Not all schools have a pre-test but many do and lots more are adopting this system. The 11 Plus pre-test is divided into four sections of multiple choice: English, Maths, Verbal Reasoning and Non-Verbal Reasoning. This article will discuss some of the techniques and strategies you should employ for success in the English and Maths segments of these tests! We will follow up with Verbal and Non-Verbal reasoning strategies.
Before we get onto the particulars of each paper, there is one rule that is consistent for all elements of the test. It’s called a process of elimination. As the test is multiple choice, it’s important to disregard all the options that you definitively know to be false. That way, you are far better equipped to focus on the choices that may well be correct. It just makes life so much easier!
The English 11 Plus pre-test paper is made up of three key areas: comprehension, spelling and punctuation.
For comprehension, the first important tactic is to read the questions first. In some schools, students are taught to read through the text first, as teachers don’t want their pupils to rush straight to the questions and make mistakes. However, this isn’t, in fact, the most effective way of tackling a comprehension exercise. If you don’t read through the questions first, then you don’t know what you’re looking for. You’re simply reading through a text without any particular direction. With the questions in mind, you are an informed reader who is searching the text for specific targets.
Another useful strategy is using the text paragraphs as a guideline for where the required information will be. For example, if there are ten questions and ten paragraphs, you can more or less guarantee that the information required to answer question one will be in paragraph one. The information for question three will be in paragraph three and so on…while one shouldn’t adhere to this religiously, double check your work if you think you have found the answer to question one in the final paragraph! It simply isn’t how they structure the test.
It is important to understand that when it comes to spelling, you are not actually required to understand the sentence. You are only being asked to spot the word that is misspelt! With this in mind, it can be useful to read the sentence backwards, as it trains your mind to look for errors, rather than get bogged down with the context of the sentence.
Also useful for spelling is phonetics, which means that you sound the word out under your breath. If you’re unsure of a word and it sounds wrong, chances are you have a misspelt word.
The final step for spelling is called the systematic check. Once you have applied your process of elimination, backwards reading and phonetics, you should only have a couple of words left. Now you need to go through each letter of every possible misspelt word and ask yourself if you are happy with each of them. This may sound painful but it’s very necessary for achieving the desired result.
The principal rule for punctuation is the reverse of spelling – so make sure you get them in the right order! For punctuation, it is of great importance that you read the sentence through and absorb its meaning and intentions. Without taking the time to establish this, you won’t know where the emphasis lies or understand the rhythm of the sentence. This will prevent you from adding or removing a question mark, full-stop, comma etc.
Finally, phonetics also plays an important role when it comes to punctuation. It is important to read the sentence out under your breath so you can assess the sentence flow. If a punctuation symbol disrupts this flow, it is unlikely to belong there (unless it has been employed for effect). Likewise, if the question is a long sentence that has lots of words flowing into one another, you probably need a full-stop or a comma.
The 11+ Maths pre-test will cover a whole range of topics in line with the national curriculum.
Calculators are usually not allowed so it is important that the student is able to perform mental calculations quickly and accurately. Some will also allow a pen and paper so it’s also important to have revised and practised the written methods for addition, subtraction, multiplication and division.
As with any paper, it is important not to panic or rush in the pre-test. More so than the standard written tests, the multiple choice element does sometimes throw you off balance. The key is to read the question, analyse what it is you have to do, decide on a method that you are going to use and then perform that method efficiently and accurately. A lot of time can be wasted on indecision and this can actually be more detrimental than choosing a slightly less efficient method, to begin with.
Once the test moves onto word problems, the reading of the questions becomes even more vital. If there are multiple steps, it’s important to take the time to map out your route to the answer and how you are going to get there.
The analysis and decision of what method to use is a key stage in the process and a confident grasp of this will go a long way to ensuring your success in the test paper. Regular practice and revision are important for improvement in this area but it is also equally important that you possess a good knowledge and understanding of the fundamentals of each topic.
If you encounter a question that you are unable to solve for any reason, then this is where trial and error comes into play. This method can be time-consuming and should only be used as a final resort (most of the time). However, with the right understanding and application, trial and error can be a vital tool.
Your tutor will guide you through the syllabus and also what is required for these Eleven + exams. There are lots of resources that can be ordered and there are several websites that will enable the student to get a good preview of the pre-tests. Some of these will have a range of papers of various lengths and difficulty. The student should always be looking to challenge themselves in order to improve, so it’s good practice to attempt more difficult papers if they find themselves regularly getting high scores.