Recently, I was taking my dog for his morning walk when I saw a lady, who I know, walking to school with her Year 3 son. She walked past and as I waited to acknowledge her, I noticed that she hadn’t seen me, she was deep in conversation with her son, a conversation which consisted of him answering times tables related questions. I was struck by this as all members of their family have performed well in their 11 plus exams and have proceeded to grammar schools, this is no lucky coincidence. Whilst students will be tested in a variety of different formats and by questions which are structured to challenge their thinking, they do require fundamental skills which form the basis of their responses.
1. Development of vocabulary.
Whether it’s to help with completing comprehension exercises, answering questions on the meanings of various words/phrases or simply understanding the way in which a question is phrased, a wide-ranging vocabulary is hugely beneficial. Students can develop this by reading regularly (whilst attempting to ascertain the meaning of any words which they don’t understand) and ensuring that these texts are challenging – although the level of difficulty of the texts will differ between different students. For students who are more reluctant readers, this can prove more difficult. I suggest ensuring that your conversations with your children include challenging vocabulary which they can then learn through discussion, in addition to the reading which will be taking place. Ultimately, it is quite normal for successful candidates to have reading ages which are more than 3 years in advance of their actual age.
2. Development of arithmetic.
You wouldn’t want to build a house on poor foundations, likewise you shouldn’t expect your child to develop their maths effectively if their basic arithmetic isn’t consistently accurate. Many of the skills which are required for 11 plus maths questions develop from the fundamental aspects of addition, subtraction, multiplication and division. Students must be able to carry out these skills accurately and swiftly, and I would suggest that this should be the case whilst they are in Year 4. Topics such as manipulation of fractions, ratio and time-based problems can all prove to be devilishly difficult for a student with poor arithmetic skills, and even when they do complete these correctly, you are painfully aware of the large amounts of time which are used to carry out calculations which other students will complete in seconds. As with all aspects of learning, some students will develop these skills far more quickly than others, however future progress will not occur until this is the case.
There are, of course, other skills which are hugely beneficial to successful 11 plus preparation, however these can be saved for another day.