Prep school – the first, exciting step in your child’s education! You have your shortlist, you’ve submitted your school applications, so what’s next? Entrance exams are common at top independent schools so it’s good to get prepared. Being ready for 4+ exams, without overdoing it, will help your child to put their best foot forward and shine at interview.
At age 4, children are just getting started in their formal education. “Assessments” therefore focus on group activities which give insight into a child’s intellectual curiosity, communication style and teamwork skills. Schools are looking for curious children who have a positive attitude to learning, can follow classroom instructions, and work harmoniously in small groups.
Assessment mornings are usually followed by one-to-one interviews, which parents may or may not be invited to join. The interview is designed to assess a child’s academic ability against Early Years curriculum standards. This means interview exercises focus on the following areas: Language, Reading and Writing, Numbers, Shape, Space and Measure and Motor Skills.
At such a young age, it might be daunting for parents and children to be assessed but there are easy ways to prepare. Here are our top tips for heading into the 4+ exams with confidence.
Schools expect students to be able to form numbers 1-20, recognise different shapes and understand Maths vocabulary such as “bigger and smaller than, more or less than”. Incorporate numeracy into day-to-day activities such as household chores. For example, ask your child “how many socks are on the washing line?” or “can you order your teddies in size order, smallest to largest.” Playing games using dice or dominoes can also make numbers fun.
Early Years Literacy includes reading and writing basic words, using phonics, and the comprehension of stories. Include reading in your child’s routine to develop their vocabulary and reading confidence. Encouraging your child to actively participate in reading – follow the words with their fingers and try a range of genres will help to achieve this. Tap into their imagination through storytelling or arrange for an Early Years specialist to deliver immersive phonics sessions.
At interview, children could be tasked with stacking blocks into different formations, catching a ball, or solving a wooden puzzle. Use activities like Lego, tying shoelaces, or using scissors correctly, to help to hone your child’s fine motor skills and coordination. These activities bring the added benefits of better handwriting, concentration, and resilience.
Social and emotional development
Schools look for students who are confident speaking to teachers and other children, share well and take turns, and listen and respond to instructions. Consider introducing a new activity or class to help your child practice these skills. Mixing with other children of the same age, especially children who aren’t inside their friendship circle, and in new surroundings, will help your child to feel confident in an unfamiliar environment.
Learning through play is the secret to a successful 4+ exam. A healthy routine of fun physical and social activities, with a daily dose of reading and writing, will mean that your child is prepared and confident on the day. We wish you and your child the best of luck!