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Tips for 11+ English Comprehensions

Kaleido Tutors has been preparing kids for 11+ for over 10 years and we've entered our students into some of the best secondary schools in the country.

It can be a stressful process choosing schools to apply for, and then even more worrying to consider how likely they are to get in! Competition is often steep, but the lead up to the exam can be made easier for everyone when you know some tips and tricks on the way.

In this post, we want to help your child get through some of the most challenging bits of the 11+ test: The English Comprehension.

Having helped one of my upcoming 11+ students recently on how to go through an English paper step-by-step, I thought I'd also share my tips with other students and families who might benefit from knowing!

So, here is my top advice for kids faced with a comprehension exam, from the moment they turn over the first page!


1) Look through the exam paper to see how many questions there are – then you are not shocked by surprise questions at the end, and you understand how much time you have to answer everything.

2) Read the passage all the way through ONCE – don’t worry about understanding everything, they are meant to be challenging.

3) Keep an eye on time when you’re reading. Sometimes there will be set time allocated for reading, sometimes you must read it in your own time. 5 mins is probably more than enough for a 1–2-page passage, unless you are given extra time.

4) Highlight or underline KEY WORDS or phrases as you go they might come in handy later!

5) Look at the questions - Are they multiple choice or do they need full sentence answers? This will affect how long you need for answers.

6) Don’t worry if you don’t know the answers to all of them immediately. As you go through the questions, you can read over the passage again to understand better!

7) Highlight where the answer is to mark the place in case you lose it or need to find it later.

8) Write in full sentences UNLESS they ask for individual things or a list.

9) Marks usually mean how many points you should make, and therefore also how much time you should spend on it. Usually, spend about 40 seconds or 1 minute per mark – but you may have to check this.

10) Save some extra time for looking over your answers.

11) ‘Answering in full sentences’ doesn’t mean you have to copy out the full wording of the question to write your answer! Just start with “It is…” / “They are...” etc.

12) Keep an eye on time AGAIN! Don’t panic and check every ten seconds, but just every so often (maybe after every other question) so you don’t lose track, especially if you get stuck on any harder questions.

13) Quotations should be between 1 – 10 words maximum! You should just take out the important phrase or single word that answers the question. Too long and it takes ages to write and it’s too vague.

14) When you don’t know an answer immediately, go over both the question and the part of the passage that it refers to – you may understand something you didn’t see first time.

15) Use the context to make sense of what things mean and if that doesn’t help, make your best guess rather than skip out a question.

16) Circle questions you find confusing so you can come back to it later – and leave a gap on any paper you are writing on so you can fill it in later.

17) Remember to come back to questions you found difficult or didn’t answer! You might have a better idea of the passage by this point.

18) If you are running out of time, choose to answer questions have more marks, or ones that you are surer of first.

19) If you are lucky enough to have spare time at the end – CHECK your answers! Often, we get grammar and spelling wrong when we are rushing, so it’s important to check everything makes sense and is legible. It will look a lot better and make more difference than you might think.

WRITING ANSWERS – Some specific pointers on how to write answers!

20) Think about your answer before or as you write it – are there several points you want to make? Quickly jot these down on the side before you forget them! You don’t want to make a great first point only to forget your second and third ones.

21) Is it a longer question that looks like they want evidence or a quotation from the passage? You may only get the marks if you include direct quotations for some questions.

22) Take only the relevant words or phrases for your quotes. Avoid using more than one line or sentence at a time – it probably can be just as effective when shortened and will take less time.

23) If you are asked for your opinion, thoughts, or beliefs, then give them with a justification! Your opinions are valid but you must be able to stand by it!

24) Follow the Point Evidence Explain (PEE) method on longer questions.

25) If you get totally stuck, just move on! You will get more marks from focusing on other questions, and not answering it probably doesn’t make as big a difference as you think!

26) Don’t look at how much other people are writing. Sometimes less is more with comprehensions, they don’t want an essay for every question – just good answers!

GOOD LUCK! Hope this has helped. Here is a random bunny eating loads of waffles.

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