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DIY eleven plus prep - not sure how to tackle this

(29 Posts)
howtodrainyourflagon Mon 20-Jul-15 18:35:46

DS1 (9) will take 11+ in a year's time, and DS2 (7) in two years.

So I sat both kids down with a GL eleven plus maths paper and both kids sat for 50 minutes doing the questions. DS1 did 28 questions getting 25 right and DS2 did 22, getting 20 right. There are 50 questions in a paper though! Neither kid has ever done anything like this, so their exam technique is rubbish (in particular DS2 spent 15 minutes on a question he clearly didn't understand given he's only just finished y3 and this was for 11 yo) - neither of them skipped the hard questions or used the rough paper I'd given them.

There are a few voices on mn that echo the "kids don't need any preparation, the ones that get tutored struggle through secondary, it's morally wrong to tutor etc etc." I wasn't planning to send them to a paid tutor, but to try to help them prepare myself. Now I've realised there's a pretty steep wall to climb, particularly for DS1 as he only has a year. It could be down to exam technique, but getting from a 50% success rate to a 90% they'll need does seem a bit insurmountable. Yet they're not struggling at school at all, and I'd have thought they'd have a good shot at grammar school entrance.

So can I have some tips on how to get the kids to speed up, and what I can do to help them on exam technique? Is it possible to make the progress DS1 will need in a year, and is it worth getting a tutor rather than my amateur approach?

RashDecision Mon 20-Jul-15 18:46:10

Best place for tips on this is elevenplusexams.co.uk forum section.

An MN thread will usually just degenerate into anti grammar frothers and posters that think that tutors are ultimate evil.

Speed IME is about practice. DS was slower to start, but having said that we built up more gradually. We started with Bond books, in his own time to start, then timed, then easier papers before moving onto GL. We only started timing around Easter. Then he was young too fast and making silly errors, so we spent the summer trying to slow down. And then the actual exam threw a curveball and hardly any kids finished the test!

RashDecision Mon 20-Jul-15 18:46:55

He was going too fast - pesky autocorrect

GoodArvo Mon 20-Jul-15 19:06:28

I wouldn't get a 7 year old to do an 11+ paper. Of course it's too hard and will demoralise them. There are Bond books aimed at younger age groups.

Really you should build up to the 11+ papers for your older child too. Try Bond books for 9-10 year olds first and get him confident with those first. You will also need to go through the answers with him and teach him.

You still have over a year, but it will mean work for both of you. Frankly, you can't expect a child to leap straight to 11+ without learning the maths first. I wouldn't send my child into an exam unprepared.

People will say that their child got in and they only wafted a practice paper in their child's general direction. but those people are probably lying.

morethanpotatoprints Mon 20-Jul-15 19:09:54

Why are you doing this? Are they not on holiday yet? The scary bit for me is that your ds sat for 15 mins on a question he had no idea about.
I'm not anti grammar at all nor employing tutors, but this is ludicrous.
50 mins shock

poisonedbypen Mon 20-Jul-15 19:14:40

Mine did GL in an area where they needed about 85% to pass. it really is about practice - 1st time they did a paper (early July) they completed about half the paper. a paper a week gave them both passes 2 months later. Really demoralising for the younger one too. Teach the older one the various types of question then do papers in the run up to the exam. in about a years time!

Ladymuck Mon 20-Jul-15 20:23:57

There are a finite number of 11+ papers which have been published by the actual exam compilers (eg GL published 8 maths papers), so it isn't a great idea to use these up so far in advance. Are you definitely in an area which will require 90%?

In one sense the exercise has done them no harm - you know not to be complacent. But testing them is pointless until you know that they have covered the curriculum. The Bond "How to do 11+" Maths, English etc series is quite good at picking up gaps in what has been covered at school (though obviously isn't aimed at year 3s). Once they have covered the actual curriculum and are secure in it, then you can look at exam technique and speed. Starting timed papers around 3 months before the exam should be plenty of time.

Just checking though - are you certain about the format for the schools you are aiming for?

Elevenplusexams forum is very good depending on your area. However they have now stated that they won't allow information of exams to be shared unless the school in question confirms that either they are happy for it to be online, or that there is no possibility of any child sitting the same test in the future. As many tests have changed in the last year or two the information on there is not that up to date for a number of areas. It is nevertheless a good starting point.

howtodrainyourflagon Mon 20-Jul-15 21:13:22

We're in a CEM area so supposedly there isn't a fixed format but most people talk about prepping in maths, verbal reasoning and non-verbal reasoning and then English. It's supers electives too so I think we should be aiming for 90s.

