Secrets of the 11+ and other entrance Exams - Part II (of II)

Psst! Come here. I want to let you into a secret.

The parents of those taking the 11+ and other such pressurised exams are often the ones who suffer the most.

But they shouldn’t! No-one should. Secretly, you may believe that you have it all under control ... but dear friend, for many people I know, this has been more stressful than they could have imagined. In previous years, they watched some of the parents of Year 6 children becoming withdrawn or behaving erratically. The mothers of younger children joked with each other, “Gosh it’s intense!”, with a knowing, “Ha-ha! We won’t be like that! We’ll sail through.” Sometimes, though, things work out differently to how you’d imagined ...

If you are feeling anxious for your 10 year old, read on for my gems of wisdom and prepare to sail effortlessly through the process.

At the Independent Schools Show in London last week, Crispin Hyde-Dunn, Headmaster of the Dragon School in Oxford spoke on a popular topic:“Is there a right way to push your child?” His thoughts were reassuring: all children are different and while challenge is a good thing and ambition is helpful, it is important to maintain perspective and remember that one size doesn’t fit all. In addition, children sense anxiety and you should bear this in mind when you are hyperventilating on the way to the admissions test.  

Here are 7 gems of wisdom to help you reduce your anxiety and support your child in their quest for greatness (NOT your quest for their greatness)!

HANDWRITING - Don’t underestimate the importance of a well presented piece of work. Your child may be a dab hand with a keyboard but in many exams - indeed all the way to GCSE - handwriting is key. It’s simple really. If the teacher can’t read what you’ve written, they won’t know what you are trying to transfer from your brain. So practise neatness. Countless studies have shown that legible handwriting plays an extremely important role in the grades of students. And it looks nice too.

MOTIVATION - What motivates your child? Are they driven or do you need to encourage and cajole? If they rise to a challenge, this is a helpful trait … and if they don’t, you might need to nurture them a little by motivating them and helping them to understand the relative importance of the exams. This might be by thinking of appropriate rewards - or removing distractions for a period of time. It is only by trying to understand the way your child works that you can properly help.

HAVE REALISTIC GOALS - Work with your child’s teachers. They should be able to give you an honest opinion on where your child is in their academic journey and have a view on their learning style. They will also have a good idea of the academic standard needed in the schools you are aiming for and whether or not your child is heading in the right direction. So trust the teacher and don’t try to push a square peg into a round hole.

PRACTICE MAKES PERFECT - This isn’t rocket science. Don’t go overboard by buying the whole of Waterstones or downloading every single past paper in the land, but consider this: how can you be good at something or even ready for it if you haven’t practised? That is the whole point of revision. I am a fan of most of the major brands of workbooks. Some your child will love - some they won’t. Increasingly, schools are steering away from these tests but if you are going to sit verbal reasoning tests or a written maths exam you will find no shortage of papers both online and in the shops. But don't make this too intense; have some fun during revision too.

WATCH THE CLOCK - This is quite a big one. If you are sitting any exam, especially one held outside your school, find out how long the test will be. And practise answering questions under pressure. You won't get good at doing a test at speed until you have done that kind of test a few times. There’s also nothing worse than realising you have spent too long on a question only to find yourself with only a few minutes left to finish several pages of easier questions you could have tackled with your hands tied behind your back ... metaphorically - obviously! Make sure your child knows how to manage time in an exam.

GEOGRAPHY IS IMPORTANT Work out where the exam is. It’s not great to get stuck on your way to the assessment because you haven’t read the directions you were sent in the post. Know exactly where you are going so you can exude calm and zen to your child as you set out.

KEEP CALM AND CARRY ON - Think about your child rather than your goals for your child. Approach this season with calm and poise - for in the end, it will all be OK. IMHO (in my humble opinion 😂), remaining calm and focussed is the answer.


Oh - here’s my bonus for you: go out and buy some ROSEMARY. Researchers have found that the smell of rosemary boosts brain power and alertness, and enhances long-term memory. 


Finally, I had a lot of positive feedback about my first post on the Secrets of the 11+, and many of you enjoyed the Shakira video on YouTube. This time I give you a song from someone often referred to as The Prince of Pop -  Can you really listen to this and feel nothing? I think not!

Now, didn’t that feel good?!

Take a deep breath - remember not to transfer a stressed-out vibe onto your child. It will all work out in the end.

Be kind and share this with someone who is about to embark on an exam - or is gearing up for one… whether it’s next week, next month or next year….

And if you missed my first post on Secrets of the 11+, you can read it here:

Next week, in the gems of wisdom:

Inspired by the headmistress of a London junior school, and recalling a film I presented on Countryfile

Is your child affected by Nature Deficit Disorder? Do they spend too much time looking at a screen and not at the world around them?

Take my quiz next week to see how connected they are to the countryside.

Until then, pop lac yn y prawf!