• Mark Collier

Exam technique – How do I make the most of my time in the test?

Even if you are the most able pupil you will not complete all the 11+ test questions within the time limit, but the better you are prepared will help you to use the time most efficiently. This will result in you attempting more questions and a higher score being achieved. This blog explores different ways in which you can do this and get the best possible results.

Below are seven simple strategies to maximise time in the 11+ tests.

1. Scan the question paper.

At the start of the test just spend a few moments looking at all the pages.


This will give you a picture of what is coming up in the test and allow you to see if there are any easy questions near the end – you don’t want to run out of time and not do the easy questions!

2. Remember the three question rule.

What’s that?

  • Do the quick and easy questions first. It will really help you to know which questions are quick and easy if you have had experience of practising different question styles before the test.

  • Next attempt the questions you know you can do but, from practise, you know take a little while to answer.

  • Finally have a go at the tricky questions.

3. Jot it down.

If you have to do a few steps to work out an answer, perhaps in a maths question, jot the numbers down as you go.


This will leave more space in your brain for working out the other parts of the question.

4. Circle unanswered questions on the question sheet.


This will help you to return to these questions quickly and easily if you have time near the end of the test and saves you the time of looking to see which questions you have missed.

5. Check you have read the question correctly.

What am I looking for?

Some questions (such as cube and net questions in non-verbal reasoning) might have the word ‘can’ or ‘cannot’ in it – make sure you are looking for the right thing.

Sometimes in alphabetical order questions (verbal reasoning) the questions might say ‘if the words are written backwards’ – don’t miss this important instruction.

6. Underline key words and numbers.


In the examples above (strategy 5) this will help you not to overlook vital parts of the questions. Also, especially in maths questions, all numbers will be important – underline them to make them stand out, then you will not overlook key parts of the question.

7. Use the answers on the answer sheet to help you.


Some questions, such as code questions in verbal reasoning and some maths questions, can be answered more quickly if you look at the multiple choice answers before completing the whole question – this will save you time, which you can spend on other questions! For example, if a code question requires a two letter answer, perhaps AX, check the choices after working out the A and if there is only one choice with A as the first letter you don’t need to spend time working out the second letter. Some questions where you need to work out a word using a code are similar: find the first letter then check the answers, you might only have to find one more letter of the word. In a maths example, you might work out the first digit to be 3, so if only one of a multiple choice selection begins with a 3 you can save time by not working out the rest of the answer.

All of the above strategies will help you to save time in the 11+ test and ensure that you have a better chance of getting questions correct. By attempting more questions and answering more questions correctly you will achieve a higher score. Some of the strategies will help even if you have not seen any 11+ style questions before, but many will work best if you have practised lots before the test. For example, strategies 1 and 2 rely on you knowing what 11+ questions look like when written on a test paper. To help you achieve your potential in the 11+ test you will find it useful to look at some of my other blogs on English, maths, non-verbal reasoning and verbal reasoning.

Good luck! But remember, the luckiest people are those who work hardest.

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