Are you ready? The 11+ Countdown: 4 months to go

The Reading List


This month (because the holidays are the PERFECT time for some extra reading) I’m focusing on the books that make ideal preparation for the 11+ exams, with just four months left to go.


Now, I can’t tell you which texts are going to be used in your child’s 11+ comprehension assessments (these change every single year and will be different on every single English paper that your child sits) but I’ve certainly learnt a thing or two in the past few years. Here’s what secondary schools LOVE to include in entrance assessments:


  1. Vintage Literature extracts.


Schools like to include extracts from vintage texts for a number of reasons:

  1. Fewer children are likely to have seen the extract which makes the assessment both harder and (arguably) fairer

  2. Vintage texts include more unfamiliar vocabulary, which is the perfect opportunity to test applicants’ vocabulary levels (or ability to make logical guesses)


I am using the term ‘vintage literature’ quite loosely, and in this instance I’m referring to children’s literature published from the end of the Victorian period (1901) to 1980. After this date, the language (including the slang in the text) is far easier for children to decipher.


Key texts to read:


Barrie, J M. Peter and Wendy

Hill, Susan. I’m the King of the Castle

Lewis, C S. The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe

Tolkien, J R R. The Lord of the Rings Trilogy

Tolkien, J R R. The Hobbit


b) Victorian Literature


Who likes a challenge? A particular group of secondary schools (no names here!) certainly do. Now, I’m not recommending that you sit your child down and hand them Bleak House or Middlemarch, but there is DEFINITELY a pattern in the Victorian extracts chosen by secondary schools.


Firstly, the extract is usually (but not always) about a child.


Secondly, the extract is usually from a descriptive passage (as children should still be able to identify repetition, similes etc., even if they don’t recognise all of the vocabulary).


Thirdly, the extract will contain no more than five period-specific words. That is, although the expression may be outdated, the vocabulary *should* be decipherable.


The extracts that crop up most regularly are from the following texts:


Brontë, Charlotte. Jane Eyre (opening chapters)

Dickens, Charles. A Christmas Carol (the descriptions of London)

Dickens, Charles. Great Expectations (the first chapters)

Dickens, Charles. Oliver Twist

Kipling, Rudyard. The Jungle Book

Stevenson, Robert Louis. Treasure Island

Stevenson, Robert Louis. Kidnapped


c) Poetry

Occasionally, poetry is selected rather than prose. This is for a number of reasons:

  1. Children will have spent far less time studying poetry at school than novels. This means that it is unlikely the child will have seen the poem and is sometimes a better indicator of a child’s ability to make logical inferences than a piece of prose.

  2. Poems are packed with language devices. Children should be able to identify a simile or two.


The poems selected may be modern, vintage or Victorian, and I would simply recommend that children become familiar with reading poems and with writing about them. That said, the following poems would make a great start:


Bloom, Valerie. Granny Is

Frost, Robert. Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening

Heaney, Seamus. Digging (this is fairly challenging)

Kipling, Rudyard. The Way Through the Woods

Tennyson, Alfred Lord. The Eagle


And… the poetry collection of A.A. Milne


Of course, modern texts do appear as well (although they’re usually at least five years old, as copyright can be tricky!) So, don’t put down the Michael Morpurgo just yet! In fact, speaking of Michael Morpurgo, his oldest texts have started to make an appearance (think A Twist of Gold), so these might be worth a visit...


I also recently discovered a great site called Common Sense Media. If you’re not sure if a book or film will be suitable for your child, you can check it here:


This will certainly help if the vintage or Victorian novels you’re perusing seem a little scary or overwhelming!


Enjoy reading and I hope you’re all having a great summer.


Aisha x