Ad – this is a collaborative post with My Tutor Plus.
Gráinne Fradd, Director of My Tutor Plus, shares her advice on preparing for the 11 Plus. With a child in year 4, the Kent test is something we have begun to think about, so I found this a really interesting read…
There are four simple guidelines that I recommend following, in order to prepare your child for the ’11 Plus’ Kent Test:
1. Teach first. Test later
Teaching the material from the Year Five and Six curriculum needs to take up much more of the preparation time than practising test papers. There is a substantial amount of work to learn and, as a general rule, pupils need to begin their preparation one year in advance.
The idea that the Kent Test only tests innate ability is flawed particularly because Year Six problem solving, comprehension and grammar work are assessed by these papers. It will not be possible for any child to answer these questions without first learning the material and developing the skills required.
School reports that your child is ‘meeting expectations’ may mean that your child has progressed from their starting point at the beginning of the year and has been able to understand the work covered, but will usually not imply that your child has had much exposure to problem solving or advanced comprehensions.
Even those children who are excelling will not have covered all the material required for the 11 Plus at school. The 11 Plus will test your child on their ability to apply their learning to solving problems, often in ways that require them to think laterally or ‘out of the box.’ For these reasons, you will need to decide how to provide additional instruction to your child at home.
Once they can problem solve, children will be able to work through test papers. If they are forced into this too soon, their confidence will be knocked. As far as timing and test technique is concerned, yes, it is important to work on these discretely – after the child has learned the material. With practice, your child will become less aware of the timing and will relax into enjoying sitting the papers.
2. Confidence building is key to success in the 11 Plus
In order to build your child’s confidence, help them to learn the material in a methodical, step by step fashion. Practising every sort of 11 Plus question will help. Approaching this work topic by topic and using the correct building blocks is the best approach, rather than trying to unpick random questions. In this way, incorrect answers will help them to develop their understanding and confidence.
Let your child grow in his or her ability to work independently too, so that they can see how capable they are. It is important to insist on this, starting with small amounts of work and building the amount they can do by themselves gradually over time. While Mum or Dad is available as a crutch, they cannot develop the emotional resilience they will need to work independently on the day. Taking a step back will enable your child to flourish in confidence so that they will soon be asking for more!
3. The Kent Test is as much about exposure as it is about ability. Remember that ‘genius is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration’ (Thomas Edison).
The English Paper comprehensions are typically of a Year Six standard and will require your child to be very well read. A child’s standard of reading is determined in part by their ability but also by their level of exposure to new vocabulary. This exposure should begin as young as possible.
You, as parent, are your child’s greatest educator because you have the greatest opportunity to immerse your child in an environment where they can become excited about all that can be learned through reading, whether it be world geography or current affairs or new ways to express ideas. As parent, you can also introduce your child to real life experiences where he or she can learn by visiting animals on a farm, growing plants in the garden or visiting a museum. Every experience is a valuable opportunity to develop your child’s curiosity about life and to build their vocabulary simultaneously.
It is worth being selective about the books your child reads, ensuring that he or she is learning new vocabulary every time they open a book. To this end, try to spend at least fifteen minutes reading with your child every day, starting as young as possible. You will need to sit with them, noting and explaining new words they encounter and revisiting them when you can.
If you are struggling to engage your child in reading, then try limiting their television time (and all screen time). Reading is a wonderful source of entertainment but only if your child is in the habit of being an active rather than a passive learner.
4. Consistent practice is key to happy and productive learning.
Your child learns best and remembers best by continuous repetition, a little and often each week. The work needs to be consistent throughout the year rather than overwhelming at the end of the year. Rather than mounting pressure on children, as many parents fear, continuous and consistent work each week will help your child to feel calm and confident on the day of the Kent test.
With regular practice, your child will grow to love their learning and will thrive on seeing the progress they are making, thus becoming a very confident and happy pupil. With both practice and confidence, your child will excel at their learning and become their very best selves, emotionally as well as academically. In this way, the 11 Plus journey should and can be a positive and happy experience for you, your child and your family.
Gráinne Fradd, Director of My Tutor Plus, offers 1:1 tuition as well as small group Revision Courses. The next course is taking place from 9th to 11th August 2021. Mock Tests and detailed, written feedback will be included.