How to prepare for English

eleven plus english prepatation advice listEleven plus English tests may include some or all these topics:

  • Comprehension
  • Spelling
  • Punctuation
  • Sentence structure
  • Grammar
  • Vocabulary
  • Literacy

In some areas, a writing test is set which is only marked and assessed if the child is a borderline pass/fail in their other tests. It is therefore helpful to ensure that you know which English topics are to be tested in your local exams so you can tailor preparation accordingly.

In addition to the highly recommended Chuckra Online Assessment Tool, Chuckra 11+ Online, which makes all of our Premium Tests (initial assessment tests, past mock papers and varied length practice papers) available and affordable to all, there is a multitude of free eleven plus English resources on such as sample papers from some Independent School or Common Entrance Sample Papers and past SATs papers which provide good practice for 11+ exams. We have also made recommendations of some other useful resources that are available to purchase in the Chuckra Online Shop which will enhance the 11 plus journey for parents, tutors and students.

You can jump straight to the list of Recommended 11+ Resources for English preparation, or continue reading for more detailed guidance on how to use these resources. The path of preparation outlined has helped thousands of students to pass their eleven plus exams.

If you have decided to send your child to an 11+ tutor, it is always worth checking whether the tutor knows about the 11+ resources recommended here, which of these resources they incorporate into their lessons and hence which resources you can use with your child to help them along the preparation path.

eleven plus english creative writing information and resourcesAssess Current Ability

The Initial Assessment of your child before they embark on any preparation is important to do, even if only to provide a record of your child’s ability at that stage so you can analyse their progress along the way. There are many aspects to take in to consideration when you assess a student’s current ability.

Master the Subject

Unlike VR and NVR, English is taught as part of the school curriculum and therefore your child should be familiar with many of the topics covered in the 11 Plus English exams. However, some children require more support than others when preparing for 11+ English. Try to identify the weaker areas and target them for extra practice.

The more practice a child completes for English, the better their mastery of this subject. This is best achieved by regular writing and the completion of comprehension, grammar and spelling exercises.


A comprehension exercise might ask questions based on a long or short passage (fiction or non-fiction) or simply a few lines from an advert. 

Apply a strategy to each comprehension exercise:

1. Read through the passage carefully twice.

2. Read the questions through but write nothing at this stage.

3. Read through the passage again to find clues in the text and highlight possible answers the questions.

4. Start answering the questions by referring back to the passage.

5. Use the marks available to indicate the length of your answer and the number of points to be made in order to gain full marks for a question (only applicable for standard format tests).


Learn how to spell some commonly misspelt words e.g. practise/practice, advice/advise, affect/effect. Learn the spellings and meanings of commonly used homophones e.g. stationary/stationery, oar/ore. Learn the basic spelling rules for making words plural, adding a prefix or suffix, words with double letters, common letter strings, words with silent letters and when forming new words (compound words, adverbs, adjectives etc.) Spellings require plenty of learning and practice.


You need to be confident using all the standard kinds of punctuation correctly and, in addition, some of the more advanced types e.g. ellipses, colons, semi-colons, brackets, hyphens, dashes. Practise punctuating sentence and paragraphs without any existing punctuation and also try to identify punctuation errors and omissions in other practice passages.

Sentence Structure

Sentence structure and grammar really go together as some of the same parts of English are being assessed. Learn how to structure sentences and use the different types e.g. simple, complex, compound. Ensure that you are able to write and identify the tense that is used with verbs and especially check that you know how to use ‘helping’ or auxiliary verbs (e.g. I was walking to the park).


Correct English grammar is needed to structure sentences in order to communicate clearly and effectively. There are grammar rules to learn, most of which you would have studied in school, such as the use of phrases, clauses, parts of speech (e.g. nouns, adverbs) etc. If you are taking an exam that includes a writing exercise you will need to demonstrate a good command of English grammar.


A large vocabulary is hugely beneficial when sitting English or verbal reasoning selective tests. 

