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What to expect on the 11 plus (11+) exam day

Table of Contents

Table of Contents

Introduction to the 11 plus (11+) exam day

This article aims to guide parents and guardians on what to expect on their child’s 11+ exam day and how they can effectively prepare.

Expect the unexpected

Alarm clock and notebook on colourful background

It is always safest to expect that something unplanned could happen and to fully prepare beforehand to prevent any knockon effects on your child’s exam day.


For example:

  • Your alarm may not go off – So, set multiple alarms across different devices.
  • There may be traffic – So, plan the route to the school/test centre in the days/weeks before, set alarms the night before, and leave your house early.
  • There may be limited parking spaces close to the exam site – So, arrive at least 15 minutes before the exam unless otherwise advised to allow plenty of time for finding a parking spot.
  • The administrators may not have supplies – So, always pack your child’s own supplies the night before the exam and do a check in the morning to make sure they have everything they will need.
  • It may be hard to see the clock – So, make sure your child is wearing an analogue watch to keep track of timings for their papers.
  • After multiple-exams your child may feel tired or hungry – So, make sure they have a filling meal in the morning, exchange sugary breakfasts which can cause energy crashes for a slower burning balanced meal, and avoid late night studying, making sure they get minimum 10 hours of sleep the day before the test. You don’t want your child to be distracted by a growling stomach in the exam or feel too tired to focus on their paper or screen.
  • Your child may be distracted when sitting their exam – So, have your child sit practice papers in exam conditions to practise being in an exam environment. There may be other students asking invigilator’s questions or tapping their pencils or feet. Unless it’s an extreme situation like a fire, distractions in the exam hall are not permitted as being viable to appeal, your child has to be able to not only perform well in the paper, but in a tense exam hall environment.
  • Your child may be ill – So, research the administrator’s protocol for an exam absence due to illness. It is likely that you will need to inform the administrators of this situation and organise for your child to sit the exam on a secondary exam day. We highly advise against pushing your child to sit the exam if they are truly feeling ill as it is unlikely you will be able to successfully appeal at a later date if you are unhappy with the results because exam illness due to stress is highly common.

Covering of exam rules and timings

Gavel and scales

Before the exam, the invigilator should go through the exam rules and timings for each section of the exam. For example, they may go over how there are 5-minute practice sections before longer timed sections which are divided by subject in each paper and when there may be breaks in between papers. These rules may also be printed on your child’s physical test paper so they should both listen to the invigilator and also take a moment to carefully read any instructions printed on their paper.


The rules may also cover how to fill out answers, particularly for multiple-choice exams they may need to mark answers on a separate booklet in a certain way for their answers to be counted. They should make sure their marks are not made too light so that they cannot be read by a computer if it is an electronically-marked exam. However, they should avoid making their marks too bold so that they cannot potentially make changes when they are reviewing their answers. 

The administrator of the exam may also have sent an email before the exam day with some of these rules (e.g. if they are allowed water in the exam hall, if they need a clear pencil case, no calculators etc.) so it is a good idea to check you emails in the lead up to the exam to make sure your child is fully aware of the rules. You do not want the worst case scenario to occur where your child breaks a rule and is not allowed to sit their exam so make sure you tell your child to pay attention to their invigilator.

Sitting the exam

Exam desk

It may be obvious, but of course, the central part of your child’s exam day will be sitting their 11 plus exam. It is important that you know beforehand what your child’s exam will look like: namely, the format, type, subjects, and exam board. You can search your child’s targeted schools in our 11+ Recommendations Portal and Blog to find some key information about entrance exams your child will sit.

Key exam information:

  • Format:

Your child’s exam could be a standard format written exam or a multiple-choice exam.


  • Type:

It may be a paper-based exam which may include multiple papers and answer booklets or an online exam sitting at a computer. 


If it is an online exam, it may also be adaptive, meaning depending on the answers your child gets right or wrong, the test will give them different questions of lower or higher difficulty to try to match their level. 


  • Subjects:

Your child’s exam could assess a combination of any of the following topics:

  • Maths – based on KS2 national curriculum maths, numerical problem-solving.
  • English – based on KS2 national curriculum English, assessing reading, comprehension, knowledge and understanding of SPAG and vocabulary, potentially including creative writing which could involve continuing a piece of writing or writing based on a stimulus.
  • Verbal reasoning – word-based problem-solving.
  • Non-verbal reasoning – number-based problem-solving and code-breaking, potentially including spatial reasoning – spatial problem-solving.
  • Exam Board:

Your child’s exam may be administered by:

  • GL Assessment
  • CEM Select
  • ISEB
  • CSSE
  • The school

  • Exam preparation:

It is also vital that you start preparing your child for sitting their exams early to get ahead. The best way to do this is to have your child sit multiple papers in exam conditions and we have a range of 11+ practice papers and resources for you to browse including area-specific, school-specific, subject-specific papers, and reading workbooks. We also recommend booking your child in for several mock exams where the conditions replicate that of their actual exam.

