Our Top Tips on How to Prepare Your Child for the 7+ Exam

Our partners at Tutorwiz explain what you need to know and how to prepare your child for this exam.


When your child first starts primary school, the idea of preparing them for exams seems years away, but if you’re considering a move from a state primary school to an independent prep school at the beginning of Key Stage 2, it can creep up fast. Here’s what you need to know.


Whilst your child may be too young to do much in the way of writing and arithmetic, you can still start to build their understanding of numbers from an early age.

  1. Mental arithmetic and times tables play a big part, as do the fundamentals of maths like addition, subtraction, multiplication and division.
  2. Word problems are mostly in two or three parts and time, measurement, simple conversions of units etc will also be covered.
  3. Usually maths papers will also have some component of a logical reasoning test incorporated in the exam, which will help schools differentiate between children who are natural thinkers and those who have been overly prepped for an exam.
  4. By the end of reception, your child should be counting to at least 100, preferably 200 and learning number facts, like odd and even.
  5. Children should be able to use mathematical language, and you can start to develop your child’s ability to solve word problems verbally.
  6. Work with physical objects whilst talking about “adding”, “taking away”, “subtracting”, “sharing” and how many there is left.


In order to pass the 7+ exam, your child will need to be a strong reader, able to sound out almost any word. To support your child in reaching this standard, working on phonics from a young age is essential. A sound knowledge of phonics will improve not only your child’s reading ability, but it will improve their spelling too.

The English paper usually has two components, an essay and comprehension.

  1. Children will be tested not only on grammar, punctuation, sentence construction, vocabulary and spelling but also on how they present their ideas logically and how it relates to the question or topic and how descriptive their creative writing is.
  2. Children have to show a good understanding of the comprehension passage and be able to answer questions relating to it.


This can be separate verbal and non-verbal sections or a mix of the two. Patterns, sequencing, anagrams all tend to be part of this component of the exam.


  1. Keep a notebook to hand so when your child struggles with a word, write it in the notebook. Maintaining a reading word book is important for any reading programme
  2. Return to these words regularly over the course of a week or two.
  3. Tick a word if read correctly and put a dot if incorrect.
  4. When your child has received three consecutive ticks, you can leave this word for a few weeks, but remember to return to these words occasionally.
  5. Once your child is able to read simple CVC (consonant-vowel-consonant) words, such as “cat” and “mop”, you can start to introducing them to phonic blends, such as “sh”, “th” and “ow”.
  6. Young children will often resist writing; however, you can practise spelling new words with a cursive magnetic letter set.
  7. To develop an enjoyment of books from an early age, do try to read to your child regularly and to engage them in the story. Even seeing you turning the pages is informative for children as they learn to read from left to right.


To have good writing, children need to be able to control a pencil. Learning pencil control doesn’t just come with handwriting practice, it can also be developed with colouring activities as well as dot-to-dot tasks.

  1. Children often struggle to develop the fine motor skills that are required for neat handwriting and are likely to have difficulty with holding a pencil.
  2. For children aged 7 and under, jumbo pencils or pencil grips will certainly help them to learn how to hold a pencil properly.
  3. When working on letter formation with your child, try to encourage them to form use the cursive style from a young age. Learning cursive handwriting makes it much easier for children to naturally progress to joined up handwriting as they get older.

Creative Writing

Most school exams ask children to complete a short piece of creative writing as part of their assessment.

  1. To develop these skills at an early age, encourage your child to tell stories orally.
  2. They can come up with stories that revolve around their toys or create extensions and alternative endings to stories that you’ve read together.

General Knowledge

Most schools want to see children adept at answering general knowledge questions and some schools will test this directly with a multiple-choice test or in the interview process.

  1. To build general knowledge, it’s handy to have a range of colourful puzzle books that you can use to spark discussions with your child. Use this as an opportunity to talk about animals, habitats, different cultures and the environment.
  2. In an interview, your child maybe asked about their hobbies, so exposing your child to a wide range of subjects will help them at the interview stage, but it will also give them a wider range of experiences and related vocabulary to draw on when completing creative writing tasks.

Tips for Parents

  1. It takes time and thought and your child needs every chance to show the best of themselves using the spoken word in unfamiliar situations, rather than defaulting to shy, one-word answers.
    1. You cannot force a child into an interview scenario – it’s not productive and can prevent your child from revealing their vitality and unique personality.
  2. One thing that parents must be careful of is over tutoring. This could lead to stress and anxiety. Every child has a different learning path and parents must remember this when choosing a school and the preparation.
  3. Be prepared to invest time and effort whether you need a tutor or not.
  4. It is a commitment and the lead up to the exam is challenging for any child so constant support and encouragement from everyone is very important.
  5. Timing for such young children is often difficult and therefore putting in as much practise as possible before the exam goes a long way
  6. Exam practice is very important. Practice papers, mock exams and feedback on how to manage their time are crucial towards helping them understand how much time they have left and helping them to finish each paper on time.
  7. For children who find it difficult to focus, always factor in tutoring breaks.
  8. Working for short periods of time (20-30 minutes per day) helps children focus better and retain information.
  9. Children who learn visually will benefit a great deal with visual aids such as a table or graph or even using coloured pens to make lists of things they may find difficult to remember.
  10. Explaining the difference between effort, practice and success teaches children how to attain long term goals and maintain a structured approach to most things in life as they get older.

Finally, and most importantly, if you decide to take this path, start early enough so that your child and you are not playing catch-up. Cramming at the end is usually a recipe for disaster and is guaranteed to cause stress for everyone so go with your gut as to what is the best fit for your child.


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