11-plus: You really need to start practising now

Pupils sit GCSE maths examSeptember may seem a long time away, but your child could have as few as 20 weeks to get ready for the 11-plus exam.

If you are using a personal tutor to support your child, you should be making sure there is plenty of time left to look at the wide variety of questions contained in the test.

I would recommend at least 20 sessions with a tutor to ensure your child has experienced every type of question which the test will throw at them. Of course, I would say that as I am a tutor myself!

But I really think that even high ability children, who are consistently hitting Level 5 in mathematics and English, need time to rehearse strategies for the 11-plus.

The test is a very specific way of assessing your child, and students are unlikely to have come across its type of question before.

I know – way back – when I took my 11-plus (or 12-plus as it was in those days), I did plenty of practice beforehand, using what were known as General Progress Papers! When it came to the 11-plus itself, I felt confident and nothing in the test surprised me. I felt I was in a position to do justice to myself.

That is all we can ask young people to do – to feel confident and perform to the best of their abilities. So if you think that weekly or twice-weekly lessons with a private tutor can help, then please contact me and I will be pleased to advise you.

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11-plus: the timetable in Warwickshire

11+ Essentials Comprehensive Book 1 frontApplication packs for the 11-plus are normally sent out to Year 5 children in June, with the on-line application process beginning at the end of June and closing in July. In late August, your child will be allocated a centre at which they will be sitting the 11-plus.

Your child will sit the 11-plus at the beginning of September, usually on a Saturday morning. There is a reserve date in case of illness or other special reason.

Provisional results will be sent out in mid-October. Applications for admissions must be made by the end of October. Offers from schools are normally sent out towards the end of February.

The exam itself

The test is made up of two 45-minute papers. Each test has between 100 and 125 questions. Sample questions are sent out two weeks before the exam. There are a limited number of sample questions on this website.

The types of questions your child will encounter.

11-plus: three types of question

Pupils sit GCSE maths exam

The 11-plus examination in Warwickshire comprises three types of question – verbal reasoning, non-verbal reasoning and numerical reasoning.

Here is a quick explanation:

VERBAL REASONING: These are questions about the English language, how you use it and how you understand it. They are usually multiple choice or fill-in-the-gap type of questions. For instance, you may be asked to choose the correct word to complete a passage, or to answer short comprehension questions about a passage which could be about 100 words long.

The main types of questions you will be asked fall into four categories:

1. Sorting words – you might have to sort words into categories, find words that are the most similar, or ones that have letters in common.

2. Selecting words – you might have to combine two words to make new ones, find a prefix for a set of words, or change letters to make a new word.

3. Anagrams – you might have to re-arrange letters to make a word, or complete a crossword, or find a word hidden in a sentence.

4. Coded sequences and logic – you might have to work out letter and number sequences, or code and decode words using numbers letters and symbols.

NON-VERBAL REASONINGYou will normally be shown a series of pictures and be asked which is the odd one out. Sometimes there will be four pictures, and you will have to choose from four or five others to find the one which matches the others.

The main types of questions you will be asked fall into four categories:

1. Identifying shapes – you might be asked to pair up shapes, or to recognise ones that are similar or different.

2. Missing shapes – you might be asked to find shapes that complete a sequence, or find a missing shape from a pattern.

3. Rotating shapes – you might be asked to recognise mirror images or link nets to cubes.

4. Coded shapes and logic – you might be asked to code and decode shapes or apply shape logic.

NUMERICAL REASONING: These questions test your numerical ability. You will be asked questions such as working out the total spend, or the change you would get in a shop.

The main types of questions you will be asked fall into five categories:

1. Number – you might be asked about place value, sequences or equations and algebra.

2. Fractions and decimals – you might be asked about decimal fractions, or ratio and proportion.

3. Handling data – you might be asked about mean, median, mode and range, or about probability.

4. Shape and space – you might be asked about symmetry, volume and capacity, or perimeter and area.

5. Measurement – you might be asked about reading scales, or time and timetables.

I have read in some places that the numerical reasoning part of the test makes up 50% of the marks, and the other two parts 25% each – but this is not confirmed.

As you can see, this is a very pressured examination. Students will have less than 30 seconds to attempt each question. Preparation is vital, even for the most gifted of children.

As a private tutor, I will ensure your child is familiar with all types of questions, and has strategies in place to deal with them. I will help them to deal with the pressure of the examination and, hopefully, be well prepared to be confident and make the most of their abilities.