Exam nerves

Black and white kaleidoscope of butterflies

Your child may experience exam nerves on exam day before, during, and after their exam. It is very normal for your child to feel nervous on exam day so it is all about managing those nerves so they do not inhibit their performance in their entrance exam. If your child is relaxed it is more likely that they will be able to perform to the best of their abilities on the day.


  • Pre-jitters:

Avoid overwhelming your child before the exam with a pressure for them to succeed, instead reassure your child that they have prepared well and tell them to just do their best. To back this up, make sure you have fully prepared your child in the months leading up to the exam with practice papers. 


  • During the exam panic attacks:

It is not uncommon for children to experience panic attacks during the exam where their mind goes blank and they feel overwhelmed by not knowing how to figure out an answer or comparing their speed at answering questions to other students in the exam hall.


Make sure they have a mental toolkit of things they can do to calm down and refocus on their exam. For example, taking three mindful deep breaths, having a sip of water if they are allowed a label-free water bottle in the exam hall, moving on to another question and returning back to the one they are confused about later.


If it is a multiple-choice exam, encourage your child to make sure to mark down any answer if they are still not sure by the review stage towards the end of their exam as they still may be able to luckily catch some marks otherwise they are throwing away a potential mark. 


During breaks between papers, encourage your child beforehand to take this time to take a breath and refocus on their upcoming paper instead of thinking about what they may have gotten wrong on the last paper.


  • Post-exam overthinking:

Some children may feel relief and happiness after completing the test but others may feel stress, worrying about how well they have done especially if they overhear other students saying they got different answers for questions. This is why post-exam after-care is important, you do not want your child’s confidence to be knocked, especially if they have more entrance exams to sit, or for them to be feeling destressed. It should be a time of celebration, they have completed their exam after so much preparation!


Reassure them again that they have done their best, to avoid listening to other students’ answers, and if you can, do something fun together in the evening so your child has something to look forward to. For instance, having their favourite meal together or playing a game they like or watching their favourite show. They also may need some alone time to decompress so try to read their mood and respond with what you think will best help them, you being there to offer verbal support or you giving them some space.


Interview desk

There may be 15-20-minute interviews incorporated into your child’s exam day, particularly if they are applying for an independent school. These interviews could be group interviews with other students or individual interviews with senior staff like the Head of the School, Head of the Year, or departmental heads. Your child may be asked questions about their favourite subjects, hobbies, or achievements from their previous school or outside of school.


Our key tips for your child for their 11+ interviews are:

  • Keep a positive attitude.
  • Answer questions with full sentences.
  • Avoid rambling.
  • Have an open body language.
  • Look smart.

We recommend that you take a look at our complete article on 11+ Interview Questions for more in depth information on what your child can expect in their interview and how to prepare.

Examberry Papers

One of the most effective way to prepare for an 11+ entrance exam is to use practice tests written by experts.

We offer a range of  11+ revision resources including area & school-specific papers, subject-specific papers, spelling & vocabulary resources, and reading books.

Each of our practice tests:

Key Recommendations for the 11+

Further Recommendations

Examberry Tuition

On our sister site, Examberry Tuition, you can also sign up for in-person or online 11+ tuition courses to give your child the best chance of getting into the top school of their choice.

We offer a variety of course formats and teaching styles to make the 11+ tuition process flexible for your child’s learning needs. 

With a passion for education, Examberry consistently succeeds in helping pupils achieve places at their chosen schools. 

Examberry Mocks

You can also book places for mocks through our sister site, Examberry Mocks. For the most realistic replication of actual exam conditions, we recommend you sign your child up to sit as many mock exams as possible before their entrance exam.  Examberry Mocks are great because they operate on a level system, wherein at each of the three levels, the difficulty of the papers gradually increases to work alongside your child’s progress.

Suppose you are unsure of which mocks to sign-up for. In that case, you can fill out a request form for a Free Exam Preparation Plan, which will include recommended mocks for your child’s targeted schools and provide recommended practice tests and other resources for these schools.

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