The Kent Test 11+: What I Think All Parents Should Know

by | Apr 27, 2022 | Exams, Front page posts, Non-verbal reasoning, Teach, Verbal Reasoning, Writing | 0 comments


I’m an absolute Kent Test 11+ geek.

I’ve been studying the details of the Kent Test for over a decade. My company, Griffin Teaching, runs in-person and online Kent Test 11+ mocks each year for 700+ students.

I know the test inside and out and pay particular attention to how children respond to changes in the questions and timings.

The Kent 11 plus isn’t the same as other 11 plus exams.

For starters, the test is a paper test (some other 11+ tests around the UK, including the ISEB Common Pre-Test, are computer based). The papers, timings, types of questions, and mark schemes are all just a little different for the Kent Test.

Knowing and preparing for these differences matters a lot if you’re trying to give your child the best possible preparation.

So, here is what I think every parent with a child taking the Kent Test should know.

Pay Attention to the Timings – The Kent Test Timings are Different

Timing is everything. The exam papers are short and packed with content.

The Kent Test examiner guidebook gives specific arrangements for time checks throughout each paper. But, unlike other 11+ tests, the Kent Test does not include any call outs in the final few minutes. Your child needs to know how to pace themselves accordingly.

The Verbal Reasoning Content is Tutor-Proof … Or Is It?

The Kent Test was designed to be “tutor proof.” The exam board accomplishes this in the verbal reasoning paper by examining just 4 out of 25+ key types each year. The result is that the exam feels new every time.

In recent years, the exam board has gone one further by introducing a newly-created type as one of the four examined exercises. We play with the verbal reasoning content in our club programme and mock exams now, to prepare every child for exactly this scenario.

At Griffin Teaching, we teach all 25+ key types – in addition to creating new types of our own – to ensure that your child has experience with each key verbal reasoning exercise, but you should know that it’s likely only 4 will be tested in the actual test.

The Maths Paper is Not Organised by Difficulty

Most students (and parents) expect the maths content to be organised by difficulty, starting out with easy questions and progressing to more difficult ones. This isn’t how the Kent Test maths paper is organised.

In some years the test has begun with two quicker, easier questions at the start of the paper, but this has been followed by a combination of hard and easy maths questions.

What your child should know is that truly difficult, nasty questions can appear very early on in the paper. It’s important for your child to be mentally prepared for this mixed level of difficulty, so they can allot their time and attention strategically.

Without confidence-boosting preparation, children often stall if they hit a difficult question earlier than expected in the maths paper.

Non-Verbal Reasoning Questions – 30 seconds Per Question

Usually the non-verbal reasoning questions on the Kent Test are arranged in sets of 12, with around 30 seconds allowed for each question.

If a child gets stuck early on, they won’t get to the end of the exercise. This happens to most children taking the test and has been a real challenge for us to address. Experience has enabled us to develop and teach a non-chronological test-taking strategy specifically for the non-verbal reasoning paper.

Now we are sure our students won’t get stuck.

Always Use Actual Kent Test 11+ Practice Papers

Even though the Kent Test 11+ is set by the GL Education exam board, the mock papers that you can buy from GL Education do not match the Kent Test. Therefore, using general 11+ practice papers for the basis of your revision programme is a mistake – it will not adequately prepare your child for the Kent Test exam.

Even if a child generally scores well on 11+ practice papers, this doesn’t guarantee similar results on test day, when it matters. Parents often underestimate the impact of unexpected timings on their child’s performance, and are shocked when practice at home doesn’t tally with the test success.

Develop a Test Taking Strategy

The English exam paper is a minefield. Some parents teach students to use a dated comprehension approach (reading the questions first and then scanning the text for answers). Yet children who use this approach seriously underperform in the Kent Test. Inference is central to the Kent 11+ exam, and students need a considered and proven strategy to score highly on the day.

