The Kent 11+ Test: Preparation Masterclass

If your child is taking the Kent Test 11+ this September, you need to be preparing now. Kent Grammar schools are fiercely competitive, and places are limited. To give your child the best chance of success, follow our preparation masterclass, which will cover:

  • What you need to know about the Kent 11+ Test
  • Example questions
  • A range of tips and tricks to give your child the confidence they need to pass the test with ease
  • Advice on the best options for preparing for the Kent 11+ Test

What You Need to Know About the Kent 11+ Test

The Kent Test, or Kent 11+ test is used by most of the grammar schools in the Kent area. There are 35 wholly selective and 4 partially selective grammar schools, and if you’re unsure whether the grammar school you’re looking at uses the Kent Test, you can find a handy list here.

Children take the Kent Test at the beginning of Year 6, generally during the first couple of weeks of September. Every year, between 14,000 and 17,000 Year 6 pupils take the test – and this number is far greater than the number of places available.

The Kent Test involves two exam papers. Both exams are one hour long. There is also a 40-minute writing exercise which is used to assess a child’s abilities in cases where their marks are on the borderline for acceptance into a grammar school.

  • One paper involves English and maths questions in multiple choice format. Both the English and maths sections involve a 5-minute practice exercise and a 25-minute test. In the English section, children are tested on their literacy skills and their reading comprehension.
  • The other paper involves a combination of multiple choice, verbal and non-verbal reasoning questions.

If you want your child to take the Kent Test, you’ll need to register by the beginning of July for the test that is taken in September.

One thing you need to remember about the Kent Test is that the pass mark changes every year. This is down to the range of test scores being different for each set of children. A pass mark doesn’t guarantee your child a place at a grammar school – but it does mean they’ve met the academic requirements and the grammar school will consider your application.

What to Expect in the Kent Test

Kent County Council have a “familiarisation booklet” that you can download from their website. It’s a good idea to download a copy of the booklet so that you and your child can get a better idea of what to expect.

When your child sits the Kent Test, an invigilator will be there to guide the pupils through the tests. Listening carefully to the invigilator’s instructions is important, since the format of the test means that some pages will instruct the students to stop working and not turn to the next page until the invigilator tells them to.

Reasoning Paper

The three sections of the reasoning paper test pupils on different skills:

  • Verbal reasoning: the ability to think in words and symbols
  • Non-verbal reasoning: the ability to think about relationships between patterns and shapes
  • Spatial reasoning: the ability to handle concepts of shape and space mentally

There are practice exercises that the invigilator will go through before each section. The type of questions that students are asked to answer in the reasoning paper can be seen in the screenshots below:

English and Maths Test

Children are tested on their English and maths skills (or literacy and numeracy), and the questions are multiple choice. The English section tests students’ understanding of word meanings and their comprehension of passages of writing.

With the maths section, the questions are also multiple choice. They test pupils’ knowledge of maths skills taught up to the beginning of Year 6. However, you should prepare your child for the questions to be more complex or difficult than the questions they’re used to answering in school. Here are some examples of the kinds of questions asked:

The answer sheet for the Kent Test papers looks like the screenshot below. One important piece of advice you should share with your child is the importance of making sure that they’re marking their answers in the boxes for the right question. This is something they’ll need to double check to make sure that they don’t fail the test because they marked their answers in the wrong question boxes!

Tips for Successful Kent Test Preparation

Competition is fierce for Kent grammar schools, so it’s common for children to feel under pressure when they’re preparing to take the Kent 11+ Test. To give your child the best chance of success, you can use preparation techniques to give them confidence when they take the test. Here are our top tips for preparing for the Kent Test.

  1. Begin Preparation at The Right Time

The answer to the question, “when should I start preparing my child for the Kent Test?” isn’t a simple one. Ultimately, it will depend on your child – and no one knows them as well as you do.

Some parents begin the preparation when their child is in Year 3 or 4 – but a majority of children start their preparation after Year 4. By this point in their development, you’ll have a better idea of their academic capabilities.

