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Aim for a Stress Free 11 Plus Revision Plan

Chances are, your gut instinct urges you to put pressure on your child to revise and perform to the best of his or her ability (or better?). There’s nothing wrong with wanting your child to do well, but there are well-meaning actions that actually decrease your child’s chances of success.

Research shows that children who feel pressure to perform see a loss of ability to recall vocabulary, and to perform mental maths calculations in a testing situation. In other words, too much pressure results in poorer performance. How much is too much? Err on the side of caution. Instead of putting your efforts into “encouraging” your child, which often plays out as pressure, use that energy to facilitate revision. Build a plan. Provide the resources. Ensure a quiet, regular place of study.


The general plan is to have children work on important aspects of the revision process each week: core skills practice, one paper on each of the topics, and some mock examination activity. This will familiarise your child with the process, the feel of taking the exams, and the information and processes they are expected to grasp. The more normal and regular you can make the revisions process – and the less stressful – the more normal the test day will seem, and you can minimise the negative effects of pressure and stress.

Don’t make the error of thinking “more is better,” studies show that a regular, reasonable study schedule is far more effective than an exhausting one.

Revision in Week 1 – 6

As well as producing a good paper, students need to have a solid grasp on their core skills. If revision consists of only writing practice papers, there is usually very little progress made. These skills work together and need to be revised in combination with each other.

Maths skills

Have your child do a page of mental maths per day (this can be reduced if your child is in term time, but should be regular – maybe three days a week). Work at regularly getting 100% at each level before moving on. If a mistake is made, practice identifying why it was made and try some self-checking techniques. Don’t stress the 100% goal – perfectionism produces pressure – but keep an eye out for it. If your child consistently scores 100%, move up a level and keep things reasonably challenging.

Don’t neglect the word problems either, and do an equal amount (one page per day, or three per week during term time). The main skill is in identifying the key facts and translating them into a formula. That’s where the focus should be, especially when marking and reviewing the work. Treat each mistake as an opportunity for discussion and a puzzle-like challenge. Encourage your child to find the point of error, to correct it, and to come up with a method of self-correction that might be used in an exam situation. For example, practice making initial estimations, then checking the final answer to see if it is reasonably close.

Literacy Skills

Your child should be reading independently for a half an hour each day, and you should read together a few times a week from a classic book. Discuss what’s going on – don’t force it, but be aware of opportunities to predict what might happen, to discuss character motivations, and any new or unusual vocabulary used. While we’re on the topic of vocabulary, don’t forget to have your child list new and difficult words for later revision, and practice spelling them.

Using 11 Plus Practice Papers in Weeks 1 – 4

Have your child do one paper in each discipline each week. Don’t do more than that, as the rest period and ability to reflect on the process and results is just as important.

Keep the setting as close as possible to that of the examination. Sometimes the practice working in a formal setting is as valuable as the revision itself, as it decreases stress and frees up the child’s mind to concentrate on the materials, rather than the setting and process of the examination. Have a quiet room, a set time, and call out the time remaining for half way, ten minutes remaining, five minutes remaining, and when time is up.

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Common Issues Children Have with the 11+ Exam Papers

Running out of Time

Sometimes students run out of time, because they get hung up on a certain detail of the content or process. Help them avoid this by practicing allocating time to each step in the process. A certain amount of time for each question. Leaving a difficult question for the end. A certain amount of time for each stage in writing each paper.

Time will always be tight – that is part of the design of the examinations – so it is best to teach your child how to deal with that pressure and constraint. It is unrealistic to expect a child to work so quickly that time is not a factor; it will be.

Making Small mistakes

Practice recalling information and completing tasks under time pressure and in a similar setting as that of the test will help your child. Often a child is familiar with the basics of material but has a weaker grasp of the details. Especially under stress, this will come out. The discussions following paper writing and the identification of mistakes is another revision process through which these weaknesses are revealed and can be rectified. When revising, stress error-free work first, then build up speed. Learn more about terms used in our Glossary (and there’s one for parents too).

Finding and Filling Knowledge gaps

Knowledge gaps tend to be most obvious in numeracy and NVR, but they can exist anywhere. The key is to spend time going through all of the available material, whether your child seems happy with his or her grasp of it or not. Only with testing and discussion can these gaps be identified and filled, so don’t consider it a waste of time, even if your child does. An additional benefit is that your child may gain the confidence of doing well in an area they know, and of plugging a gap that they otherwise would have identified only on the day of the exam.

Using 11 Plus Practice Papers for Revision in Weeks 5 – 6

During the final two weeks, the revision plan should continue as before, but an additional mock exam per week should be added. These exams will get your child mentally used to writing the exam, and will build up the stamina necessary. It is important to note also, that the exam will be hand-written (unless your child have a special need that permits the use of a word processor). Don’t have your child use a word processor at home only to get to the exam and realise that they don’t have the hand stamina to write for the necessary time.

Match the exam situation at home as close to the official one as possible. The same time constraints, silent atmosphere, writing time and break times should be observed. No help or talking should be permitted during the exam except as it might be offered on the day. Washroom breaks should be taken beforehand and on the break only. Make sure your child is rested, has eaten, and has had some water to drink before the exam.

Last Minute! How to revise for the 11+ last minute

Focus on core skills in revision

Children who use practice papers as the core of their revision always underperform. The key is to revise paper writing regularly, but to focus the time on core skills and knowledge – especially the final stages of revision just prior to the exam. Practice tests should be just that – a trial run of the exam AFTER revision. The revision itself is key.

Find the important knowledge gaps and practice them

Because a child has gained the knowledge contained in the test, does not mean that child will be successful. It is very important that the child’s examination technique is developed as well. Understanding and practising time management, stress management, a focus on accuracy (but within time constraints), and paper planning and organisation is necessary.

Verbal and Non-Verbal Reasoning

Take advantage of published resources designed to help your child revise and improve. These books often include strategies for answering questions that can assist your child with any weaker areas of knowledge. In a stressful situation, that little extra tip might make the difference between a success and a failure, with all of the stress and subsequent consequences that brings in a high-pressure test situation.

Hard work is necessary, but harder work, and more of it, will have diminishing returns. At some point, it is necessary to work smarter, and to leverage the revision and work the child has already done.



Other Work You CAn Be Doing

It is difficult to maintain a balance between consistent, steady work, and too much pressure, but it is important to try. The more light-hearted you can keep things, the better. Don’t condemn mistakes, but speak of them as opportunities to identify and fill gaps in knowledge, or to encourage careful, detail-oriented progress through the exam. The more relaxed and confident your child is, the better he or she will do. For this reason, familiarity with the process of the exam, the situation in which it will be administered, and the time constraints involved – will all help a great deal. Start with extra time, and then knock five or ten minutes from it for the next practice session.

Treat it like a game – a challenge – and cheer your child on, before and afterwards. Your ability to control your own anxiety and expectations will pay off for you and your child.