Ds2 saw ds1 doing maths and asked to join in. I'm in no rush with him but it was interesting to see how he did. I'm not planning on doing a lot with them over the summer but it's easier to get both boys doing work than just the one so I may as well get them both doing useful stuff together.

I'll have a look at the 11 plus forum but starting with bond books is helpful thank you.

stresssed Tue 21-Jul-15 05:27:50

I tutored my dd for about 5 months and got her from a score of 60% in her first full-length practice test to a score of over 90% in about 3 months - so you can do it easily in a year.

And my dd was nearly a year older when she started, in May of Year 5 (exams done then in Nov of year 6). So if your 9-year-old is already getting 50% before the start of year 5, he's in with a good chance.

How to DIY tutor maths for 11+:

1. Identify what exams he's actually going to be doing. Is it just maths? Or also VR or English? Which exam boards? Multiple choice or standard (ie writing the answers) format? How long and how many questions? The 11+ forum will tell you all this. No point preparing him for the wrong exam or type of exam. All 11+ maths exams for state schools must limit questions to the content of the KS2 maths syllabus and cannot go beyond it, so any book or website on KS2 maths will be able to tell you what the full list of possible topics are. Remember - these are only aimed at 10-year-olds so are not actually terribly difficult for any normally numerate adult. Plenty of textbooks will explain the topics for you, so don't panic if the last time you studied maths was at school!

2. Take the maths paper he did and go through it. The score tells you nothing useful. Discussing the answers will. For every question he got wrong, ask him why he got it wrong. Was it:

a. because he hasn't learnt the topic yet at school? - if so, add it to your list of topics to cover (though bear in mind he'll probably be covering most of them this year at school anyway).

b. because he didn't read the question properly - ie right answer to wrong question. Teach exam technique and focus on learning to read the question properly and identify key information.

c. because he ran out of time? Not a problem at this stage, but get him to swap pens at the end of the 'official' time, so you can see how much he finished in the correct time, and aim to gradually increase the number of questions finished in the timeslot over the year.

d. because he made careless errors? This was my dd's bugbear. I ended up bribing her (successfully) to reduce the number of careless errors to no more than 2 per paper. I was shocked by how much her school let her get away with, in terms of messy layout and lack of attention to detail. The main quality of those who succeed at the 11+ is not brilliance but accuracy.

e. because it's just too hard? - even though they know the topic, had enough time, read the question correctly and made no careless errors? That's actually fine. You'd expect there to be at least 2 or 3 really tough questions per paper, to stretch and identify the most able mathematicians. He doesn't even NEED to get those right - he can get over 90% in the real exam WITHOUT being able to handle those. So your ds shouldn't be put off by those or imagine that all errors fall into this category - they are almost certainly due to factors a. to d. instead. You need to teach him not to stress over these types of questions (let alone for 15 minutes) but to leave them to the end and come back to them if time = basic exam technique.

You should then end up with a list of topics to cover, plus some figures for numbers of careless errors and not-reading-the-questions. That will give you a very clear idea of what topics/skills you need to focus on.

Aim to have covered all the new subject content several months early, so it can sink in. If you have 10 topics and 10 months, say, you can have a very relaxing time of covering one a month. Make sure you start with the basic core maths skills, though - focus on accuracy and speed of basic addition, subtraction, multiplication and division (including fractions and decimals) before you move on to anything else, as those skills will underlie all the other topics. Good mental maths and times tables are essential - you can strengthen these in fun ways like adding up scores on board games or playing card games etc.

Do occasional practice papers so he gets used to them but not loads and certainly not more than 1 a week (arguably none till he's covered the syllabus). Bond do lots of books of them in different formats. As you get nearer the exam, you can start to do more practice papers in the actual style of the one he'll do in the test.

No need to do more than 1 a week - remember, he won't learn anything from doing the test as such, but from going over the answers and understanding how/why he got it wrong, which takes time.

Your 7-year-old shouldn't be doing any of this!! He should be reading as much as possible, learning his times tables and mental maths and playing fun games that improve maths and vocabulary - Boggle, cards, board games etc.

There are starter 11+ books for younger ages, that introduce younger kids to the concepts, in short 10-minute bursts. Maybe he can have a go at one of these books when he feels like it, but that's more than enough. No need at all for him to be doing full, 'proper' 11+ tests at this age, and the results cannot be meaningful in any way, so don't even attempt to analyse them! Let him have fun and enjoy maths and reading instead!

stresssed Tue 21-Jul-15 05:39:48

Same ideas apply with VR and non-VR. You can buy books that explain how to approach particular types of questions and again, focus on any types your ds finds hard.

