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Spelling out 11 Plus success – How to improve vocabulary

Vocabulary is an important component of the 11 Plus exam as well as helping your child full express their thoughts and ideas. Here’s how to help your child improve their vocabulary.


Vocabulary isn’t something that children are born with, it’s something that grows and should be encouraged, not just for exam purposes, but for helping your child understand the world they live in and to express their thoughts and ideas. Here’s what you can do to help your child expand their repertoire.


  • When speaking to your child, don’t be afraid to use “big” words. Children are naturally curious and its highly likely that they’ll say, “what’s perspective?” or “what is appropriate?”
  • When your child asks what a word means, use words they already know to describe it. When they get the idea, ask them to describe it with their own words and give an example of the word in action to see if they really understand.
  • Read, read, read. The best way to build vocabulary is to encourage reading for at least 30 minutes a day. Let them read you their bedtime stories, for example. If they get stuck on a word, help them break it down and say it themselves.
  • Get your child to tell you imaginary stories and ask them questions to introduce new vocabulary. For example, “The pirates found an island…”, “Was it a tropical island or a desert island?”
  • Word games like Scrabble are a great way to build spelling skills. Crossword puzzles are another way to teach spelling and flexing their synonym and antonym skills.
  • Be careful how you correct mistakes. It’s important your child feels safe expressing themselves and that mistakes won’t be met with negativity. Praise their attempts, and gently correct them with phrases like “did you mean […]” or “I’m not sure I understand… can you explain it to me again?”
  • Reinforce learned vocabulary by using it in daily conversation or around the house.
  • Use vocabulary lists to practice anywhere and anytime.


Vocabulary preparation for the 11 Plus Exam

Because training for the 11 Plus exam is long-term and ongoing, the best way to approach vocabulary is in bite-size chunks. Your child should have a vocabulary list to master for the GL or CEM exam. Click here to find the latest vocabulary list.

The vocabulary list will contain many of the words that form the Year 6 curriculum, as well as words that are commonly spelled incorrectly.

Break up the vocabulary list into manageable chunks (about 20 per list) that include easy words, commonly misspelt words, as well as one or two difficult ones. This will help your child get used to the mix. Have them spell and define each word, giving an example, and then move on to the next word.

Have your child practice synonyms and antonyms. A dictionary is a useful tool for learning synonyms and antonyms, but make sure they write their answers in their own words and not directly from the dictionary.


Online training is a great way to improve your child’s vocabulary with fun games, quizzes, spelling tests and vocabulary lists. Learn more about the benefits of online training
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