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Atom's guide to 11 plus tuition

By Atom | Jun 9, 2023, 9:01 AM

Boy writing in a notebook while a woman watches through a laptop screen

The 11 plus is, by nature, a competitive test for pupils. Selective independent schools and grammar schools use entrance exams to identify children working to the highest academic ability (typically the top 25% or above) within their year group.

If you have a grammar school or selective independent school in mind for your child's education, you might be considering a private tutor to help with their exam preparation. Keep reading for our guide to 11 plus tuition and what to look for to help your child pass exams and achieve academic success.

Do I need an 11 plus tutor for my child?

The short answer is no – it is not a requirement to have a private tutor to help your child with 11 plus prep. There are plenty of cost-effective resources available (including Atom Nucleus!) to help your child consolidate the Key Stage 2 curriculum and take practice papers/mock exams for their target school.

However, some children may benefit from the extra support that a private tutor can provide. For example:

My child is answering questions too quickly – or too slowly.

If your child is answering questions too quickly for timed exams, this may be an indication that they are rushing and not reading the question thoroughly. At the other end of the spectrum, if your child is answering the questions too slowly, this may indicate that they are struggling to understand what is required of them and/or haven't grasped the content. A private tutor can help your child break down questions, go over difficult topics and will teach your child time management skills.

My child is worrying about the exam.

Preparing for a test can be an isolating experience and some children may need some extra encouragement. If your child is exhibiting signs that they're worried about the exams, a private tutor may be a good addition to their routine to help them develop the confidence they need to succeed.

My child is struggling with particular concepts.

If you have worked through revision material with your child and you're seeing the same mistakes on repeat, it might be a sign that a concept hasn't 'stuck' from teaching in the classroom. Every child learns in different ways and will need to approach questions differently. A good private tutor should be able to identify how your child learns and will adapt the way they teach a concept to help your child fully understand.

What to look for in a private tutor

Knowledge of the exam

There are different 11 plus providers in the UK, which means children will sit different exams depending on their target school. The main exam boards are GL Assessments, CEM and ISEB, although some schools will use their own test.

If you are specifically seeking 11 plus tuition, identify experienced tutors who have in-depth knowledge of the exam boards and know what it takes to succeed. The tutor will need to be able to help your child with specific exam techniques and the content of some, or all, of the following subjects:

  • English

  • Maths

  • Verbal reasoning

  • Non-verbal reasoning

  • Spatial reasoning

  • Bonus: interview skills (more relevant to independent school admissions)

Is your child applying to a grammar school? Find out which exam board your target school uses in our guide to 11 plus grammar school consortiums.

Grammar schools guide: which 11 plus exam board does your target school use?

Great communication skills

Did you have a favourite teacher at school?

In 2018, a study of over 570,000 students in the USA highlighted that teachers who improved students' motivation, adaptability and self-regulation had significant positive impacts on their students’ grades.

These characteristics are just as important in a private tutor. Children who are learning with an adult they generally like will work harder, faster and better (and as many parents will know, typically children will work harder for an independent adult they respect rather than mum or dad!). A great tutor will make learning fun for your child while building their confidence; the more confident your child and the more they enjoy their learning, the more likely they will achieve exam success.

Ability to scaffold

'Scaffolding' is an approach to teaching where the teacher will break up the content into manageable chunks and help students build on prior knowledge to solve a concept. Essentially, it involves strategic support so that your child learns the necessary toolkit to solve new problems, rather than memorising answers.

Many of the questions in the 11 plus exam will involve new concepts that your child has not learnt before – particularly in verbal reasoning and non-verbal reasoning. Simply put, there is no way to memorise answers to these questions – success depends on your child being able to apply logic and solve problems.

A good tutor will know how to layer questions in their teaching to help your child understand the concept (rather than getting straight to the answer). This means that if a question comes up in the exam that your child hasn't seen before, they will know what knowledge they need to apply to answer it correctly.

Lets your child make mistakes

11 plus exams are designed to identify the children working at the very top academic range of their year group – so the questions aren't meant to be easy. For children who are used to being at the top of the year in their primary or prep school, this might be the first time they are encountering genuinely difficult content.

It's important that the tutor lets your child make mistakes. By taking a step back and not intervening before the mistake is made, they will help your child develop independence in the first instance. When they review the content together, a good tutor will then work through the mistake with your child and help them understand where they went wrong, building a stronger understanding of the concept in the process.

If your child can make mistakes and learn from them in the preparation stage, they are less likely to make the same mistakes on exam day.

Get support to excel in the 11 plus with Atom Tuition

If you think your child could benefit from one-to-one tuition for their 11 plus preparation, Atom Tuition can help. Our team of dedicated client managers will speak with you about your child and their needs, matching you with the perfect tutor to help your child achieve their full potential in the 11 plus. You’ll get:

  • A carefully-selected tutor who has undergone enhanced DBS checks and has a proven track record for success

  • Weekly reporting and termly assessments, with 24/7 access to your child’s progress data

  • Discounted access to our award-winning online platform Atom Nucleus for continuous learning between sessions

  • 100% satisfaction guaranteed; if you feel that your introductory lesson isn’t a positive experience, we’ll give you a free replacement with another tutor or a full refund

With Atom Tuition, parents are kept in the loop with regular check-ins and weekly reports. We recognise that the 11 plus process can be a stressful time for parents and aim to make this experience as smooth as possible for the whole family. This means our tutors work closely with parents, engaging in frequent and open communication so you know exactly how your child is progressing.

Find out more about Atom Tuition

Ready to book a trial lesson? Fill out this simple form and one of our tuition advisors will get back in touch soon.

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