English - plenty of books you can buy that claim to help with learning comprehension skills and vocabulary. None of those will beat wide reading (for pleasure) though. Get him to go to bed half an hour earlier and read every night!!

Tutors are not necessary and an incompetent one will be a liability as parents imagine their kids are prepared when they aren't. If you must use a tutor, ask them about how they plan to prepare your child for the test and what the test format is. If they don't know the latter immediately without checking or tell you they plan to give your child weekly tests rather than actually teach them anyrhing, say no thank you and walk away.

Personally, I think tutors are a complete waste of money if you're a reasonably intelligent adult and can spare about 2-3 hours per week and enjoy spending time with your own child.

Cloud2 Tue 21-Jul-15 12:53:57

Stresssed has given detailed ways. I just add some, first I think the current stage should be finding the gap and fill the gap. So there is no need to do the practiced paper yet. And the speed comes from practice, I think you shouldn't worry about it yet.

I guess you son has just finished Y4, it would be better to buy practice book for age 10-11 first, I used Bond myself and think it is good. And it maybe better to keep it around 30 minutes per session first. Once he do it, you check and then discuss the mistake. This will help to find and cover the knowledge gap. After he finish age 11+ practise book and nearly can get most correct, then start do the practice paper. And also start to find sample papers to do after he can do the bond paper easily. As I feel the sample paper from grammar school and independant school are slightly harder than Bond paper.

As for DS2, you can buy 7-8 practice workbook for him fist.I actually find Bond non sense serial is good for teaching the knowledge gap. Bond have online material you can print. It's a good idea they do it together. I found my DS2 likes to copy DS1 as well.

portico Thu 23-Jul-15 08:15:27

Hi Stressed

Just wondering about your post where you mentioned that maths content for state grammar 11 plus must not go beyond ks2. Please advise how do you know this and is there a url web link to any official guidance on this. Does it also relate to cem tests

totallybewildered Thu 23-Jul-15 08:27:23

There is a lot of content in the maths paper that will not be cover at KS2, at least there was when my Dc did the 11+, 4 and 5 years ago. There was things like how mahy fluid ounces is a cup of tea, and what sizes are rucksacks sold in, etc.

OP, I would start with non verbal reasoning, and then verbal reasoning, these are not covered at all in many state schools, and take practice to even understand the question.

If you are going through practices question and answers of these type of question regularly, this will improve their chances.

Go through lots of questions of the same question type, and when they are confident at that, start a different question type, but keep reminding them of the first question type, then when they are confident of the second question type, tackle a third. Then you can start giving them a mixture of types to test them, but still keep going through the question types one by one.

There are a lot of free resources on the internet for this, but make sure you know exactly what is in your local 11+. Don't waste a year on verbal reasoning if it isn't tested!

WiryElevator Thu 23-Jul-15 08:30:00

In Kent they changed then test last year so that nothing that wasn't covered by end Y5 was included.

I think most tests are the same these days.

totallybewildered Thu 23-Jul-15 08:32:31

They still do verbal and non verbal reasoning don't they? And the primary schools don't? is that right?

Bin85 Thu 23-Jul-15 08:37:50

Some good answers here.
It is "find the gaps, fill the gaps"
The way I start is with a Bond book or similar just sit alongside them and go through the questions one by one or a few at a time.
Choose a book which is just slightly too hard to build confidence.
When they get something wrong or can't attempt a question analyze why and teach as necessary then try another similar question.
The Usbourne Maths Dictionaries are very useful.

WiryElevator Thu 23-Jul-15 09:48:33

I was referring to Maths.

MadamArcatiAgain Thu 23-Jul-15 20:13:47

Children don't need to be 'taught' how to do VR & non VR questions ifthey are grammar school material.What they do need is practice (1) to get up to the required speed and (2) to get a feel for the right balance between giving a question the time to solve it, and moving on.

LilyTucker Thu 23-Jul-15 20:32:43

CEM isn't covered by the end of year 5 and what is isn't in enough detail.To be successful at CEM they really need to be able to do long division,multiplication( decimals),decimals,percentages,algebra accurately and at very fast speed. My dd only started doing long division in the last few weeks before the end of term.Just not early enough. Everything my dd also was taught just didn't seem to be in advanced enough detail. All kinds of graphs,tables and charts

So much of CEM is maths and bloody fast. They could have say 20 questions in 9 minutes.Not always hard but you need to be bloody quick and have a good detailed understanding and experience of applying concepts at speed.

The better primary schools and indies who claim to teach a year ahead will give a huge advantage.Imvho tutoring is needed more now than before to have a fair chance. My DC have done both.

