What is my success rate at 11-plus?

People often ask me: What is your percentage success rate at 11-plus tuition?

My reply is somewhat complicated. I usually say that all of the students who come to me, who are of the right ability to succeed at grammar school level, have passed the 11-plus. So, to that extent, the ‘success rate’ is 100 percent.

Pupils sit GCSE maths exam
The 11-plus is a difficult challenge.

However, things are a little more complicated than that. Not every student I have taught has managed to get to the grammar schools in Rugby (Rugby High School, Lawrence Sheriff Grammar School and part of Ashlawn School). That is because not every student is suited to study at those schools. They offer high-level, fast-paced education and it would be wrong for a student to be ‘tutored’ through the 11-plus, only to find they struggle and are unhappy at a grammar school. That is not fair on anyone.

So my policy is to be honest with parents. I am happy to tutor any child in preparation for the 11-plus: but early on, usually after six sessions, I will give an assessment to the parents. I will say one of the following:

  • Yes, your child has a good chance of passing the 11-plus and going on to do well at grammar school
  • If your child works hard and practises for the 11-plus, they have a borderline chance of passing and could cope with grammar school level education; or
  • I feel your child does not have the ability to do well at grammar school and would be better suited and more comfortable in a different school.

I then leave it up to the parents to decide if they wish to continue with tuition. I will keep them updated with how their child is doing. If I have any concerns, I will voice them. Honesty is best and honesty is also the kindest thing to do in the long-run.

If you think this is the right approach, and would like to find about more, please get in touch. See the Contact page.


Changes to Key Stage 1 SATs

In Key Stage 1 SATS English, there will be a Grammar, Punctuation and Spelling Test from 2016. The spelling test will take about 15 minutes, and the grammar, punctuation and vocabulary test will take about 20 minutes.

The Government booklet states: “The tests are designed to enable pupils to demonstrate their attainment and as a result are not strictly timed since the ability to work at pace is not part of the assessment. Guidance will be provided to schools to ensure that pupils are given sufficient time to demonstrate what they understand, know and can do without prolonging the test inappropriately. Table 1 opposite provides an indication of suggested timings for each component. The total testing time is approximately 35 minutes. If teachers or administrators change the test time significantly, the test outcomes will be less reliable.”

There will also be two English Reading papers – the first of 30 minutes and the second of 40 minutes. The first reading paper comprises a selection of text(s) with questions interspersed. This component contains 20 marks. The second reading paper comprises a selection of texts and an associated reading answer booklet . This component contains 20 marks.

In Mathematics, there will be two papers – one of 20 minutes (arithmetic), and one of 35 minutes (mathematical reasoning). The tests are designed to enable pupils to demonstrate their attainment and as a result are not strictly timed since the ability to work at pace is not part of the assessment. However, elements within the curriculum state that pupils should be able to use quick recall of mathematical facts and the arithmetic paper is designed to assess some of these elements.


Paper 1 – 20 minutes
Paper 2 – 35 minutes
English Reading
Paper 1 – 30 minutes
Paper 2 – 40 minutes
Grammar, Punctuation and Spelling
Paper 1 – Spelling Test
Paper 2 – Grammar, punctuation and vocabulary 20 minutes.

Changes to Key Stage 2 SATs 2016

Pupils sit GCSE maths examFrom the summer of 2016, there will be major changes to SATs tests for those in Year 2 and Year 6. For those in Year 6, there will be three Mathematics papers, plus papers in English Reading, Spelling and Punctuation and Grammar.
If I am tutoring your child to take these tests in summer 2016, I will be using sample papers published by the Government. I will also make use of existing SATs papers (which go back about 10 years) as the style of some of the questions will be similar.
Hopefully, more sample papers will be published as the tests get nearer, allowing children to have the opportunity to get used to the new way of testing.
Many details have still to be announced, but you can read about the changes by following this link.
This article gives you an idea how marks will be allotted in the new tests.
This article from the Daily Telegraph suggests the new tests will be tougher than before.

