The 11+ English Exam: What Your Child Can Expect for the Creative Essay – Plus Sample Creative Writing Questions

Little boy in glasses does homework sitting at the desk.

Did you know that the English paper in every 11+ exam that has the essay element, will each have particular elements they will focus on. But regardless of this, there will always be a core standard of writing required in the English exam.

Mastering the process of essay writing to 11 Plus standards takes a lot of practice. Given that the exam is timed, your child will also need to learn how to write their essay well under these time constraints. The writing task will typically need to be written in no less than 20 minutes, and no longer than 50 minutes.

The most basic requirements that each student will need to:

  • Know how to make a plan.
  • Keep their handwriting need.
  • Contribute equally to the three sections of the essay.
  • Keeping their story interesting and their reader engaged.
  • Use their grammar and punctuation well.
  • Complete the essay.

The examiners will be looking at each child’s spelling and punctuation, while focusing on the main content of their written work. There must be a clear beginning, middle and end to your child’s story, descriptive writng piecem and even report writing. This is something that many children find difficult to grasp, which is why regular practice is important!

Child write in a notebook.
Child write in a notebook.

An Effective 11 Plus Writing Task Strategy

Learning to plan the writing task is a skill that will help your child to effectively time manage their 11+ English creative essay and also make sure that the order of events and details in the writing make sense.

Your child will need to know how to plan the following under time pressures, and to fit any type of story writing theme and idea:

  • Their characters and the description of these characters.
  • The setting of their story.
  • The plot (they can use the WOW technique to help with this).
  • The ending. 
  • How to manage their time.

Some children benefit from deveoping a bank of words and phrases and types of characters ahead of the exam. Working on characters and the setting of their stories will come in handy in general, but if your child finds that their mind goes blank during the exam, having these stored banks of knowledge will help them.

Earlier, we mentioned the three main sections to the creative essay of the 11+ exam and this is probably a crucial part of the planning process that your child will need to know well. Many children struggle with the length of these three areas – and with paragraphs in general. One way to conceptualise in a child’s mind is to have three ruled sections on their page:

  • a short one (the introduction);
  • a longer one (the middle); and
  • a third – another short one (the conclusion).

This is basically a simple structure of writing the beginning, middle and end.

If your child needs support with getting this basic structure right, our Creative Writing Crash Course can help.

Sample 11 Plus Writing Tasks From Schools

Below, we have a few examples of essay titles from schools:

  • Write a story (true or made up) about a visit you make to some relatives of your own. (from Merchant Taylor School, Northwood, London)
  • Write a story with ‘Alone’ as the title, where you suddenly realise that you are on your own. It may be true or entirely made up, but it should include your thoughts and feelings as well as what happened. (Question from Merchant Taylor School, Northwood, London)
  • Describe a situation you have experienced which you might call A Magical Moment, showing what your thoughts and feelings are. (Question from Merchant Taylor School, Northwood, London)
  • Write a clear description of an animal you know well. Make sure you describe what it does and how it behaves as well as what it looks like. (Question from Merchant Taylor School, Northwood, London)
  • I prefer Winter to Spring (Dulwich College, London)
  • Write a story that begins with the words, I had been waiting for such a long time for this to happen (Emmanuel College, London)
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