Last-minute 11+ exam advice


Michellejoy Hughes is a highly qualified and experienced teacher and tutor, with over 25 years’ experience in the education sector. After spending many years working as a teacher, she now regularly tutors over 20 pupils a week and has helped hundreds of children prepare successfully for the 11+.

With the 11+ fast approaching in many areas, here are some last-minute ideas that can help you support your child in the run-up to the exams.

Using test papers:

  • Test papers are the best way of familiarising your child with the exam paper format and with the timing of questions. I would always make time for at least 8 test papers and make sure that you go through any mistakes afterwards to ensure that your child is sure of how to answer each question type.
  • Make sure that your child follows exam etiquette when completing the papers. If they complete them while eating their dinner or watching television, the beneficial effects of test papers are lost. Although you don’t want to create any unnecessary stress, setting up an exam environment offers a more realistic preparation for the 11+.
    Read our Developing 11+ exam skills blog for more advice on this topic.
  • Encouraging your child to complete a routine before each test paper can help them feel more prepared for the real exam. Get them used to gathering together a sharp pencil and eraser, having a drink of water and popping to the toilet before they do a test paper at home.
    For challenging, realistic exam practice at home, take a look at our Bond 11+ test packs.

Exam technique:

  • If timing is a tricky area, using Bond 10 Minute Tests can provide a tighter focus. One thing I do with my pupils is to watch and record each question that they complete during a timed test paper. I can then see where they spend too much time, which allows me to consolidate any difficult techniques or to encourage them to be aware of the types of questions they’re taking too long to answer.
  • Many bright children fail the 11+ because they insist on answering every question fully and in doing so they cannot complete the papers. Explaining that it is okay to move on is best for children like this. I tell my ‘perfectionists’ that the aim is to complete as many questions in the time as possible. A good technique for these children is to encourage them to make an educated guess at a question that they are unsure of and to come back to it if they have time at the end.


  • Preparing mentally can be difficult for children at this age. I try to encourage my pupils to replace any feelings of fear or nervousness with feelings of excitement at the prospect of showing off their skills.
  • Listing all of their papers with their scores can help children to see ‘statistics’ that is often more reassuring than the vague reassurance that they ‘mustn’t panic’.


  • Taking the opportunity to attend the school open days at the beginning of September can really help children focus in a positive way. Visiting more than one school can also help show your child that there may be other options.
    For advice on getting the most out of open days read 'Five tips on how to choose the right school for your child'.
  • This is a common time for children and parents to talk about little else other than the 11+ exam and while this is understandable, panic can set in if it’s all you discuss. Remind your child that there is more to life than the 11+ and reassure them that they have already achieved a great deal by sticking to a timetable and completing the work set for them. If your child knows that you are proud of them for having a go at the 11+ then the emphasis is on the process rather than just the results.

This can be a stressful time for you, your child and for other members of the family, so spending time together away from the 11+ process is important. Activities such as watching a film, playing a game, pursuing a hobby or going for a walk together as a family are all great ways of getting a break from the 11+.

I hope that these ideas will help you and your child in this final stage of the 11+ journey.

Michellejoy Hughes