The Kent 11+ vs. Medway 11+ vs. ISEB Common Pre-Test

The maths revision content for the Kent Test and the Medway Test is quite similar now. Both are set by the GL exam board, but English is examined in a very different way. The timing, style and layout of the questions is unique to each exam, so it’s important to know which exam your child will be taking and to revise accordingly.

A significant amount of confusion results from the simple fact that GL Education creates the Kent Test and the ISEB Common Pre-test, which is the entrance exam for a much larger number of UK public and private schools.

The content and timings are closely matched between the Kent Test and the ISEB Common Pre-Test. The main difference between the Kent Test and the ISEB Common Pre-Test is the test format. The complex strategic approach needed to succeed on the Kent Test (a paper test) does not apply to the ISEB Common Pre-test (a computer-based test which is examined one question at a time). Interestingly, the ISEB Common Pre-test is ‘intuitive’ where the algorithm will offer a harder question to a child doing well, and an easier one to a child who is struggling.

the Kent Test Appeals Process

There are 2 appeal processes available to students who dip under the required score in the Kent Test 11+:

1. Head teacher appeal

Before parents are presented with the Kent Test result, their child’s headteacher will have already received their scores. At this stage the school can choose to put in a head teacher appeal document. Alongside their letter, the previously unmarked Writing Test, (completed on the day and kept on file) is assessed. Most writing samples are pretty poor as they are written at the end of an exhausting day of English, Maths and Reasoning examinations.

What we’ve found is that it is possible to win a pass from these head teacher panels, with an outstanding writing sample. Even strong writers at school can’t generally produce something good enough at the end of a long day of exams that showcases the top notes of the mark scheme, without our support.

At Griffin, we work carefully on children’s writing sample before the big day. We do this in our Writing Club (online weekly writing classes for children). Last year the small handful of our writing club students who ended up at head teacher appeal were awarded a pass. Proving it can be done.

2. Parent appeal

This is an option available to parents post-results day. Of our 200 Kent Test 11+ students, I ghost-wrote 19 appeals last year on behalf of our families and 17 were subsequently awarded a place at their first choice school.

But Make Sure your Mocks Match the Kent 11+

Mock exams, like practice papers, need to be chosen carefully. Most mocks are set by nationwide companies who advertise that their mocks match the Kent Test – but they don’t. We’re based in this area and specialise in the Kent Test 11+.

We can tell you first-hand – the style and timings of the Kent Test 11+ do not match any other 11+ exam in the UK, even those also set by GL Education.

The risks of preparing for the wrong style of exam should not be underestimated.

Which Grammar Schools Use the Kent Test?

Of course, none of this applies if your child won’t be taking the Kent Test!

Here is a complete list of Kent County Grammar Schools that use the Kent Test 11 plus.

If you plan to apply to any of these schools, our in-person or online Kent Test mock exams are a perfect fit.

  • Barton Court Grammar School
  • Borden Grammar School
  • Chatham House Grammar School
  • Clarendon House Grammar School
  • Dane Court Grammar School
  • Dartford Grammar School
  • Dartford Grammar School for Girls
  • Dover Grammar School for Boys
  • Dover Grammar School for Girls
  • Gravesend Grammar School
  • Highsted Grammar School
  • Highworth Grammar School
  • Invicta Grammar School
  • Maidstone Grammar School
  • Maidstone Grammar School for Girls
  • Mayfield Grammar School
  • Oakwood park Grammar School
  • Queen Elizabeth’s Grammar School
  • Simon Langton Girls’ Grammar School
  • Simon Langton Grammar School for Boys
  • Sir Roger Manwood’s School
  • The Folkestone School for Girls
  • The Harvey Grammar School
  • The Judd School
  • The Norton Knatchbull School
  • The Skinner’s School
  • Tonbridge School
  • Tunbridge Wells Girl’s Grammar School
  • Tunbridge Wells Grammar School for Boys
  • Weald of Kent Grammar School
  • Wilmington Grammar School for Boys
  • Wilmington Grammar School for Girls