  Get the child to pick a card and act out the meaning of the word without talking. You can print your own flashcards on Quizlet.

  • You can use props to help you.  I have a cuddly teddy in my classroom because the word “affection” is on our vocabulary list.  So to illustrate “affection”, I cuddle the toy.

3. Traditional Methods

  • Look up the word in a dictionary, or online at dictionary.com

  • find synonyms in a thesaurus, o r oline at thesaurus.com

  • use the word in a sentence

  • describe the word in a sentence

  • find the opposite of the word and explaining the meaning of the opposite word

  • Make the word longer by adding prefixes or suffixes

  • create vocabulary word lists for common words.  I have a collection on my Pinterest.

4.  Vocab Games

  • Matching game – make flash cards

type 1 – 10 vocab words to learn

type 2 – 10 definitions of each word

type 3 – 10 synonyms of each word

type 4 – 10 opposites to each word

Match type 1  to type 2, match type 1 to type 3 or type 1 to type 4.  There are a total of 12 different types of combinations you can try.  Once you’ve mastered 2 combinations, then try to match 3 sets of cards, and then all 4 sets of cards.

  • Online websites

this one called vocabulary.com is really good for older children (age 12 and above)

  • pictionary

parent draws a picture to represent a word, child tries to guess the word

child draws the picture and parent guesses

  • topic words

This game is useful for reinforcing key words  or technical language

Time your child for one minute and see how many words they can come up with related to a particular topic.  You can type the words in wordle.net and generate a word cloud. This one was created from the key words from “Of Mice and Men” by John Steinbeck. Wordle: of mice and men keywords

5.  Practice and Use

Provide opportunities for your child to use new words and to practice using them in games like crosswords.  Also, use the words in a conversation with your child and try variations of the word, like adding a prefix or suffix to it.

6. Visual Thesaurus

Finally I will leave you with a website recommendation called “Visual Thesaurus” which is an excellent resource for vocab building.

4 Games to Help With Verbal Reasoning


If you are helping your child prepare for the 11+ verbal reasoning tests, then try the following games to put in a bit of fun into your schedule.  Your child won’t even realise that they are learning skills to pass the 11+ exam.

1. Challenging crosswords – give children exposure to lots of words and therefore can improve spellings.  They encourage children to use dictionaries and encyclopaedia’s but with the added benefit of being fun.  You can play online here.

2. Suduko is a number puzzle game that children as young as 5 can do.  For younger children you can make up grids similar to these.  Sudoku improves analytical thinking in children, it teaches them elimination and logical thinking.

3. Scrabble – increases the vocabulary of a child. It teaches spelling skills to children.  It enhances the mathematical skills in a child and shows us how adding one new letter can change a word or the entire meaning of a word.  It helps develop critical thinking and teaches problem solving skills.  It helps in developing an improved memory and concentration.  Here’s a great website for playing Scrabble online.

I use scrabble tiles to help children with anagram type questions.  Start with giving the child just 3 tiles (one must be a vowel) and ask to make as many words as possible.  Then move up to 4 tiles and so on.  Children need to be taught how to work out new words in a systematic way rather than just randomly putting the letters in order to see if they make sense.  This skill of doing things logically and in sequence is a fundamental skill for verbal reasoning questions.

4. Chess – Chess is one of the best games that will make children  think of different strategies to achieve victory.  It improves concentration and memory and teaches children how to solve problems.  Research has shown that it significantly improve mathematical ability.  Please read this article for more benefits.

But if you haven’t got the time or struggle to explain things simply to your child, let us do the work for you.  Book your child for a free assessment and let us take care of things.