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Complete Guide to the 11+ Maths Exam

Eleven-Plus Preparation Specialists

There’s a huge amount of content to cover for the 11+ Maths Section. This guide should help you to understand some of it – and crucially, how to go about preparing for the exam, as well as some tips for how to handle sitting it.

Types of Question

First, let’s look at the different types of questions. The most basic are simple functions. These include addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division. These should be straightforward, and will often involve situations that you might encounter in the real world.

Next are numbers questions – these test your understanding of the different kinds of numbers. You must be aware of square roots, negative numbers, squares, and cube numbers, as well as prime numbers. You should know the prime numbers under 20 off by heart, and be able to calculate whether any number under 100 is prime. You should also know the square numbers by heart, and be aware of cubed numbers under 100 too.

Then, you need to consider fractions and decimals. You must understand how to add, subtract, multiply and divide them – as well as convert them into decimals. As well as fractions, you should be aware of decimals, percentages, and the way in which they interact. You must also be aware of how probabilities work, as well as ratios.

You should have your times tables memorised, up to the 12 times table, or even the 13 times table if you’re aiming for a scholarship (you could save some valuable time through it).

You must also be able to measure objects in terms of height, width, and depth, as well as areas and volumes. You should be able to convert different types of measurements – e.g. within the metric system convert cm to metres. You should have an awareness of what a ‘typical’ measurement for an object is – e.g. that a person is measured in metres, a pool’s volume would be in litres rather than ml, etc.

You should be aware of the names of all different types of common shapes, as well as how shapes can be orientated in space – this means that you need to understand symmetry and transformations, like rotations and reflections. You must be aware of angles, how to calculate them, how they interact, and how to measure them.

You should be able to use data that you are provided with to come to conclusions, understand bar charts, graphs, charts and tables, and be able to add information as required. You must be aware of the different types of averages.

Lastly, remember that you will encounter some difficult problem solving questions. Look up common mathematical riddles, and try to get used to doing sudokus.

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Tips and Tricks in the Exam

Remember that the 11+ Maths section is commonly multiple choice. If you’re not used to working in a multiple choice format, then you should make sure that you use practice papers, and other multiple choice materials. Make sure that you’re aware of whether the school that you’re applying to expects ticks, crosses, or circled answers, and follow their guidelines. Remember that the multiple choice answer sheet will typically be on a separate sheet of paper – so you have to write on this sheet in order to secure marks.

Most 11+ exams will introduce at least one question that you aren’t used to, and that you will struggle to understand initially. These frequently involve made-up mathematical symbols that you must interpret. With these questions, the key is to remain calm and work through as calmly and logically as you can. Find a starting point, and go from there – there will normally be one step that is much simpler than the rest. This is the same for questions in which there are missing numbers in a square, for example, and you have to fill out the rest of the square.

You must check your answers! Many will forget to check their answers, or avoid doing so because they think it’s not worth it. However, you will invariably be able to gain one or two extra points through checking. That said, focus on getting through the questions at a good pace and don’t rush just to try and secure time to check at the end of the test. Ensure that you focus on picking up simple extra marks, through noticing silly errors, rather than spending time on complex questions that you will likely not be able to complete.

Work on your timing. The exam is designed to be difficult to complete within the allotted time. You must therefore learn to prioritise questions that are deserving of your time, and learn when to surrender points if you simply can’t handle a particular question. A 3 mark question that you can’t get your head around is not worth ten minutes’ agony – spend that time on picking up comfortable marks elsewhere in the paper.

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How to Prepare

You should dedicate around six weeks to preparation. Remember, you’ll be preparing for the other sections at the same time, so this will give you less time than it might at first sound like. However, longer than 6 weeks – or two months at most – is unlikely to yield better results, as you will start to experience fatigue, or even forget what you were learning at the start of your revision period!

Make sure to prepare specifically for the board that you are sitting. The two most common boards are CEM and GL assessment. The proficiencies being assessed are largely the same – but you should focus on the correct board if you are applying to one local grammar school. Of course, many schools will use their own test, and these can become especially difficult (and different to the standard level) at certain particularly selective schools.

Be aware of your own strengths and weaknesses. You should have a thorough grasp of the national curriculum already, but make sure that any gaps in your general knowledge here are found early, and dealt with. Be aware of more complex requirements that you may be expected to have encountered – like simultaneous equations, particular types of puzzle, etc.

You must develop a revision style that works for you. Your plan should begin with basic work that covers the fundamentals again – as stated, even if this seems boring, you might realise that it is time well-spent when one or two minor subjects that you weren’t sure on crop up and you’re able to sure up your knowledge. Remember to review your work as you go and consistently learn where you’re going wrong, and how to handle these questions correctly. Over time, increase the difficulty of the questions and the degree to which you focus on exam-style prep. You should look to focus on particularly challenging and complex topics in the second half of your six week revision block. You should look to do one past paper every two or three days – ideally aim for three per week. Make sure to do the past paper the exact same way as you would in the exam. To keep the process varied, you can mix past papers with interactive puzzles and learning games. Try to revise with friends as well – you can quiz each other – or involve your parents when possible.

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