How to prepare for the 7 plus exam

Child taking 7 plus (7+) exam

What is the seven plus?

The seven plus (7+) exam is a competitive entrance exam used by an ever growing number of top London schools to select students for entry into year 3. The exam is often taken by students in December or January of year 2. Although there is some variation between schools. At this age, schools feel they can make an accurate judgement of your child's academic ability. 

Whilst some parents wait until the end of year 6 to move their children to a secondary school, some decide to move their children earlier. Particularly if you are considering moving your child from a state primary school to an independent preparatory school. In order to obtain a place at these schools, the 7 plus exam is often used to assess your child's suitability for that school. 

What is tested at seven plus level?

The main academic focus of the 7 plus exam is on maths and english. Increasingly, schools now include a reasoning paper, which often includes both verbal and non-verbal elements. The test is often written or computer based, though may also include verbal aspects such as dictation, memory, spelling and mental arithmetic. Schools may also adjust the pass mark, depending on the age of your child. 

The subject knowledge and format of the exam does differ slightly between each school, therefore to know the exact content your child needs to study, it is important to check directly with the schools. You may find it helpful to refer to our school specific 7+ pages for more tailored guidance. 

The process may also include more "hands-on" tasks testing your child's creativity and dexterity. For example, one school in London has previously asked children to draw a sketch of themselves.  As part of the process, schools often ask for a report from the child's current school.

 

Those that pass the exam, are then often invited back for an interview. It is important to note that some schools carry out their interviews before hand or even straight after the exam. The interview will often include an individual chat with the headteacher, in addition to a group task that your child will carry out with other pupils. 

How competitive is the 7 plus?

Competition for places is particularly fierce in London, where schools often receive around 10 applicants per place. Although this statistic seems incredibly high, it is important to remember that most students tend to apply to more than one school at the same time. Therefore this dilutes the overall pool of students for available places. Having said this, the academic capability of successful candidates tends to be well above the national average. 

Schools typically interview 2 students for each available place. For example, if a school has 40 places available and in excess of 500 students attend the exam (which has been known), only 80 children will be invited to interview following the examination. Following the interview, each candidate will then be ranked according to their performance in both the exam and interview. The top 40 candidates will be offered a place and all other students will be placed onto a waiting list. Should any places be declined, the next student on the waiting list will then be offered a place. From past experience, this rarely happens therefore your child must be quite high up on the waiting list to have any chance of being offered a place. If requested, most schools will be able to inform you of your child's position on the waiting list. 

How to prepare for the 7 plus exam

 

As with any exam taken at primary level, small amounts of practise, regularly and consistently is the best way to prepare. Timed practise is also important using past papers, in order to ensure your child can still work to the same high standard given the time pressure of the exam. These will also allow progress over time to be measured, highlighting strengths and weaknesses. 

English

The main areas tested are comprehension and creative writing skills. 

Comprehension

Strong comprehension requires a developed vocabulary. When reading, children are often challenged by words they do not understand for example, words that are not part of their spoken vocabulary; unfamiliar technical vocabulary; and words that have more than one meaning. Encouraging your child to look at words in different contexts deepens their understanding of the nuances in vocabulary. You could ask your child to record challenging words in a dedicated notebook, where they can write definitions using their own words. 

Successful comprehension also requires readers to use their knowledge, to fill in gaps in meaning, this is known as inference. To develop this skill, you could ask your child to make predictions about characters and events in stories. 

To fully understand a text, readers must use both their long-term and working memory. Children can find this a challenge, due to their limited long-term memory and overloaded working memory. To develop your child's comprehension skills, you could introduce some background information to a story, before your child reads and encourage them to take their time, re-reading any sections they find difficult. 

Your child should be reading above the national average. Graphic texts are an excellent way to support your child in accessing higher level reading, developing inference skills and critical thinking. This is because they have to understand the interplay between the words and the pictures to make sense of the text. Gradually building up the amount of comprehension work set for your child, will develop their speed and stamina with challenging texts in addition to answering questions within a tight timeframe. 

Creative writing

To be successful with the creative writing component, it is imperative that your child's response is directly linked to the question rather than a memorised, well rehearsed piece of writing. Schools have been known to ask children to continue the story from the comprehension section or to write a story in response to a given picture, idea or other prompt. 

Schools typically allocate marks for creativity, a wide use of vocabulary, sentence structure, logical organisation, handwriting and spelling. You should ask your child to regularly practise writing around 10 lines a day on a topic they know and love. This can then be used as a springboard to improving their vocabulary, by seeing what adjectives, similes, adverbs, metaphors and other techniques can be added. You could even have a day out at a zoo or museum and ask them to write an account of the days events, before turning it into a story. 

