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Creative writing in the 11 plus: parents’ guide


Mar 15, 2023, 2:21 PM

Creative writing guide for parents

If your child is preparing for secondary school entrance exams, you may have heard conflicting information about whether there will be a creative writing task. Read on to find out exactly:

  • What to expect from 11 plus creative writing exams

  • How to help your child prepare

  • Which schools will require your child to do a creative writing test


What is 11 plus creative writing?

11 plus applicants may need to complete a creative writing task as part of the exam. The task could be to write an original short story or continue a story from a given text.

The main 11 plus exam boards (GL, CEM and ISEB) do not include creative writing tasks in their tests. If a grammar school entrance exam includes a creative writing element, it has likely been set by the school itself. Most grammar schools will only assess the creative writing task in 'borderline cases' (such as when deciding between two candidates who achieved the same score in the main exam papers).

When it comes to independent senior schools, most will require candidates to write an essay or creative writing piece as part of their entrance exams.

The 11 plus creative writing task will need to be completed in a short time frame. Pupils will need to draft, write and review their work in well under an hour (dependent on the school's exam format).

What to expect in a creative writing exam

In most creative writing exams, your child will be given an imaginary scenario and 30–45 minutes to write about it. Here are some examples of creative writing topics your child might be asked to write about in the exam:

  • The natural world, e.g. Imagine you are on a desert island

  • Activities, e.g. Describe a hobby you like doing

  • Animals, e.g. What animal are you frightened of and why? or What animal would you most like to be?

  • Emotions, e.g. Imagine you are lost in a forest or Imagine you just got the best news ever

Preparation tips

Explore the full list of example creative writing tasks from past papers.

Synonyms and antonyms

Introduce your child to the creative writing exam framework.

Practice using the framework to write about some of the topics from the list.

11 plus creative writing resources

Creative writing guide for kids

In this article, we share the story-writing framework that will support your child to confidently complete the creative writing paper in an exam.

Your child will learn:

  • How to write brilliant beginnings

  • How to create captivating characters

  • How to write excellent endings

  • Techniques for planning and structuring their story within the time constraints of the exam

  • Features of fiction the examiners will be looking out for

Let's go
Creative writing guide for kids

Learn to build tension and suspense in writing

These skills will be useful for writing exams or simply writing for fun! Your child will learn how to:

  • Withhold information from the reader to build tension

  • Use effective descriptions to lengthen the moment

  • Make the climax of the story as momentous as possible

Let's go
Suspense and tension in writing

11 plus creative writing prompts

Join Atom's email list and get a free set of fun fiction and non-fiction writing prompts which you can use to help your child hone their creative writing skills. Download your 11 plus creative writing pdf here:

11 plus creative writing prompts: fiction and non-fiction. Download now

Reading lists

Great readers make great writers! Getting familiar with the features of prose fiction across a range of genres, time periods and settings will help inspire your child when it comes to writing their own pieces.

Here are Atom’s top picks:

Check out five ways to engage your child with reading here.


Speaking of brilliant beginnings, if you’re looking for inspiration, try this quiz with your child and see if you can match the first line to the book. We've mixed up the first lines from nine classic novels. Watch out – one of the books is a decoy!

World Book Day quiz.svg

Live Lessons

If you have an Atom Nucleus subscription, you have access to lots of fun and interactive lessons for your child on a range of 11 plus creative writing techniques! Check them out in your Lesson Library today.

Creative writing live lessons on Atom

If you haven't yet subscribed, you can get a free taster selection of six creative writing and comprehension lessons! Simply join Atom's mailing list to unlock your free lessons.

You'll get:

  • Masterful Mysteries

  • Legendary Letters

  • Fantastic Fantasy

  • Traditional Tales

  • Science Fiction

  • 11+ Past Paper

Creative writing and comprehension lessons - prepare to be inspired. Watch now

Which grammar schools test creative writing in the 11 plus?


See our complete guide to grammar schools in Essex

For children applying to the 11 plus in Essex, they will need to show that they can use literary features for effect. They will need to write 6–7 sentences about two given topics. Both writing pieces share a mark out of 15.


See our complete guide to grammar schools in Kent

The creative writing task in the Kent Test is 40 minutes, including ten minutes for planning. This test is not formally marked but it may be used by local headteachers in borderline cases or appeals.

London Borough of Barnet

See our complete guide to grammar schools in Barnet

The Henrietta Barnett School includes a 'Round 2' 11 plus test, written by the school, where pupils are assessed on their English and maths skills. This test will include an element of creative or extended writing.

London Borough of Bromley

See our complete guide to grammar schools in Bromley

St Olave's Grammar School includes a 'Round 2' 11 plus test, written by the school. In the English test, candidates will have a creative writing task. They will need to write between two paragraphs and one side of A4 paper.

London Borough of Kingston-upon-Thames

See our complete guide to grammar schools in Kingston-upon-Thames

The grammar schools in Kingston-upon-Thames have 'longer writing' tasks as part of their 'Stage 2' 11 plus tests. These are set and marked by the individual schools.

  • Tiffin Boys' School

  • Tiffin Girls' School

London Borough of Sutton

See our complete guide to grammar schools in Sutton

The following grammar schools in Sutton share a 'Selective Eligibility Test'. This is a second stage 11 plus test, set by the schools. It includes an extended writing task that will be between 40 minutes and one hour (school-dependent).


See our complete guide to grammar schools in Medway

The 11 plus exam for the Medway grammar schools includes an extended writing section. Children will have an extract and a writing prompt. They must showcase their knowledge of the writing features expected from a Year 6 pupil.

Wirral (Liverpool)

St Anselm's College includes a 30-minute writing task as part of its 11 plus exam. The task includes prompts and five to ten minutes for planning.

Get in touch

If you have any questions about preparing for grammar or independent school entrance exams, our team of Education Experts is here to help you!

Contact us
Atom Learning customer support team



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