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Common areas of difficulty on the 11 plus exam

Exam guides
Common areas of difficulty on the 11 plus exam

If you're preparing for your child to take the 11 plus, it's helpful to know exactly what to expect. Atom's exam prep experts share five of the most challenging subtopics commonly faced on the 11 plus, as well as tips for tackling them.

These areas are notorious for costing children marks, so making sure your child is comfortable with them as soon as possible will help secure a top score.

1. Algebra

Algebra is taught on the Year 6 national curriculum. But by the time the 11 plus comes up at the start of Year 6, your child will not have had a chance to gain a firm understanding of algebra in the classroom yet.

Exploring learning beyond the foundations of algebra now will help your child score higher on this topic in comparison to other students. It will also give them a head start in a topic that forms an increasingly large part of the maths curriculum up to GCSE level and beyond.

One of thousands of algebra practice questions on Atom Nucleus

Atom top tips

  • For Atom Nucleus subscribers, we recommend using Custom Practices to begin introducing algebra from the middle of Year 5.

  • Make the most of the Lesson Library where your child can watch recordings of lessons on algebra and equations. It can be extremely helpful to consolidate their learning by seeing the steps a teacher takes to solve a problem.

An algebra live lesson on Atom

2. Following folds

The ability to solve non-verbal reasoning questions like the one below come naturally to some people. However, for many, it is a topic that can prevent them from gaining a top score.

It's particularly likely to trip up children who are unfamiliar with this type of question, so introducing your child to spatial reasoning practice early is key. Just like learning to tie your shoelaces, practice makes perfect – once the logic clicks, it will make sense.

An example Following Folds question on Atom Nucleus

Atom top tips

The practice questions on Nucleus include engaging videos, help sheets and friendly explanations to support your child to develop a secure understanding of non-verbal reasoning topics.

Following folds.gif

  • You can also get a piece of paper and pair of scissors and follow the instructions to make the pattern that is being described. This will help your child create a mental representation of how the shapes move and interact. Once they understand the method, repetition will be key in building confidence.

3. Comprehension – inference

Being a strong reader is vital for any entrance exam. Reading challenging texts will increase spelling and vocabulary alongside improving their comprehension abilities. When it comes to comprehension, ‘inference’ tends to be among the trickiest subtopics. It requires students to form their conclusions based on contextual evidence from the text.

An inference practice question on Atom Nucleus

Atom top tips

  • A key way to boost your child's inference skills is by encouraging them to read widely. Reading a variety of types of text for pleasure will broaden their vocabulary and enhance their analytical thinking. Get tips and free resources for engaging your child with reading here.

  • When reading together, a fun way to build inference skills is to play ‘prediction’ and ‘storytelling’ games. At the end of a chapter get your child to write down a prediction of what is going to happen next. Another version of this game is to write an alternative ending to a story!

  • We recommend Atom students join the fun Comprehension Challenge Live Lessons (or watch the recordings in the Lesson Library) to build both inference and deduction skills.

Comprehension challenge live lessons on Atom

4 . Worded problems

Worded problems are infamous for costing children marks on 11 plus maths papers. Often the last sentence switches what you think the question is asking you, like in the example below.

A worded maths problem on Atom Nucleus

Plenty of practice will help your child get comfortable converting worded questions into numerical sums, and reduce their likelihood of getting caught out by these tricky question types. Preparing your child for these types of question will allow them to pick up marks where most of their peers will be dropping them.

Atom top tips

  • For Atom Nucleus subscribers, we recommend setting regular Custom Practices in the 'Weights and Measures' subtopic of maths. This will present your child with time, speed and money questions which are often displayed as worded problems.

Setting a custom practice in Weights and Measures

  • Once your child has completed each activity, go through the transcript together, reflecting on any corrections and what they would do differently next time. If your child spots that they didn’t read the question properly, they are far less likely to make the same mistake in the real exam!

Custom practice transcript

5. Nets and cubes

Another of non-verbal reasoning’s stickiest areas, questions involving nets and cubes continue to prove one of the areas that children struggle with most.

A nets and cubes practice question on Atom Nucleus

Atom top tips

  • Helping your child begin to visualise the nets and cubes as real-world entities will aid tremendously in their ability to answer the questions. When practising this topic, you may wish to give your child a real-life object like a dice or Rubik's Cube to support this visualisation.

  • The nets and cubes practice questions on Atom Nucleus have visualisations to help your child gain a solid understanding of how the 2D nets translate to 3D cubes.

A visualisation from a nets and cubes question showing the correct answer

  • We also recommend watching the 11 Plus Non-Verbal Reasoning: Nets and Cubes Live Lesson recording. Your child will learn all about the dud rule, opposite rule and orientation rule. Combined, these rules will help your child face any nets and cubes questions that may come up on the 11 plus!


We can help

Your child can practise all these topics and more on Atom Nucleus, your all-in-one 11 plus preparation platform. Start your free trial of Atom Nucleus today to learn more about how adaptive learning can empower your child to excel in the 11 plus.

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