I'm sorry you had a disappointing experience with the 7+. If you look on the schools' websites (as I'm sure you did), you can find detailed information about what will be tested on the 7+ and 8+ exams, including suggested reading list (which just give an indication of the type of reading the boys should be doing; the specific books aren't important). The preparation done at pre-preps for the 8+ exam consists mainly of continual tests -- ie once or week or so, the boys have timed maths and comprehension tests -- these allow the boys to get comfortable with working with time pressure, checking their work, etc. You could do the same at home -- if your son is cooperative! -- by setting tests from, for example, the Maths on Target book (use level 3 and test C for each section). When you check the results, you will notice what areas he needs to work on and can then set additional problems of your own to help him develop particular skills. For verbal and non-verbal reasoning, the Bond books are fine and you can probably find other examples on-ine. For writing and comprehension, the best thing your son can do is to read widely. You can read along with him (ie read the same books he reads) so you can discuss with him and make sure he has understood correctly. Writing is ticky -- my son would NEVER voluntarily write something so it was impossible to get him to prepare for the writing part of the tests. If your son is more cooperative/eager, you could set him some tasks such as writing a letter, writing a description of a car, writing a description of a party, etc. Examiners will look for punctuation (capital letters, full stops, commas), use of interesting adjectives and verbs, etc. Good luck!
If you can afford a tutor who has a proven record of getting kids into the schools you want your son to go to then hire said person. Other than that I guess you have to do lots of research yourself on what's on the exams and then lots of tutoring (is the state school really that bad?! .
Id look at finding a school that was much less academic than the ones that he took at 7+ in the hope that they could get him through at 13+.
I'd also search the Internet and on MN for more detailed information on the exams. I'd be surprised if you could not find out what sort of passages are set as comprehension and what subjects they set as essay writing in previous years.
I am very sorry that your son did not make it to the interview stages at the 2 schools, sluggishMum. The whole 7+/8+ process is so gruesome, and only getting more competitive each year.
The first thing I would do is call and ask the schools for feedback on your son's performance. They will be candid and go into detail as to what areas he did well, and not so well in. I would also ask if they thought that he would be a candidate for 8+, or that he would need additional years of development and thus 11+ would be a better option. The three schools you had your son sit for are very tough to get into, and even tougher to thrive in if he is not able to handle the fast pace of learning.
There is no magic formula for getting in - for english, have your son read widely and check his comprehension. Bond books are fine for comprehension, but target the year above his age range. Maths, wok on mental maths and speed. Also, make sure you cover the full curriculum for year 3 prior to the January exam - his prep school counterparts are doing just that. Prep schools seem to use the Maths on Target series. My son, who is at one of the schools, is doing the book for the year ahead of his current academic year. Verbal and non-verbal reasoning - bond is ok, but there is another series which is better (I'll get back to you on this as I can't seem to remember the name). Practice story writing also. Colet's exam is heavily focused on maths and reasoning (makes sense as St. Paul's particular strength is in these areas). King's intake at 8+ is much smaller than 7+ - usually 5-8 spots only, however it does take a wider range of boys. I am not familiar with the Westminster exam, but I have heard that it too places the emphasis on maths and reasoning.
Just a warning, the level expected at 8+ is much higher than 7+ - much more than just a years worth of development, so if your son really struggled at 7+, perhaps waiting for a different entry point might be wise. However, if the schools say that he in general did well, just not well enough on some sections, definitely go for 8+. 11+ is a better entry point as it is geared towards state-school candidates. Colet Court even does a deferred 10+ entry for state school boys, so your son would take the exam a year and a half prior to entry into Colet.
My ds is currently studying in state school. I and my husband prepared him at home for 7+ entrance exams but he did not make in St Paul and Westminster and scarcely have any hope for Kings. His preparation was not as required because we didn't have any knowledge of what to do except 7-8 years bonds papers. Also we moved to london last summer so we did not have much time to prepare. We started following Bonds paper from September. Our efforts fall short to get him anywhere. We found the kids coming from these exams are from preparatory schools where they are highly trained (tutored) for these exams. Now that we are targeting 8+ exam, we have almost a year to prepare for it. I am looking for help from all the Mums who have their kids successfully passed in 7+ or 8+ exams. Help me please.