The 8 Plus – like its cousins the 7 Plus, 11 Plus, and 13 Plus – is an important hurdle to overcome in gaining entry to some of the UK’s best independent schools.
In the article below, Keystone Tutors cover the basics of the exam, its format, and the best ways to prepare for and succeed at this competitive assessment.
What is the 8 Plus?
The 8 Plus is a set of entrance examinations set by some independent schools. Originally, the 7 Plus was designed for girls who traditionally mature quicker than boys, for whom the 8 Plus was designed. Children typically sit the 7 Plus in January of Year 2 and the 8 Plus in January of Year 3 to join an independent preparatory school in the following September. However, it is important to note that the timings of these examinations do differ from school to school, so make sure to check the admissions page on your chosen schools’ websites!
Which schools use the 8 plus exam?
The following schools in London have an 8 Plus entry point:
- Dulwich Prep School
- Garden House School
- King’s College Junior School
- St Paul's Juniors
- Sussex House School
- Westminster Cathedral Choir School
- Westminster Under School
- Wetherby Prep School
What is the format of the 8 Plus exam?
The 8 Plus is typically very similar in structure to the 7 Plus examinations, but with an increased level of difficulty and expectation. Most schools will invite students to sit paper-based assessments alongside a short interview and/or group activity. Typically, students sit two exams, one in English and the other in Maths. Most 8 Plus English exams include the following components:
- English comprehension
- Creative writing
- Spelling and grammar tasks
The Maths exam tends to focus on basic number operations. The tasks will have their roots in Key Stage 1 of the UK national curriculum. Some schools will also include a reasoning component.
Interviews can also form part of the admissions process at 8 Plus and will usually include a one-on-one chat with the member of staff and some group tasks. Generally, the tone of the interview will be relaxed and will cover topics such as a child’s hobbies and interests, both academic and extracurricular. The aim of an interview at this stage is to see how your child structures and communicates their thoughts and interacts with adults as well as their peers. With respect to the group tasks, they are typically classroom-based assessment activities.
When should you start preparing for the 8 Plus?
Preparation for the 8 Plus exams would normally start in the January of Year 2, 12 months before the examinations, though some families may wish to start earlier. We recommend that tutors start by reinforcing the primary literacy and numeracy curriculum being taught at school before looking to stretch students academically. Tutors should look to develop students’ abilities to sit examinations and the skills associated with being successful test takers during their lessons (e.g., time keeping, exam vocabulary and structuring their answers).
It is essential that tutoring at this level is carried out by someone with experience of the delivery and teaching methods used. Keystone have several highly experienced 8 Plus tutors who can help with exam and interview preparation.
How to prepare for 8 Plus English?
The expectations for 8 Plus English are that the child should be familiar with the whole of the Year 1, 2 and 3 curriculum and often beyond. Schools like St Paul’s Junior helpfully share a reading list specifically for the 8 Plus which will give parents a sense of the English level required.
In general, children are also expected to:
- know their Key Stage 2 spellings lists for Year 3 and 4 and sometimes beyond;
- be able to write an A4 page composition with a clear beginning, middle and end story structure;
- use a range of punctuation, clauses, paragraphing, and literary techniques in their writing;
- be able to read fluently and answer comprehension questions requiring them to deduce and infer information. The comprehension texts are typically more challenging than those seen at the 7 Plus level.
Students need to be reading daily from good quality texts at home. If you are short of recommendations please do review our Pre-Preparatory School (Reception-Year 3) Reading List for some suggestions. It can also be useful for them to listen to audiobooks. Both reading and listening to good literature will help the development of their spelling, grammar, sentence formation, vocabulary, and creative writing. On top of this, timed writing practice and spelling practice can be helpful when preparing for the exams.
How to prepare for 8 Plus Maths?
The expectations of 8 Plus Maths are that the child should be familiar with the whole of the Year 1, 2 and 3 curriculum and in some cases beyond. Again, helpfully schools like St Paul’s Junior share a detailed maths syllabus around which their 8 Plus assessment is set. Importantly, children need to be comfortable with mental and written calculation methods for all four number operations, be fluent in their times tables, have a good working knowledge of fractions and have covered all four areas (number, measures, data-handling and shape and space) of the maths curriculum.
It is also important for students to have practiced decoding and solving multi step word problems. It is also common to see problem solving questions requiring children to use and apply the mathematical concepts they have been taught.
How to prepare for 8 Plus Verbal and Non-Verbal Reasoning?
Verbal and Non-Verbal Reasoning is not assessed by all schools at 8 Plus level. It is also likely to be the aspect of the 8 Plus assessment that your child is least familiar with – thus, familiarisation is key. Resources are not aplenty at this level, but by using age-appropriate reasoning materials made by Bond, CGP and Galore Park it is possible to expose a student to the most common question types. It is also worth noting that everyday activities, such as Sudoku, crosswords, Scrabble, Jigsaw, Lego/Meccano building, also help to develop reasoning skills.
Where to find 8 plus sample papers?
Only a small number of schools (e.g., King’s College School, Wimbledon) grant access to their past papers but it is worth using these for practice. Some schools may not list past papers on their website but will be happy to send some through to you directly, so do ask if that are available. Alternatively, there are books and online packages of sample papers (e.g., Exam Paper Plus) available to purchase.
8 Plus Tuition
Keystone Tutors have a number of highly experienced 8 Plus tutors who can help with exam and interview preparation.
For more details on how Keystone can help prepare your child for the 8 Plus, please call the office for a chat with one of our client managers, or contact us via our request a tutor form.