Exceptionally bright children may only need a few weeks of preparation for the Kent 11+. However, most children will benefit from a longer preparation period, typically beginning when they’re in Year 5.

One way of assessing how much preparation time your child will need is to purchase a practice paper pack and see how well your child handles the questions. Every child is individual and may need more help in some areas compared to others.

As you continue to prepare for the Kent Test, repeating the practice papers can not only enable you to recognise the areas that need more work, but also give your child confidence as they see for themselves the progress that they’re making.

  1. Encourage Comprehension Skills

Comprehension is an important part of the Kent Test, so encouraging your child’s comprehension skills is important. It’s an excellent way of building their confidence in answering comprehension questions.

Many children manage straightforward and fact-based comprehension questions without a problem, but the Kent Test can be more demanding of their comprehension abilities.

Building your child’s comprehension skills can become a part of everyday life and not just confined to times when you’re actively preparing for the Kent Test. For example, you can ask ‘why?’ questions:

  • whilst watching a film – such as asking why a character is upset or afraid
  • during play – perhaps asking “why do you think your sister responded like that when you stole her biscuit?”
  • whilst reading – exploring the thoughts, feelings and actions of characters
  1. Use Books and Courses to Prepare

There are a wide range of materials available to help you and your child prepare for the Kent 11+ Test. These include both books and guided courses. As a general rule, guided courses will be more expensive than using preparation books, but offer more advice and guidance, as well as putting you in touch with expert help.

Courses are often quite rigidly structured, with a work schedule for each week. Everything that you need is provided, which may give you peace of mind that your child is being properly prepared with everything that they need to know for Kent Test success.

Using books to prepare is sometimes referred to as a kind of DIY approach – and for parents it involves a much more hands-on approach. For example, you’ll need to plan what to cover each week, buy the appropriate books and practice papers, and supervise your child’s study sessions.

Preparing your child for the Kent Test using guided courses or books can be rewarding – but there can also be challenges. You’ll need to have a good relationship with your child, so that they’ll listen to your guidance. Tempestuous relationships won’t really work for these kinds of preparation techniques.

  1. Use a Private Tutor to Increase Confidence

Some children engage well when doing preparation for the Kent Test at home with parents – but others may not take the preparation sessions seriously and therefore not benefit so much. In those cases, private tuition is an alternative means of building confidence and skills.

The one-to-one nature of private tuition with a tutor who is experienced in preparing children for the Kent Test has plenty of advantages. Tutors understand precisely what’s needed to succeed in the Kent Test and they will tailor tuition sessions to your child’s individual needs. If your child has a positive relationship with their tutor, their confidence will grow considerably.

  1. Take Advantage of Tuition Groups

Although not available in all areas, tuition groups that are held at Kent 11+ Tuition Centres can be hugely beneficial for your child. The groups are usually relatively small – usually around 6-10 pupils per group – and they’re cheaper than hiring a private tutor.

Children who attend tuition groups as part of their preparation for the Kent 11+ Test are often more motivated, diligent and confident. Being in a group environment can make them work harder – and because there are fewer distractions than there may be at home, tuition groups can boost your child’s learning potential, too.

Mastering the Kent 11+ Test

Deciding on post-primary education for your child is a big deal – and in Kent, especially, grammar school education is a popular choice. The 11+ Kent Test is taken by thousands of children every year, and if your child is one of those preparing for the test this September, it’s important that you understand the pressure that your child may be feeling under.

Preparation is important, but doing so without putting too much pressure on your child is vital. A stressed child doesn’t test well – because when under stress: 

  • it’s harder to think – there’s a reduction in speed of thought by up to 25%
  • mental maths abilities are reduced by 10%
  • verbal reasoning becomes more difficult – with a 30% decrease in vocabulary recall

It’s hard to get the balance right in the lead-up to the Kent Test, but doing so, using the tips we’ve given you, can increase your child’s chance of receiving one of those coveted grammar school places.