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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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.

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.

Grammar, private and state schools. Do you know the difference?


grammar school versus state schoolsA few months ago a parent brought their son to my centre to get assessed. The parents wanted their 9 year old son to start preparing for grammar school but when I asked which grammar school they said the name of a private school. The family had friends living elsewhere in the country whose children were attending grammar school and because there aren’t any grammar schools in our county, they assumed that private school meant grammar school. It’s not the first time I’ve come across this situation so I think its time to write things out in black and white.

Every 11-year-old in primary school has the choice of going to either a state school, private school or grammar school. So let me list now the differences between the three types of schools:

State Schools

These are also known as comprehensive schools and the majority of UK children attend them. State schools are government-funded and any child between the ages of 11 and 16 can attend. Some state schools have a sixth form attached and therefore cater for children up to 18 years of age.

A state schools performance can vary from year to year. This information can be found out from school league tables which are published every year. A child may attend a top performing state school in year 7, but there is no guarantee that it will still be top when the child is in year 8 or year 11.

A top state school will be heavily over-subscribed and families will even move house to get their children a place.

Grammar Schools

Grammar schools are also government-funded but only children who pass their entrance exams can attend. These entrance exams are commonly known as the 11+ and are taken in year 6 (age 10/11). The exams can cover one or more of the following 4 areas: verbal reasoning, non-verbal reasoning, english and maths. The dates of the exams are set by the schools and children usually need to score 80% or more to pass the exams. Many parents start preparing their children for the 11+ exam as young as age 7.

Grammar school are highly selective and have a strong emphasis on academic achievement. The standards and expectations at grammar schools are high and it is for this reason that you will find many grammar schools at the top of national school league tables.

Private Schools

Private schools are not government-funded – although some private schools give bursaries and scholarships to a select number of students each year. Parents may choose to send their children to private schools because of the smaller class sizes. These children are more confident, driven and have access to a greater range of extra-curricular activities. Plus mixing with affluent families builds contacts and improves their chances of getting better jobs.

Given the choice, which type of school would you choose? For me, grammar schools win hands down, but to get my son into one of those he needs to be a child genius. I think I’ll let him decide.