11+ Exams|Common Entrance|Insights|School Applications

Anna Masterson is Chief Learning Officer at Atom Learning, a company on a mission to provide fun and accessible online learning for children aged 7–11. Here are Anna’s top tips for helping your child navigate the most notoriously tricky areas on the 11 plus.

If you’re preparing for your child to take the 11 plus, knowing what to expect is invaluable. These five subtopics are renowned for being among the most challenging on the 11 plus. We recommend starting preparation early and ensuring your child builds knowledge and confidence in these areas.

1. Maths: algebra

Algebra is covered in Year 6 as part of the national curriculum. Your child will be taught to:

  • Use simple formulae
  • Generate and describe linear number sequences
  • Express missing number problems algebraically
  • Find pairs of numbers that satisfy an equation with two unknown numbers

But as 11 plus exams come around at the start of Year 6, your child is unlikely to have spent much, if any, time on algebra in the classroom yet. During Year 5, it’s a good idea to help your child gain a firm understanding of key algebra subtopics at home, followed by exploring learning beyond the foundations of algebra.

As a bonus, this will give them a head start in a topic that will form an increasing part of the maths curriculum they’ll encounter at secondary school, up to GCSE and beyond.

An algebra practice question on Atom Nucleus

2. Non-verbal reasoning: following folds

The ability to solve non-verbal reasoning questions like the one below come naturally to some people. However, for many, it is a topic that can prevent them from gaining a top score.

Children can sometimes be tripped up if they are unfamiliar with this style of question, so introducing your child to spatial reasoning practice early is key. Just like learning to tie your shoelaces, practice makes perfect – once the logic clicks, it will make sense.

A following folds practice question on Atom Nucleus

One way to introduce your child to ‘following folds’ is to get a sheet of paper and a pair of scissors, and follow the instructions to make the pattern that is being described. This will help your child create a mental representation of how the shapes move and interact. Once they understand the method, repetition will help them build confidence.

3. English reading comprehension: inference

When it comes to comprehension, ‘inference’ tends to be among the trickiest subtopics. It requires students to form conclusions based on contextual evidence from the text, like in the example below.

An inference practice question on Atom Nucleus

A great way to boost your child’s inference skills is by encouraging them to read widely. Reading a variety of types of text for pleasure will broaden their vocabulary and enhance their analytical thinking.

When reading together, a fun way to build inference skills is to play ‘prediction’ and ‘storytelling’ games. At the end of a chapter get your child to write down a prediction of what is going to happen next. Another version of this game is to write an alternative ending to a story!

4. Maths: worded problems

Worded problems are infamous for costing children marks on 11 plus maths papers. Often, the last sentence switches what you think the question is asking you, like in the example below.

A maths worded problem on Atom Nucleus

To build confidence with solving worded problems, have your child complete practice questions in this style, then talk through their answers together. Ask them to explain their thought process to you. Over time, your child will become comfortable with converting worded questions into numerical sums.

Encourage your child to always take the time to read the question carefully, and it will become habit. This will make them less likely to be caught out by surprising wording in the real exam – and more likely to pick up marks where most of their peers are dropping them.

5. Non-verbal reasoning: nets and cubes

Another of non-verbal reasoning’s stickiest areas, questions involving nets and cubes continue to prove one of the areas that children struggle with most.

On the 11 plus, your child is likely to see two types of nets and cubes questions:

  • Identify which cube can be formed from the given net
  • Identify which net would form the given cube

A nets and cubes practice question on Atom Nucleus

The key is to help your child gain a solid understanding of how the 2D nets translate to 3D cubes. Helping your child begin to visualise the nets and cubes as real-world entities will aid tremendously in their ability to answer the questions. Giving your child a real-life object like a dice or Rubik’s Cube is a helpful way to support their visualisation when practising this subtopic.

A nets and cubes visualisation on Atom Nucleus

Atom Nucleus is an online education platform designed to help children aged 7–11 prepare for the 11 plus and independent school exams, and build knowledge and confidence in core subjects. Atom combines engaging, teacher-designed learning resources, practice questions and mock tests with smart technology that keeps your child on their ideal learning pathway.

You can start a five day free trial of Atom Nucleus here, and get 10% off your first payment with our code GOLDEN10.