What to do over the summer holiday before starting Secondary School

In the UK the beginning of Secondary School is Year 7 when children are typically 11 years old. Here are a few ideas on how to prepare over the summer holiday before starting.

Read a lot

A visit online or to your favourite book store is useful to start reading books which are a notch more difficult than what your child may have been used to. Of extra value are non-fiction books such as encyclopaedias covering subjects such as Geography and History.

Audio Books

Following on from the point above, listening to audio books (fiction and non-fiction) aimed at early teens is a useful way to help increase vocabulary and the complexity of sentence structure.


Yes I hate to say, but buying a few Year 7 / KS3 workbooks is a good idea – not to finish but at least to have a go and to understand some of the key concepts especially in Maths. Always useful is to start working on more complex algebra and geometry.


It almost doesn’t matter what a child wants to write about, but it is worth a child spending a good amount of time every week over the summer holiday writing about anything. It’s useful to mix this 50/50 writing by hand and writing on a computer. This is also a useful time to build vocabulary and practice more complex sentence structures.

Get Organised

Compared to Primary School there’ll be a lot more work at school and home work, so you’ll need to figure our what works best for your child in terms of keeping track of everything. I’m a fan of using post-it notes on the wall above a child’s desk to keep track of Mon-Fri and also Sat & Sun for the homework schedule. A whiteboard is also a great idea which enables the child to draw out their own organisation.

The best approach to practicing 11+ papers

Here are a few tips and ideas if your child is practicing 11+ papers

Make a Plan

Plan each exam session and agree with your child in advance where and when the exam will be. It is not so successful saying to your child “Right, we’re doing an exam now”. Much better to agree 24hrs in advance.

Simulate the test environment as best you can

The child should use the exact same pencil case with pencils, ruler, rubber, sharpener etc as they will use in the real exam. The child should be left alone for the duration of the exam simulation and of course they are not allowed to ask for any help whatsoever.

Go to the toilet first

An often overlooked step in the exam process. Get into the habit of going to the toilet before every exam.

Mark the paper with the child after a short break

Don’t mark the paper immediately after the test as the child will need a break, but don’t leave it until a week later or they would have forgotten the questions and what they specifically struggled with. Ideally you should have the exam after breakfast then mark the paper in the afternoon with the child.

Focus on the positive

As you mark each question, emphasise the positive. One of the most common mistakes is not showing enough working out. If a question was too hard for the child, continue marking then come back to it.

Identify areas requiring improvement

After marking the paper with the child, list out the questions which cause problems and where the child dropped points. It is not sufficient to work through the answer, the root gap in understanding has to be identified and addressed. For example was the underlying issue decoding text into numbers, or not understanding a percentage, or misunderstanding the units required in the answer (another common mistake).

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How to mix & match workbooks in preparation for the 11+

By far the best way to approach the 11+ and/or SATS and independent school entrance exams is to mix and match between ten minute tests and full exam paper simulations.

Ten Minute Maths Tests

Often there is no time for a child to sit a full simulated 11+ exam paper, especially during the week when other homework is at hand.

Ten minute tests are best done during the week, in the car, at a cafe or wherever you happen to be.

Three ten minute sessions spread over a day is generally a more effective strategy than one 30 minute session.

One further tip – a child should not go straight from doing a test to screen time. A period of relaxation and mental consolidation is best after a test, not stimulation via TV or the Xbox!

Eleven Plus Exam Simulation

In tandem with ten minute tests, one or two full exam simulations per weekend is a good idea.

Here are some useful strategies:

The child should tag any questions they found too hard. These are the ones you need to focus on.

Make sure you go through the paper and mark it immediately after the child has finished.

Do not berate the child for any questions they got wrong or did not attempt. Instead, see such questions as an opportunity to review how to approach this kind of question to gain more points in the future.

If the child shows a gap in their knowledge in a particular topic over a number of pages – e.g. algebra, then spend an hour to review that topic to strengthen the child’s ability in this area. Targeted tuition like this is invaluable.

For more ideas and information please contact me for a free trial session.