Tutor view: Matt Harmer

Top tips for 11+ success


Speak with your child’s teachers and tell them you plan to tutor for the 11+. Ask what your child’s preferred style of learning is and areas of weakness. Teaching methods may well have changed since you were at school, so check how things are being taught and teach them in the same way. Make a list of national curriculum subjects.  Not all subjects may have been covered by school, when your child sits the 11+, so be prepared to fill in the gaps.

You need to be one page ahead of your child which may mean you have to do some learning yourself. If the child senses you are struggling, they will lose all trust in you.  

Revise subjects already covered in school first. For example, if your child has covered fractions and fraction operations, revise this subject first. Ask the child to explain to you what a fraction is and work on questions together and only then ask the child to work on a list of questions. Try to introduce the subject in a fun way – divide this biscuit into quarters type-of- thing. Children enjoy marking their own work. After you have marked the work, you can reflect on how much needs to be done. Stick to your time limits, you can always revisit the subject the next day.

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When you are sure they have a good knowledge of the subject, you can start giving your child papers which cover various topics. Start by doing test papers but not under test conditions, the object being to get the maximum score, regardless of the time taken. When they start scoring highly – above 75 percent – then start doing tests under timed and proper test conditions. This means using actual multiple choice answer sheets and working on the test in a quiet room.

Teach the art of missing out questions or guessing the questions they don’t know how to do.

Accept your child will have good and bad days. Don’t get too carried away with the good results or too depressed with the bad results. The best preparation for a test is a good night’s sleep. After the test, your child probably won’t want to talk about it.


For composition, teach structure – a beginning, a middle, an end. Don’t get your child to learn phrases to shoehorn in. Comprehension is all about practice.  

Verbal/non-verbal reasoning

Check your child will be tested on verbal and non-verbal reasoning – not all schools test on these subjects. Schools may tell you can’t tutor for verbal and non-verbal but you can and should. Verbal reasoning depends on a wide vocabulary, so encourage your child to read as much as possible and watch well-scripted TV and films.

Form tutoring should take

Think about the best time and place to tutor. Straight after school? Straight after dinner? I often find children need some downtime after school and learning after their evening meal works well. Don’t leave it to just before bedtime – children don’t learn when they are tired.

Find a suitable place to study which is separate from where they might play. Siblings may need to be otherwise occupied, all family members need to be supportive. Separate the learning environment from the day-to-day home life. Coffee shops and libraries provide a good learning environment.

How many hours a week should a child study? Start in second term of year 4. Get into the habit of studying half an hour a day, four days a week and an hour at weekends. Between year 4 and 5 you can keep it going through the holidays but don’t do it every day. In year 5, aim for 45 minutes a day after school and two to three hours at weekends. In the summer holidays between year 5 and 6, aim for two hour sessions five times a week.

When should a child start preparing for 11+?

After Christmas in year 4 is a good time to start.

Best materials to use

CPG and Bond books.

Schools tutored for

West London private and grammar schools.

Price of tuition per hour

One-to-one sessions £45 an hour – available on phone for parents with quick questions.


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