  • Synonyms and Antonyms (similar and opposite meanings)
  • Gender words
  • Compound words
  • Diminutives
  • Definition of words
  • Alphabetical order
  • Positives, comparatives and superlatives

Creative writing

Writing is likely to be assessed by looking at the composition & style, grammar, punctuation, spellings, sentence structures, and vocabulary. It is essential to make a plan and allow sufficient time to check the work at the end. To help you prepare: practise writing in different styles e.g. to persuade, narrate, explain, describe etc. and practise story titles which tend to re-occur in 11+ exams.

Once your child is confident at tackling each of the English topics then move on to mixed practice papers (timed) and practise, practise, practise!

Many English 11+/grammar school exam papers are set by GL Assessment (formally Nfer Nelson) and these will take the form of either a standard or multiple-choice format. There are some schools that set their own exams but they will usually be broadly based on the above topic list.

Enhance Core Skills

Make sure to incorporate a selection of exercises and games to enhance core skills, throughout the preparation process, to help keep interest and motivation up.

Boost Exam Performance

An important aspect of entrance exam success is having the ability  to stay calm whilst working quickly AND accurately.

View our tips on how to Boost Exam Performance

Find out more about Mock Exam Days

Recommended 11+ resources for English

View the list of Recommended 11+ resources for English


Ten simple steps to help master the basics of English and make preparation effective.

Step 1:
 Take the English Initial Assessment Test which is part of the COAsT upgrade pack to help identify the English topic areas that require revision and practice.

Step 2: Improve your writing: Use Bond ‘The Secret of Writing’, ‘How to do 11+ English’ Booklets and/or AEP Creative Writing Workbooks, and work through the exercises that practise how to plan stories and write effectively for the different styles of writing. Complete some timed writing tasks for practice. Another good resource for helpful writing advice is the Coordination Group Publisher’s ‘Key Stage 2 English – The Study Guide’.

Step 3: Practise comprehension exercises by looking at the different kinds of questions that are asked and how to best answer them. Complete some practice comprehensions. The comprehension question types can be found in Bond ‘How to do 11+ English’ and Bond ‘The Secrets of Comprehension’.

Step 4: Revise, learn, identify and use the parts of a sentence e.g. nouns, pronouns, adverbs, prepositions etc. so that you can identify the types of words used in a given sentence. Use Bond ‘How to do 11+ English’.

Step 5: Revise and learn all commonly used punctuation marks and extend this to the use of some more advanced punctuation, such as: colons, semi-colons, hyphens & dashes, ellipses and brackets. Use Bond ‘How to do11+ English’ and Coordination Group Publishers ‘Key Stage 2 English – The Study Guide’

Step 6: Practise spellings: awkward/confusing spellings and homophones. A useful resource is the AEP Spelling and Vocabulary Workbooks.

Step 7: Try some of the extension level English practice resources by Bond – Assessment Papers and 10 mins Tests and Letts Success Assessment Papers – English 10-11 Years

Step 8: Make sure to incorporate a selection of exercises and games to enhance core skills throughout the preparation process to help keep interest and motivation up. For example: crosswords; wordsearches; Scrabble and Boggle games and others that involve word use; Chuckra 11+ playing cards; listen to story CD’s together; read poems; read selected magazines and stories.

Step 9: Move onto Boost Exam Performance. Try some timed practice tests e.g. Chuckra Past English mock Test papers (available on COAsT with an upgrade) & GL Assessment Papers.

Step 10: Attend a Chuckra Mock Test Day near you to help overcome exam day nerves before the big day.

Use Assessment Papers and Practice tests regularly. It is a good idea to gain some exposure to a variety of publishers and to ensure your child is confident completing written tests. There are recommended resources for English in the Chuckra on-line shop and these include practice tests which you complete off-line. Include tests from a variety of other publishers, such as GL Assessment English Test packs (multiple-choice) and Letts and/or Bond English11+ Practice Tests. Do ensure that you buy either the standard or the multiple-choice format that is tested in your local area.

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