When should I start preparing my child for 11+ interviews?

This week we have a guest blog from Dr Afrosa Ahmed on preparing children for 11+ interviews.

Firstly, the ‘official’ line may be that you should not prepare your child for 11+ interviews. That could also be the official line for the 11+ written exam, but the reality is you need to do some. It is a fine balance between no preparation and giving rehearsed answers. Most 10 to 11-year olds have not been in an interview setting before, so don’t throw them in the deep end on the interview day!

Parents are already doing preparation without realising it. Ferrying your child to various activities are all things they can talk about in the interview. I advise parents to make a list of all the achievements, hobbies and interests from year 4 onwards.

The interview is the final leg of the journey, so while the focus of your 11+ campaign should be on written exams; informal preparation can start in year 5. Discuss topical issues as a family around the dinner table; on the way to clubs ask them what they like about their club or what they dislike; what is their favourite subject at school. Interview preparation does not have to be in a classroom setting.

The final preparation will be a month before, arrange a mock face to face interview. Your own school may do this. You can rope a friend or neighbour or use a professional like myself.

What are Schools looking for?

They are looking for those who are ‘able’:

  • PersonABLE –what your your child is like beyond the classroom; which will go on to discuss their hobbies and interests.
  • TeachABLE – able to learn, and if necessary be willing to unlearn and relearn.
  • ChallengABLE – discuss topical issues; see other viewpoints and critically analyse them.
  • ConscionABLE – Discovering their thoughts on moral issues; euthanasia, climate control, for example
  • KnowledgeABLE – they may be given some English and Maths questions; they want to understand how your child arrived at their answer
  • SupportABLE – how does your child interact with their peers, are they a team player?
  • ComfortABLE – will they fit into this school?

What are the common interview pitfalls?

Did you know ‘40% of interviewers thought that a lack of a smile’ was a valid reason not to hire a candidate. Body language is crucial. It is important your child has a positive attitude, looks interested and engaged with the interviewer.

You would be surprised how many children will have seen the school for the first time on the exam day. There is not another open day between the written and the interviews so go and see the schools beforehand. I always strongly advise that parents sit the exam if you are genuinely interested in sending your child there.

Any Last Words of Wisdom?

With my clients, I like to get to know the child. As a practising medical doctor, I look particularly for signs of burnout, stress and low self-esteem; factors which may affect their performance on the day. I’ve had mothers in tears just by asking how they are coping with it all. The process has become increasingly competitive and intense. I urge parents to focus on their child’s well-being above anything else. The 11+ process is immense for them, but it is only part of their journey in life.

Afrosa is a General Practitioner who specialises in child health. As well as conducting mock interviews for 11 and 13 plus, she is also an interviewer for several London Russell Group Universities, is a School Governor and a GP Tutor. If you would like to book a mock interview face to face or online please email [email protected].

She is also the author of ‘A Parents Guide to Preparing for Independent School Interviews’.