How to Prepare Your Child for 11+ and Other Entrance Exams

How to Prepare Your Child for 11+ and Other Entrance Exams

The entrance exams at 11+ are, for the vast majority of children, their first big experience of external testing. So understandably, it can be a particularly anxiety-inducing time for children (as well as their parents).

Catherine Stevens, Deputy Head (Academic) at the Royal Hospital School in Ipswich has put together her top tips on how to prepare your child for the best possible outcome whilst still supporting their mental wellbeing and alleviate any worries they (or you) might have.

1. Research what will be tested with the schools you’ve applied to.

Each school will use a different examination provider, so it’s worth asking which papers your child will sit. Often the school will have practice test papers available, so do ask for them. Most schools will test English, maths and verbal reasoning.

2. Help by familiarising your child with verbal reasoning papers.

It’s a great idea to help your child prepare with test papers so that they can acquaint themselves with the test format. Many children have never had experience of verbal reasoning tests before, particularly those from state sector primary schools, so practice will really help them feel more comfortable on the day. Treat the questions as puzzles to be solved and work through some examples with your child to help them see how to approach the questions and to remove anxiety about getting them right. If test papers are unavailable for the examination company used by your prospective school, the Bond series of books are a helpful starting point.

3. Prepare, but don’t overprepare.

Preparation is a great idea but too much can push your child to burn out before the big day. Schools want to know the real ability of your child but not at the expense of their wellbeing. Plan ahead to ensure that you know the logistics of getting your child to the exam on time in a relaxed manner.

4. Inform the school if your child has any special educational needs that may affect their performance.

Every school will be able to help your child through the assessment process best if they know about special educational needs. Being open during the admissions process will allow you to assess the school’s future ability to support your child, and some schools may provide support on the day.

5. Rest and have fun before the assessment day.

Give your child time off from test papers and preparation in advance of the assessments so that they’re fresh and energised on the big day. Make the build-up to the exam day as calm as possible for your child. It’s a good idea to spend time with them doing activities they enjoy. Aim for a balance, engaging them enough to keep their minds off any worries but not wearing them out so that they feel exhausted for the exam. Spending time together also gives your child plenty of opportunities to open up to you about any concerns they may have.

6. Make sure they know that you are proud of them no matter what.

This may sound obvious, but don’t assume your child knows this already! Tell them clearly: this could be in written form if you think your child will absorb the message better this way. Have a clear plan B ready to action if your child doesn’t achieve the desired result and be positive about it.


The Royal Hospital School (RHS) is an independent co-educational boarding and day school for 11-18 year olds, providing an outstanding, full and broad education.

Founded in 1712 in Greenwich, London, RHS moved to its spectacular site, set in 200 acres of Suffolk countryside overlooking the River Stour, in 1933. The school has continued to develop its purpose-built site and has grown in size and reputation to become one of East Anglia’s leading independent schools.

RHS focuses on inspiring pupils to pursue their interests and talents, reach their ambitions and develop essential life skills. Great importance is placed on balancing academic work with interests and achievements outside the classroom. Today, RHS is a modern, forward-thinking HMC school, anchored on 300 years of history and achievement.

The school is located in Holbrook, Ipswich, which is just a 10-minute drive from Manningtree train station (London is just a 60-minute train ride) and easily accessible from the A14 and A12. RHS also offers an outstanding travel service for their pupils, with a wide network of buses.