How to revise for the 11+ (and reverse any summer learning loss)

Is the 11+ looming on the horizon for your child? Find out why the summer holiday can impact their study, and how you can help them revise for the test.

As fun as the long summer holidays are, they can set back your child’s academic progress – which isn’t great news when they have the 11+ coming soon. To help them (and you) prepare, Penny Fray from Pen and Ink Tuition shares some practical revision tips you can start using now!

The 11+ is only a few weeks away!

While it seems as if the summer holidays go on forever, for those children who have just come out of year five, there is a very important test looming on their educational horizon.

Most children aiming to get to grammar school will have spent the previous academic year studying hard for the 11+.

However, by and large those courses finish in tandem with the academic year, which means that there are around 6-8 weeks left until the test. In addition, the summer, with all its fun, relaxation and time outside to enjoy, also brings with it the summer learning loss.

How to halt the summer learning loss

The summer learning loss is a well-known phenomenon, which can set a child’s progress back anything up to two months. The same can be said of the 11+ study.

These final few weeks, then, are crucial in two respects: to keep the knowledge they have gained at the forefront of their minds, as well as adding to it; and to prepare children for the test itself – what it will look and feel like.

There’s no doubt that children do deserve a break over the holidays, so it’s worth remembering that short, sharp sessions (up to an hour to an hour and a half) once a day, are much more effective than one four- or five-hour slot crammed into each week.

Within that slot, aim for around 20 minutes on each type of activity, which ideally should be split into comprehension practice, mental maths, spelling and vocabulary practice (including synonyms and antonyms).

Learn as few as five new words a day

You can never have enough vocabulary! Learning as little as five or ten words a day, along with their synonyms and antonyms is invaluable. (By the time the test comes around, that will be 210-420 new words learnt!)

However, it’s no use learning the words if we don’t fully understand what they mean, as the test will ask for meanings in different contexts. A simple way to check that children have fully understood the words is to ask them to make up a sentence using that word.

How much maths has your child lost this summer?

It has been estimated that as much as two months’ worth of maths is lost during the summer learning loss. Imagine if that was two months of 11+ tuition down the drain!

So, practice, practice, practice is in order here. Keep the relevant maths skills (times tables, for example) at the forefront of children’s minds right up to the test. It could be as simple as firing questions at them during every car journey.

Practising the test

While the organisation that runs that test has said that past papers will not help in a future exam (since the style and format may change with no warning), there is a great deal of worth in practising the papers any way.

That’s because children must learn to answer a multitude of questions quickly, whilst also mastering the art of fully understanding the question. The papers are split into two sections of three quarters of an hour each.

Getting used to this method of doing the test can easily be practised at home. In addition, there are some very practical aspects! For example, the test is marked by computer. Being able to fill in the answers by marking each box clearly, so the computer can read the answers correctly, is essential!

Being able to answer questions accurately at speed – and accurately – is key to passing. This is a skill that can be learnt with practice: reading carefully and thoroughly, with speed but without rushing.

Revision… but not at the desk!

It may be nigh on impossible to encourage anyone, let alone children, to do serious revision at the poolside on holiday. However, there are other ways of practising for the test, albeit in much more subtle ways.

Playing games, such as Yahtzee, Scrabble, Bananagrams, Upwords, crosswords in the newspaper, card games where score keeping is needed, all of these will add valuable items to a person’s vocabulary.

Combining screen time with revision can often be a win-win situation. There are some very good apps available, such as Percepto for iPad or Tanzen, or visit 11Plus Apps for some ideas that can usefully combine children’s love of the iPad with revision!

Most of all, it’s key to remember that being relaxed and calm both in the run up and during the crucial day can go a long way to helping create a positive outcome.

Good luck!

For more information on the 11+ test please contact Penny Fray on 01494 773300 email her or visit the Pen and Ink Tuition website.