It is relatively easy to succumb to peer pressure at the school gate when the topic of discussion arises about the pros and cons of intense tuition at a very early age in order to provide a ‘sure pass’ in 11+ exams. Should all parents turn into ‘Tiger Mums or Dads’, or tutors start giving masses of extra daily homework drills?
Many tutors receive enquiries from worried parents whose children are as young as six or seven, and they can be much younger. This has been fuelled a little by the increase of the so-called ‘four-plus’ entrance exams for a few selective schools. Places in the infant & then junior departments of these selective schools can sometimes guarantee a place in the prestigious senior schools. Some children undoubtedly require a little extra help and practice in Maths and Literacy at this stage if they have been a little slow to grasp new concepts and skills. This is very different from ‘hothousing’ with the sole intention of ensuring the child secures a place at a good school in 3 or 4 years’ time. Is it possible to clearly ascertain if a child has the necessary aptitude and abilities in Year 3?
So when is the best time to start 11+ preparation? An easy answer would be ‘it depends on the individual child’ but it may be helpful to have a few general guidelines. It is also worth noting that, although it is not a recommended approach, late preparation could make a difference to exam marks, but it will also greatly exacerbate the stress level in both parent and pupil. This is due to the usual exam nerves and the greater effort and time required for cramming, all of which may be in addition to the move to Year 6 with increased homework.
It is better to have a planned strategy whether you teach your own child or employ a specialist tutor. Many children start their 11+ preparation a year in advance, at the start of Year 5 and this is normally quite sufficient to learn new skills and then practise them by completing timed tests later on in the year. A little daily practice is preferable from long periods of intense work. Launching straight into lots of practice tests in Year 4 or the start of 11+ preparation can be counter-productive and may hinder progress as predictably, low marks are achieved. A useful plan is to consolidate Maths and Literacy skills in Year 4 and gradually introduce Non-Verbal and Verbal Reasoning skills in a non-demanding enjoyable way. Then you can plan to step up a gear as the child enters Year 5.
In summary, the aim of doing extra work on core skills required for numerical, verbal or non-verbal reasoning should be to develop strong thinking skills which will benefit a student in many ways as they progress through school. If the extra work is too stressful, the benefit is likely to be lost. Start sooner rather than later, so you can keep the process of learning and challenging the mind an enjoyable experience.
Some recommended resources for building core skills
Daily Maths Worksheets covering topics such as mental and written methods of Addition, Subtraction, Multiplication, Division, Time, Money, Number Sequences etc.
A great resource for 11+ / KS2 SATS Maths preparation. Use the worksheets in conjunction with the key objectives list.
Build vocabulary, develop quick thinking and boost number skills. So many games for the whole family. Start with the easier ones and build up to the more challenging games as suitable.
Why are these playing cards are so popular as part of 11 plus exam preparation? read more…
In addition to the great mix of 11+ questions in My 11PLUS, when you buy any Credits pack to assign tests, you will also get 365 days access to around 5000 practice questions and a fabulous selection of brain games designed especially to build core skills required for success in selective tests.
The online testing system accessed via ‘My 11Plus’ has a feature called ‘Question Shuffle’ which allows students to attempt over 5000 individual questions (in English, maths, verbal and non-verbal reasoning), without having to take a whole test. A great way to do a little practice daily.