Key Stage Two

The Reading Test

One test of one hour

The test will last for one hour, to include reading time, and will consist of a selection of fiction, non-fiction and poetry texts, with an accompanying answer booklet. Questions will be roughly in order of difficulty. The paper will be scored out of 50. There is no Level 6 paper.

Grammar, Punctuation and Spelling

One test of 45 minutes
One test of spelling

One paper of 45-minute duration will assess punctuation and grammar (50 marks) through short answer questions. A second test will assess spelling (20 marks). The spelling test will be read to pupils, with each spelling contained in a contextualised sentence as has been the case since 2013. As with reading, overall marks out of 70 will be converted to a scaled score, with 100 representing the expected standard. Most questions on the punctuation and grammar paper will be short answers, with some sentence answers towards the end of the paper. There will be no extension paper.


Arithmetic paper of 30 minutes
Two further papers of 40 minutes

The former mental mathematics paper is to be replaced by a 30-minute arithmetic paper, which assesses content from the number domain only. This new paper will consist largely of one-mark questions using context-free calculations. There will be some 2-mark questions for long multiplication and long division calculations. In two-mark questions, it will only be possible to obtain a single mark for a wrong answer derived from a correct method when using the intended standard method. There are 30 marks for this paper, representing 27% of the total test score.

There will be a further two test papers, each lasting 40 minutes and containing 40 marks. These will assess fluency, reasoning and problem solving, in a manner similar to the current tests. Up to half of the questions will be provided within a context. There will be no calculator paper (and calculators cannot be used in the tests), and no extension paper. Formulae will be provided where required (apart from the area and volume of a shape).

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

11-plus: How I can help

11+ Essentials Comprehensive Book 1 frontWarwickshire is unusual in retaining the 11-plus examination to determine entry to its grammar schools. In the Rugby area, many parents and children will choose the 11-plus as a means to gaining entry to either Lawrence Sheriff Grammar School, Rugby High School or the grammar stream of Ashlawn School.

Most children who choose to sit the exam will do so in the September of each year. It is not an easy set of tests and I would strongly recommend even the most able pupils to practise carefully beforehand.

The reason for this is that, even though a child may be very able and working at Level 5 in maths and English (or beyond), the types of questions in the 11-plus will be very unfamiliar to them. The child needs to be exposed to these questions on a regular basis, and have an adult or elder brother or sister on hand to discuss strategies and compare answers.

I would suggest that preparation should begin about a year before the 11-plus is actually taken. It doesn’t have to be anything heavy, but a handful of questions tackled each night would be a good habit to get into. Children should be encouraged to become familiar with the style of the question, and, after a while, they will come to recognise them and be able to apply strategies used before.

As a Personal Tutor, I am available to provide support to children who wish to take the 11-plus. It is a question of maximising their skills, and ensuring they do justice to their own abilities. I cannot promise miracles, but I can promise that they will be well prepared for the tests, and will recognise the type of questions they are likely to face.

If your child is thinking of taking the 11-plus in September 2015, then this would be a good time now to begin sessions to help them through what is a very challenging time in their lives. Please contact me if I can help you.

Read more about the 11-plus in Warwickshire.

Can you do these 11-plus English questions?

Here are some examples of questions you might come across in the 11-plus examination? See if you can answer them.

Underline two words, one from each group, that go together to form a new word. The word in the first group always comes first.

a) face, over, hand                                            cream, some, left

b) out, off, in                                                     mark, all, ice

c) tall, ship, slip                                                gang, stock, way

Find the letter which will end the first word and start the second word.

a) win (…) ind11+ Essentials Comprehensive Book 1 front

b) shove (…) eaver

c) rea (…) rime

Find a word that can be put in front of each of the following words to make new compound words.




As a personal tutor, I can help your child work through questions such as this, discuss any problems that arise, and suggest different approaches which may be helpful. Please contact me if you would like further information. My email address is northside777@btinternet.com


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.