skip to Main Content

How To Be Your Child’s 11 Plus Cheerleader

11 Plus Exam prep can be an anxious time for your child. Here are 5 ways you can be the best support crew.


There’s a lot of pressure associated with the 11 Plus Exam. Competition is high, pressure to succeed can cause anxiety, and without proper guidance, your child can react to the stress in negative ways. It’s therefore important that you prepare yourself to be the right kind of support by understanding these five important things.

1. Working with empowerment

Getting your child to do something they don’t want to do can feel like pushing jelly uphill. Your child wants to make their own decisions rather than be told what to do, and to feel in control of their lives, like when and where they do things.

With this in mind, key to encouraging 11 Plus success is working with these desires. Take the time early on in the year to sit down and discuss each other’s expectations. Reach a consensus by using a calendar to work out a study plan, set dates for study milestones and establish study routines and down time.

2. Use incentives

When you’ve reached agreement, a good way to motivate your child is with incentives – maybe a day out, their favourite take-away, minutes for game time, and so on. Because this preparation is ongoing and long-term, it’s important to give your child a visual idea of your agreement and rewards. Use a chart listing weekly and monthly milestones and have your child mark off their achievements. Keep the milestones specific and manageable so that they’re motivated and self-manage.

3. Set study boundaries

Studying is a skill that needs to be learned, which means it’s your job to ensure that your child spends enough time studying, getting sufficient down time, coping with stress and still managing their responsibilities.

Have a conversation with your child in which you talk about what an ideal day looks like, and acceptable consequences for missing goals or skipping responsibilities. Again, consensus is important, as is accountability and consequence.

4. Team work

While preparing for the 11 Plus Exam, it’s important that your family works as a team to help your child succeed. If you have other children, establish rules that minimise interruption or disturbance during study time. Have members of the family encourage your child’s study efforts. Turn studying into a game by having your child act as a quiz master, or a teacher. Let your children manage and motivate each other by having group incentives.

5. Managing pressure with communication

Many children experience anxiety and pressure based on expectations and fear of disappointment. It’s important to communicate positively with your child so they feel safe talking about their feelings, concerns and achievements. Conversations to have include the following:

  • What is it about their secondary school that’s important? It’s important they have the “bigger reason” than passing the exam.
  • What is an acceptable “Plan B” if their marks aren’t enough or all the positions are filled? It’s an essential life lesson not to put all of your eggs in one basket.
  • Check in with your child regularly to talk about what’s going well for them, what isn’t, and anything that’s concerning them.
  • If your child is overwhelmed, talk with them to help find the source. Do they need to change pace or study methods? Are they stuck on a concept? Are they feeling left out of family time?
  • Have quality time together that’s separate from school and studying. What topics and activities interest them?
  • Be an active part of your child’s exam preparation. Be the student and let them teach you things.
  • Communicate positively as much as possible by using esteem-building terms to make your child feel good about their achievements, big or small, and for being disciplined with their study plan.
  • If you’re concerned about your child’s stress levels, take a look at our posts on how to manage your child’s stress, and stress management for the whole family.
  • You can also help calm their exam fears by getting to know more about the 11 Plus exam and preparing for exam day.
  • Learning online can be a beneficial training method to help your child succeed with the 11 Plus Exam. Learn more about the benefits, here.
Back To Top