Eight plus English and Literacy

What is involved in the 8+ English examination?

Every school’s examination will differ slightly, but all will focus on reading comprehension and writing. Spelling, punctuation and handwriting are usually assessed through the writing task, although in some schools, these may be assessed separately. Some schools may also have separate listening, dictation or grammar examinations.

The English examination can last from 50 mins – 1hr 15 minutes depending on the school, as your child will be expected to work independently for sustained periods of time.

What subjects will be covered in the examination

• Reading comprehension:

Your child should be expected to read through a passage and answer questions based on the text. The questions will vary in style and format in order to assess your child’s knowledge and understanding of the information. Your child will be expected to demonstrate a literal understanding of the passage at a bare minimum; at the other end of the scale, your child may asked to demonstrate an understanding of how the author uses language. One school lists this as “similes, personification, onomatopoeia, humour” as part of their 8+ English test. Usually, your child will be expected to write in full sentences.

• Writing

For the writing task, your child may or may not be given a choice of tasks. It is usually a fictional piece of work and your child will be expected to write with accuracy and sophistication. Writing tasks that have appeared in 8+ exams include:

  • Writing a character study
  • Continuation of a story extract
  • Writing a story with a given title (Eg. ‘The Forbidden Box’ or ‘Camping Catastrophe!”

Again, the writing tasks will vary in format and type, with some schools giving very basic written instructions. Others may provide visual aids and/ or bullet point prompt clues as part of their instructions. (eg. Make sure you write in paragraphs / use your 5 senses: what do you see, smell, touch, hear and taste?)

Punctuation will be assessed and your child will usually be expected to understand the use of capital letters full stops, apostrophes, commas and question marks; paragraphing is also assessed.

Your child should write with accurate spelling and descriptive language. Any sentences that are clearly pre-learnt and used inappropriately will most likely cause your child’s writing to be penalised. Presentation is also important and your child will be expected to write clearly and neatly.

What books can my child be reading to prepare for the examination?

Your child will be expected to read with increasing fluency and expression. Therefore, do take the time to listen to your child read aloud. In addition, some schools publish a reading list on their admissions page. The list is there for a reason and is designed to give you an idea of the level at which their exam candidates are expected to be at. Therefore, try to get your child to read as many of those titles are possible. If anything else, reading generally should be something your child should be doing anyway.

Some schools do not openly publish information on their websites but state that details will be provided to parents registered. When you receive this information from your chosen school, do pay close attention to their instructions.