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.

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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.

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.

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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.