Exams whatever the kind they are can be daunting for both you and your child this is why as someone who roughly about 8 years ago was taking these myself I plan to give tips on how to prepare for 11+ and 13+ entrance exams. Before I begin to delve in on how to do this it would be best to explain or remind ourselves of what they actually are.
Introduced in 1904 these exams taken at the ages of 11, 13 or in the secondary school year of year 8 are formally known as common entrance exams usually run by the Independent Schools Examination Board. These allow the chance for your child to get into a secondary school; most secondary schools usually set a pass rate of around ‘55%’(1). The test usually compromises of maths, mental maths and also includes English tests. These can usually be taken in a public hall so for example this could be another secondary school or hall or gym that is available for public use. When I took mine I was in another secondary school in my local area personally I didn’t go to a primary school in my area so you may find that may be the case if your child is in the same position. If not then they will most likely be in the same school or one nearby.
Many people feel that children should be used to being tested from an early age so when they do approach a secondary school they are well introduced into the system like with any habit even reading its best to start them young so it doesn’t become so daunting. However some argue that having these common entrance exams so young is making it daunting and by writing this article I bear in mind in can be stressful at any age not just at 11 or at 13 I found my exams that I had taken before the summer very daunting it is just part of the system but what we can do is make it as stress free as possible also according to the Independent Schools Examination Board ‘examinations lead to high standards’ (2) and furthermore they feel that ‘not using common entrance likely to lead to ‘narrowing of the curriculum’(2). So whatever your opinion on these exams I give you advice on how to prepare your children for 11+ and 13+ entrance exams and make the best out of it whatever the case.
Now we have gathered information on what these entrance exams are and the general opinion about them we can now move forward into how your child can prepare for these entrance exams you may find these tips include skills and methods which can help your child beyond this level some of these methods to help with exams I find are quite useful myself now while I am at university. I would also like to express my opinion on these methods in order to help you further.
Firstly, practice! You need to help your child familiarise themselves with what it is they are going to be facing. Sit with them show them the paper maybe attempt some questions this is a great tip to not only help them practice their skills but to also make the process a lot easier if they are not sure what’s going to happen. We must not forget it is also reassuring for you as you will also want to know what your child will be asked what do when they go to the exam. The saying ‘practice makes perfect’ really applies here as it would with any exams the more you have a go at it the more likely they are to be prepared for whatever question comes up. It is a classic old tip but very useful whatever the age or exam so I would personally push for this one it helped me for my exams aged 11 and has helped me now for university type exams.
Secondly, try to manage the timing of your child’s revision for the exam ahead. If you start practicing too late its highly unlikely you will succeed. Many of the 11+ exams start just after the summer holidays and many parents rightly so would want their children to focusing on enjoying their time on holiday it would be best to start a routine so whilst children can enjoy the summer time they can incorporate time to focus on the exam and it is not just the practice but the time at which you practice. Starting in the summer can be great but if possible try and prepare your child much earlier. This could be during homework time take a break then spend some time trying to tackle maybe a few of the questions and gradually do more. Mock exams are really useful as they can point out your child’s is just as important for the common entrance exams to do this early this makes sorting out where they have weaknesses much easier to deal with and help them become really successful. Timing is really key.
Try to make exams fun. This may seem too much to ask and may be an impossible task but it will help engage your child’s interest. Try building a reward system for example , if your child can complete 15 or maybe 30 minutes of practice with good behaviour and a massive effort give them a stars and so many stars equals maybe a treat or a later bedtime at the weekend. Your child may want to continue the practice in order to gain the rewards or maybe be able to complete more questions or be able to do more minutes of practice until you are able to without stress be able to test them so that they are prepared for the exams. Only work with the pace your child is able to work in, still at university level I take revision piece by piece and set myself goals and give myself rewards. Exams at whatever stage can be demanding and stressful so making it fun as possible as early as possible can make it really fun and help your child become very successful in the common entrance exams. For the maths questions which the test can involve use maybe sweets or make it a game with points to answer the questions and for the English skills of the test get them to read make this fun also be a book they like or a movie or programme turned into an ebook there are many apps where you can find books for your kids to enjoy don’t stop at just the test paper and a pencil get creative it can be a time you and your child spend together too while also having fun and more importantly get them ready for the exams.
These tips stated here are personal ones as not too many years ago I was in this position myself so they are methods I would use and in a way still use to help with exams. Moving forward I would like to express my opinion on some tips that I found of which you may find useful.