BlueBrightFuture Fri 24-Jul-15 12:57:31

Our youngest DD has sat the CEM 11+ last September. Previously we were a GL area. DD1 sat the old test papers and from what I can see it seems to be a lot fairer under the new CEM test.

Under the old GL regime only about 5-7 DC out of 60 in our local state primary passed the test. (only a few were not entered) since the test was changed about half have passed. We home tutored ourselves. In terms of CEM I would say practice widely because nobody knows that is going to come up. We practiced about 20 minutes a day starting the Easter holidays of year 5..

Based of what we heard about the test in our area over the last 2 years our tactic was to learn to do basic maths questions and problem solving but work on speed rather than on really high ability questions. DD also sat the 11+ in a GL area (as a back up) and finished her maths paper with about 10 minutes spare including checking whilst in the CEM paper she only just finished in the time allowed and no time to check her work.

I agree that for some areas the 11+ exams forum is very supportive and helpful if you are stuck with something, however some boards are quiet.

saintlyjimjams Fri 24-Jul-15 21:20:46

I did past papers with ds2 (successfully), am doing the same with ds3. DS3 is actually academically brighter than ds2, but maybe less likely to pass the 11 plus because he blows hot and cold, and will get cross about grammatical errors in the questions and obsess about single words that annoy him.

First - check what the pass mark is (roughly) for your area. I came across a group of parents outside the school gates who were convinced that the pass mark was 85% ish for the grammar schools in our area. It's not, 65% ish will pretty much guarantee you a place at the moment (might need a bit more when the current infants are taking the exam as the birth rate has risen dramatically).

And then practice. It's pretty much all paid tutors do anyway. I find doing it myself I can get a better idea of problem areas.

Oh and thirdly - make sure you have alternative school you can be really positive about. I find other kids (parents?) and blinking teachers come out with all sorts of nonsense about the 11 plus and its importance. If you have a child like ds3 he needs a no-nonsence 'this is not the be all and end all and there are other excellent schools' approach to stop him getting his knickers in a twist. He wants to go to the grammar, I secretly prefer his second choice, so I don't struggle with this!

stresssed Wed 05-Aug-15 16:59:50

"There is a lot of content in the maths paper that will not be cover at KS2, at least there was when my Dc did the 11+, 4 and 5 years ago. There was things like how mahy fluid ounces is a cup of tea, and what sizes are rucksacks sold in, etc."

This is NOT correct. The national curriculum for KS2 explicitly states children must be able to understand use approximate equivalences between metric and imperial units.

I repeat - there is nothing in the 11+ exam for any state school that is not covered in the National Curriculum for KS2 - because if there was, every child who had applied to that school and not passed the exam would have a valid grounds for appeal. They can ask tricksy questions that require children to think laterally - but only using the knowledge they should have gained from KS2.

So if you focus on covering the KS2 curriculum thoroughly, that will be quite sufficient.

LilyTucker Thu 06-Aug-15 08:24:18

Not true.

Our states it's primarily levels 1-5 but that there are opportunities to go beyond that.

Primaries differ.Getting all to a level 4 will alway be a priority.The amount of leve 5 prep kids get let alone level 6 will vary hugely as will when it happens.The exam is in Sep of year 6.

Also you don't get the papers back so I'd love to know how you could go through a paper with a fine tooth comb to complain after.

Honestly you take a blind assumption that everything needed will be done at your peril. Levels have gone now anyway.This year's year 6 will be the first year taking it without them. This year and next year will be interesting as it will involve the cross over of curriculums.The new maths curriculum is a lot harder. If schools are testing on the new curriculum it will vary as to how well it's been covered as primaries get to grips with it.

stresssed Thu 06-Aug-15 09:23:21

You don't need to 'get the papers back - if you child remembers a question that was unanswerable then it's straightforward to work out if the type of question is one covered in the NC or not.

What you're saying is simply false - show me an example of a state school (obviously, independent schools can ask what they like) whose entrance exam contains a single question that goes beyond KS2 - or admit you're deliberately spreading misinformation.

This kind of deliberate misinformation is dangerous - it panics parents and children unnecessarily and takes them away from what they should be focusing on, which is KS2 content.

It's quite enough to expect 10-year-olds to have covered all the year 6 content by Sept of Year 6 - no need to panic them they need to have covered year 7 or 8 content too!!

So chill, parents reading this. What lilytucker says is a LIE.

stresssed Thu 06-Aug-15 09:26:36

And nowhere did I state that 'everything needed will be done' at primary school - on the contrary, as children need to know all year 6 content by the very start of year 6, unless they are fortunate enough to go to a school that is a year ahead, they WILL need to ensure they have covered year 6 content.

What they will not need to have done is covered year 7 or year 8 content...

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