The English examination equates to around Level 5 of the National Curriculum. Every school’s examination will differ slightly, but all will focus on reading comprehension, writing and spelling. The reading comprehension normally takes place first followed by a writing activity that is usually related to the passage in the reading comprehension. The total amount of given time to complete both parts of the test can vary from 1 to 1.5 hours and students are recommended to split the time in equal amounts in order to complete both the reading comprehension and writing sections.
What subjects will be covered in the examination?
Within this section of the examination, your child will be asked to read a passage from a text, which can be in the form of a fiction, non-fiction piece or a poem. Your child will then be required to answer a variety of questions that will assess their knowledge and understanding of the text. Each question is worth a certain number of marks and this is usually made clear next to each question. The higher the value of the mark, the more complex the question. The questions will vary in order to assess for ability in a range of skills such as:
The ability to:
Your child will spend around half of the allotted time for the English exam on the writing task. Usually, there will often be a small choice of titles to choose from, although this is not always the case. Often the titles given will be open ended and can appear very uninspiring. This is designed to allow your child to demonstrate his ability to write an interesting piece that is appropriate to the purpose, organised effectively with ideas that are clearly presented and described with deliberate choices of vocabulary or literary effects.
Unlike the Seven Plus exams, the key is to realise that it is very hard to write an essay with a ‘beginning, middle and end’ within the 30-40minutes given if the work is to contain the detail and description to make the work a Level 5. It is therefore more favourable for the student to write a short but well described piece of writing, rather than a complete essay with little description or detail. Focusing on a shorter piece of writing provides a great opportunity for your child to demonstrate the ability to use different techniques for effect.
A good starting point is to show your child excellent examples of writing. After all, how can your child be expected to write a brilliant piece, if he doesn’t know what a brilliant piece of writing looks like? Together with your child, analyse a piece of work by identifying the key components that make that piece of writing excellent (Eg. deliberate choice of vocabulary for effect, the use of suspense, or literary techniques for effect, rhetorical questions, text organised correctly using paragraphs, the use of a wide range of punctuation marks etc).
Compile a list of these key components. The more your child is shown different pieces of quality writing, the better he will get at recognising what makes a piece of writing good. Every time you see a key component before used, add it to your list.
Now it’s your child’s turn to write. Let’s say the title of the task is ‘The scariest thing that ever happened to me’ and your child has decided on a chase scene where the main character is running away from a tornado.
A final note to make is that it is generally much easier to write a fiction piece, rather than non-fiction, as fiction writing allows the writer to demonstrate a greater use of literary effects. However, this does depend on the writing ability of your child.
Once you understand the syllabus for the 11+ English exam, it is equally important to get your head around the Maths syllabus as well. You can do so by reading the next article in the series:
If you’re not sure on the fundamentals of the 11+, we recommend reading our beginners guide. This can be found here:
If you are still deciding which school to put your child forward for at 11+, we recommend using our school admissions guide to better understand the admissions process for a number of schools offering 11+ entry.
Although we don’t provide sample papers for the ISEB pre-test, we do provide our own set of Eleven Plus exam papers. These are completely free to use, and cover the main subjects assessed at 11+. You can view these using the link below.
If you are looking for a tutor, we can certainly help. We offer home tutors in London, online tutors internationally, and both short- and long-term residential tuition placements. All of our tutors are qualified school teachers, with classroom teaching experience in the subjects they tutor.
Many entrance exams at 7+, 8+ and 11+ ask children to write a story – usually giving around half an hour for this part of the assessment. In such a short time, the beginning of the story should be captivating! In this blog, Hannah sets out how you can help your child to develop their story writing skills and grab the attention of the examiner.
Hannah November, 2016