Aha! Secret tip number 1. This is something that has struck me recently as an easy way to give your child’s performance in the English paper a leg-up. It is particularly relevant for the Kent Test (created by GL) and for CEM papers in other parts of the UK.

Have a look at these 3 special examples of English phrases:

more than meets the eye

scraping the bottom of the barrel

pulling no punches

These are English idioms and there are thousands of them. Learning them parrot-fashion (oh look, there’s another!) is not the answer here. An idiom is a way of communicating and unpicking one or two regularly will be enough to get your child in the mood for them. By all means buy a book – although a quick google will turn up lists of them online:

CLICK HERE for a link to the Collins Easy Learning English Idioms book I have at home.

The way to approach these is in a lighthearted conversational manner in the car, or in a quick chat when you’re knocking about the kitchen together. Try to avoid those that have an American feel about them. Once you start to focus on the actual words you can get a good idea of what they might mean and start to imagine how and when you might use each one. After a couple of conversations, you will find your child can unpick an idiom in context with some confidence.

Here’s a similar style of question – not quite based on an idiom – from a CGP 11+ paper:

What does the slogan ‘A dog is for life, not just for Christmas’ mean?

  • Dogs should never be given as a Christmas present.
  • Owning a dog is a lifelong commitment.
  • A dog is a good companion all year round.
  • There are lots of things to think about when buying a dog as a gift.

Answer: Owning a dog is a lifelong commitment

This demonstrates just how confusing picking apart a given phrase can be. A head-start with idioms is a low-pressure way to encourage your child to look a little deeper at what the writer is trying to communicate. Which has got to be a good thing!