If I can help, please contact me on northside777@btinternet.com

More information on the 11-plus

An example of English 11-plus questions

New Year’s resolutions

As 2015 begins, why not turn over a new leaf and learn a new skill?

Several people have said to me that they might be looking for music tuition in the New Year. This does not surprise me. What better time is there to start learning and developing a new skill?

Why not set aside half an hour a week to learn to play the piano, the guitar, or singing with the ukulele? Of course you will also have to set aside time at home each week to practise, and I would strongly recommend you do so twice a day. You will then find that you are learning and applying the skills you have acquired in our one-to-one sessions.

Can anybody learn a new instrument? I strongly believe they can, whatever their age or previous experience. It is simply a question of working hard at it. I may be able to show you how to play several chords on a guitar. But it is only you who can practise this skill at home every day until it becomes automatic.guitar

Similarly with the piano. I can show you how to play a simple tune with both hands. I can comment on your first attempt and give you helpful suggestions. But it is only you who can practise this at home and be proud of what you have achieved when you play the same tune for me again next week.

I look forward to hearing from you if you think you might be interested. Please fill in the contact form on the front page, or call my mobile number which is also listed on the front. Good luck in 2015!

SATs: How I can help

When children come to take their SATs in Years Two and Six, it can be a stressats 1sful time. Schools are, understandably, very keen for pupils to perform at their very best as the results are presented in league table format and reflect on the reputation of the school.

At present, children will sit SATs papers in mathematics, English reading and writing, and spelling. In mathematics, there will be two papers plus a mental paper. There will be a ‘reading’ paper, in which children are presented with texts and then have to answer questions on it. There will be two writing papers – a short writing task (usually 20 minutes) and a longer writing task. There might also be a spelling test. There are some variations between the Year Two and Year Six tests.

It is important for schools to create a relaxed atmosphere around the tests, particularly in Year Two where children are not necessarily used to the structure of tests. Many schools try to put their Year Six children at ease by providing them with breakfast on test days, to ensure they are well fed and in good condition for performing at their very best.

Children should be encouraged to do their best in their SATs, but should not be put under too much pressure. They are useful for teachers to uncover gaps in the learning of their pupil, and analysis of the papers can be very helpful.

So how can a personal tutor help? Well, often children feel better about tests if they have encountered the particular style of test before. A tutor can help work through previous papers, talk about the style of answers, and can discuss how to present responses so the maximum number of marks can be awarded. Many teachers will do this on a class basis and will be very efficient at doing so.

However, much can also be achieved on a one-to-one basis. I would look in detail at responses children have given in tests and how these could be improved. I would look at mark schemes and examiners’ reports. What is the very best way of securing three marks out of three on this question? How should you present the workings on this mathematics question to get the most marks? How should I plan this long piece of writing, faced with a blank sheet of paper?

I would be happy to discuss with parents how I can help their children face up to SATs with confidence, and calm, so they can do their best.

Maths: How I can help at primary level

mathsI would begin by having a discussion with the parent. What problem is your child facing? How can I help? You might be able to give me an idea of your child’s current National Curriculum level.

For the first session, I would probably do a diagnostic test of your child’s abilities. I would look through the requirements for their next National Curriculum level and ask them questions relating to each of the individual skills needed. This would give me an idea of areas to focus on in future sessions, which each last 45 minutes.

I would also talk to you about topics currently being studied at school, and how I can directly help with giving your child confidence in these lessons.

I try to make the sessions enjoyable and varied. I use different teaching materials, including some teaching programmes on laptops and Ipads. I will also work through exam or test-style questions which your child is likely to encounter and discuss how we could use our skills to answer them.

I will give you a written summary by email after each session to ensure you know what has been achieved.

English: How I can help at primary level

My initial approach would be to have a discussion with you about the issues facing your child. Ideally, I would then look through some of their recent work to discover their strengths and weakness. They might have issues moving from simple to compound sentences, or from compound to complex sentences.

Other issues might include spelling, punctuation or general grammar. They might need to focus on using more connectives, or adverbs, or working on their descriptive skills.

I would look at the requirements of their particular National Curriculum level and design work, which we would do together, to support them. I might also look at end-of-term or end-of-year tests (for instance in shorter or longer writing) and then model an approach to answering the question. We might do the plan together and then discuss how to transfer this to a written paragraph.

If there is a particular topic or issue which your child is covering at school, I could offer support in our 45-minute sessions. Hopefully, this would transfer to greater confidence and achievement in the classroom.

My aim would be to support the work of the class teacher and to complement whatever was going on in the classroom. I hope this would help!