If your child is planning to take the 11 plus exam, and is looking for ways to prepare for the English section effectively, the article below is for you! Keystone’s expert tutors have helped students excel at taking this paper, and the guidance below aims to distil their best practice into a simple, practical set of top tips.
There are three key areas to focus your child’s preparation on: Comprehension, Composition and Grammar.
11 Plus English Comprehension
There are five categories of skill to work at developing in this area:
- Being able to accurately identify the meaning of words and phrases
- Literal reading – being able to understand exactly what happens in a passage of text
- Inference – being able to understand what a passage of text means, including what is not explicitly stated
- Having a good understanding of writers’ different techniques and of literary devices
- Taste and opinion – being able to evaluate and form an opinion about a passage of text
- It is essential that students are able to use the ‘Point-Evidence-Explain’ (P-E-E) technique when showing their knowledge and understanding of a topic in an extended response to a question in this paper, especially with categories 3, 4, and 5 above, which are also the three most important areas to develop for the exam. BBC Bitesize provides a great guide to this topic
- Students should be writing answers according to the number or marks available in questions (e.g. a 4-mark taste and opinion question should be structured with two P-E-E responses, with each point focusing on its own expressed taste or opinion)
- The first category, being able to identify the meaning of words and phrases, also splits into two sub-categories:
- Age-appropriate – the words and phrases a Year 6 student would be expected to know
- Beyond age-appropriate – words and phrases a Year 6 student could be expected to be able to work out from context
- ‘Written’ comprehension papers can sometimes be multiple choice, as with City of London
Keystone Tutor Olly gives his top tip for 11+ English preparation
"11+ English Top Tip: Reading often and reading widely is the most important way you can help your child prepare. Exposing your child to a variety of fiction and non-fiction works improves their vocabulary, their comprehension and their creative writing as it provides an example of good writing they can emulate in their own work."
11 Plus English Composition
There are two key differences students should understand:
- Narrative writing (that tells a complete story) versus descriptive writing (that describes a place, object, or concept in detail). See this guide for more detail.
- Persuasive writing (where a case is made for or against a topic) versus argumentative writing (where a topic is discussed in a balanced manner) – both of which are types of discursive writing. An excellent overview can be found on BBC Bitesize.
Students will be expected to show consistent and accurate spelling, punctuation and grammar.
Narrative writing can come in the shape of ‘continue the story’ tasks (as with City of London School).
It’s important to be aware that descriptive writing questions can use image prompts as the topic to be described.
11 Plus English Grammar
Key areas to focus preparation on include:
- Apostrophes of contraction/omission and possession
- Forming plurals
- Use of commas and comma splicing
- Run-on sentences
- Subject-verb agreement
- Punctuating speech
It should be noted that assessment of grammatical concepts can also come in the form of dedicated sections in entrance examinations or, more broadly, in the composition section.
Keystone Tutor Cameron gives his top tip for 11+ English preparation
“For 11+ English, read lots, and at the end of each page, talk about the book. What do you think of the characters? Any new words? What will happen next? Any great writer's tools? Independent reading is great, but discussion is the best.”
Where to find practice English 11 plus papers
There are a great variety of resources and materials available online for Pre-Test and 11 plus assessment. The most reliable are from Galore Park, although some schools do offer sample papers or links to the types of assessment they use (e.g. Latymer Upper, CLSG, King’s College School, Wimbledon).
We hope this guide will be of use in your child’s preparation for the 11 Plus English exam!
11 plus English tuition
Each year Keystone supports many students preparing for the 11+. The tutors we represent are experienced in the intricacies of the 11+ exams and how they differ between schools' assessments. We would normally recommend that preparation begins around 12 – 18 months before the exams. Tutors will devise a programme tailored to the specific circumstances of the student.