Spelling, punctuation and grammar

Schools may assess grammar, by asking your child to correctly add punctuation to a text. A verbal spelling test may also be given, to assess your child's spelling ability. Students could also be asked to complete a dictation test, where they are required to write down spoken sentences (usually read once and then repeated twice). Schools may also assess memory, by reading a short paragraph (two or three times) and then asking pupils to summarise what they have heard. All of these skills can be developed through practise, using age appropriate resources.  

Mathematics

The 7 plus exam often includes content from the full year 2 mathematics curriculum and in top schools, expectations are well above the national curriculum level expected for this age group.  Mental arithmetic is a key area tested in the exam and can be assessed verbally or as a written exam. The exam will also include extended multi-step worded problems, including money and change, time, arithmetic or a combination of each. There will also be mathematical logic puzzles, that could involve number, shape or time. They test your child's ability to think critically and apply their knowledge to abstract questions. 

Reasoning

Schools are increasingly including a reasoning paper as part of their 7 plus exam. Therefore it is important to check if your chosen schools include this, as all do vary. The reasoning test could include a verbal and non-verbal component. 

Non-verbal reasoning

Questions in the non-verbal reasoning assessment, are often centered around mathematical concepts such as symmetry, rotation and size. Often, your child will be expected to determine a particular pattern and correctly choose the next component in the sequence.

 

Other common questions in this section include:

  • Identifying which shape is the "odd one out"

  • Working out cube nets or what shapes will look like when folded

  • Working with mirror images or reflections

  • Correctly identifying what a shape will look like when rotated by a certain number of degrees. 

Typically students will have to select the correct answer from a selection of 4 or 5 multiple choice options. 

Verbal reasoning

Verbal reasoning is essentially a form of problem solving based around words and language. These tests are designed to test your child's ability to understand and reason using words. This is a test of skill rather than learned knowledge. Schools use these tests to assess your child's potential to problem solve and think critically. 

Typical questions in this component include:​

  • Identifying the odd one out or two words with the same meaning from a list of words

  • Finding antonyms (opposites) from lists of words

  • Spotting a hidden word inside another word 

  • Adding one missing letter to complete two words

  • Codebreaking, where each letter of the alphabet is coded for by a number or different letter. (For example if A becomes C, B becomes D, C becomes E then "fqi" would code for "dog".  

Making the decision to receive tuition for the 7 plus exam, requires careful evaluation and you must have clear goals in mind. It is often said that, tuition at 7+ level most importantly requires a teacher qualified to teach this age group.     

 
 
 
Girl studying for the 7 plus (7+) entrance exam
 
 
 

Schools we prepare our students for

 

We prepare children for the 7 Plus assessments required by many of the UK’s leading schools including:​

School Entrance Experts

At Jacob Tuition, we are proud to offer a high quality consultation service, using our experience to support your child  in applying and preparing for success with their 7 plus entrance exams. We will support and guide your child throughout all stages of their journey, ensuring they find a school they are best suited to. 

We also offer a unique school application service if required, where we can research suitable schools for you and even organise the application process all for you, providing ongoing advice and guidance as required. 

In addition to the application side, we provide quality fully qualified teachers, to expertly deliver outstanding entrance exam tuition for your child both online or to your home, at your convenience. 

Tuition will always begin with an academic assessment of your child's current ability, we will compare this to the national average and give an honest judgement of schools that your child will be best suited to and are realistic options to aim for. This will enable us to identify if your child will gain from our expert tuition, we will then make a bespoke learning plan, to ensure your child reaches their goals. We also assess if your child would benefit from our other services, such as mock interview practise via our online tuition platform

Alleyn’s Junior School

Bancroft’s Prep School

Basset House School

Bute House

Chepstow House

City of London School for Girls​

Dulwich College Junior School

Dulwich Prep London

Eltham College

Eaton Square

Forest Prep School

Haberdashers’ Aske’s Boys’ School

Haberdasher’s Aske’s School for Girls

Hampton School

Highgate School

Hill House international junor school

Ibstock Place Prep School

James Allen’s Preparatory School

Kensington Prep

King’s College Wimbledon

Knightsbridge School

Lady Eleanor Holles

Latymer Prep School

Ludgrove

Newton Prep

Norland Place

North London Collegiate School

Papplewick

Pembridge Hall

South Hampstead High School

St Paul’s Juniors (formerly Colet Court)

Sunningdale

Thomas’ Clapham

Thomas’ Battersea

Thomas’ Fulham

Westminster Under School

Westminster Cathedral Choir School

Wetherby Prep

Woodcote House

University College School (UCS)

At Jacob Tuition, all of our 7 plus exam tutors are fully-qualified teachers. To enquire about tuition, please call us on 07748192800 or click the enquiry button below and tell us your tuition requirements. We look forward to supporting your child with their studies.