The Telegraph points out the tip to make realistic targets. We have spoken already about setting goals when revising to keep things fun as great and as useful is that advice is ( I would still highly recommend it ) as well as making things fun. Things should be realistic when trying to get your child to prepare for exams it can be immense pressure for both you and for your child even now when I take exams it is so easy to fall into the trap of expecting too much from yourself. It can apply to you as a parent to expect too much from yourself to help your child and also your child themselves. You have to remember you can only do what you can , there is nothing wrong with having ambition and wanting for your child to aim high but we must remember not too push too much. I often find myself doing that when it comes to my exams even now it is completely natural so I would strongly take this piece of advice. Along with this tip I would recommend making sure to have breaks the summer is also time for your child to have fun and relax and learning can be very strenuous.
Another really obvious tip that I found on the United Kingdom Huffington Post edition in my opinion that we all tend to forget (even I do) is to note down and making key dates. Usually when it comes to preparing for exams it what we need to learn and the content but never when we need to know them by. Of course being aware of the topics is vital but knowing the key date in mind and setting mini goals can help in terms of planning and priorities on what your child should maybe focus on first for example lets focus on the science topics briefly on this date and another topic on another date. Having a timetable on what you will do on certain days will make sure you cover everything but also keep the exam date in mind so you can focus on those weaker areas in time for the exam date. The thing with time tables is that you can make them fun, get your child to colour them in or have some control over what it is they would like to cover first make the timetable colourful. They are also quick to make organise what days you will test your child and what days you would like to cover certain topics at the start of the summer for example and change according to your child’s needs. I personally love to know what I am doing and I feel I do better in exams through a timetable it saves stress as you have an allocated time and date to stick to your child’s learning it is also successful if you can manage to get your child to stick to it a small amount of time a day focusing on these different topics can go along way over the 6 weeks and using the additional support of a library or a tutor who can help organise your time can make such a difference. The timetable can reduce a lot of stress as I said before it is best to make it fun for your child so schedule time for breaks summer is also a time for fun and to have a break too. This can be a stressful time for you both.
So here I have shown you a mixture of tips I would recommend and still use myself and some that I have found and would like to express my opinion on. I would definitely use a good combination of these in order to prepare for the upcoming exams , my personal favourite is the timetable I feel this alone will save you and your child a lot of stress almost immediately however from the research I have done the best tip from what I have gathered for example from the Queen Anne’s school for Girls is the use of mnemonics and visual images as they are known to ‘improve memory recall significantly’(3) and I feel like this is the view science will take I feel organising to use that time is vital however it seems if you can’t even remember what it is your meant to be doing or even recall what it is you have learnt from your last scheduled revision then what is even the point? It said that we learn best when revising when putting the information into small chunks make sure that when you are helping your child prepare for the exam the information is put into bitesize chunks but as always that the hard work is kept fun.
According to Marc Smith a psychology student who contributes to an educational article in the guardian using the memory to help the process of learning ‘can build the foundations for higher thinking and problem solving’ (4). So with this in mind I think it is best to say that using a combination of these tips would be great for preparing for these common entrance exams. I do pride myself on keeping organised in order to combat the pre exam stress but then again I personally am a visual learner I like to make charts and diagrams and connect certain points or key facts with pictures in order to help me remember so you might what to try and help your child do this too, although it is best not to keep this as the main focus and it could become a distracting but more as a simple technique to help the learning and preparing of these common entrance exams fun. I do find myself even at my age colouring in the odd diagram or two having the colourful visual imagery as well as making it as fun as possible also helps it stick in the memory from the usual boring notes that we all have. I would love to recommend this tip but all the ones I have mentioned are also useful it just depends on the needs of your child and what works best for them that’s the successful method to help them prepare for these exams.
So to conclude on this advice on how to help your child prepare for the 11+ and 13+ common entrance exams I just want to make clear that I am not a parent but not so long ago it was myself taking those exams and it is still today I am using those tips and that’s what makes writing these articles so exciting is the fact I can share these experiences and pieces of advice with you. I do sincerely hope you find these tips useful and that you can use at least one if not all to help your child through these exams. Finally I want to wish your child the best of luck for these exams and may they do extremely well in the future. Exams can be very stressful for both yourselves so make sure you and your child try to have fun and not get yourselves too worked up as you are both allowed to take breaks. I would personally remember to keep things structured so your child can also work done but also at a level where you can still take breaks and it does not become an overload. I would also recommend keeping it fun even now while I am at university having fun whilst studying is really helpful in them becoming successful and makes it a whole lot easier. You have to remember these are skills that they can use for life in terms of organisation and practice and its best to start early. Lastly, I want to say best of luck in these upcoming examinations!