The 11+ English Exam: What Your Child Can Expect In The Writing Task

Writing essay

With 11+ exams just around the corner, many children (and their parents) are working on packs and sample papers.


The English exam of many grammar schools and independent schools has a creative writing essay – or a writing task of some sort. Each school will have particular topics they will focus on, and so it’s important that your child covers a range of writing topics and writing tasks.

Kid Writing in Notebook.

Knowing how to write an essay is an art form, so it will take a lot of practice to get a real hang of this. Especially given that the exam is timed, your child will need to learn how to write an essay well under time conditions. One thing to note here, though, is that the essay will be no less than 20 minutes, and no longer than 50 minutes.


What Students Need To Know for the 11 Plus Writing Task 


The most basic requirements that each student is expected to meet when they sit the 11 Plus English exam includes the following:

  • Knowing how to make a plan
  • Keep their handwriting neat
  • Contributing equally to the three sections of the essay
  • Keeping their story interesting and their reader engaged
  • Using the appropriate grammar and punctuation 
  • Complete the essay

By the time each student sits their 11+ exam, it is expected that they have a solid grasp of these. This is why the more practice your child gets ahead of the exam, the better.



Another key thing to bear in mind is that you’ll need to have an understanding of what the examiners in your area, and what they are looking for. While some focus on spelling and punctuation, others will focus on the main content of the work. However, one universal trait that all examiners will keep an eye out for is a clear beginning, middle and end to your child’s story. This is something that many children find difficult to grasp, but as we’ve mentioned earlier, regular practice will help with this!


What To Expect In The English Exam


As we mentioned earlier, learning to plan your essay is a skill that will help your child in the practice for their 11+ English creative essay. In preparing for the creative piece, these are a few elements they will need to know well. 


This includes:

  • 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


In choosing characters and the setting of their story, these are parts that your child will want to develop a word or phrase bank for. These will come in handy in general, but if they find that their mind goes blank during the exam, having these stored banks of knowledge will help them in case of that eventuality.


Earlier, we mentioned the 3 main sections to the creative essay of the 11+ exam and this is probably the most crucial part your child will need to know well. The aim of this is that your child should have 3 ruled sections on their page; a short one, a longer one and a third short one. The beginning, middle and end should then be filled out with the corresponding spaces.


Free 11+ Essay Titles


Here are a few examples of essay titles from grammar and independent schools your child can use for practice:


  • 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)
  • 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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