Voiced by students themselves, I have found that recurring concerns are raised regarding the 7+ exam procedure. Before delving deeper into the worries that children have, I think it’s so important to remember that although these are important entrance exams, we must remember that they are the 7+ exams – taken by such young children who are just embarking on their educational journey. The last thing we want children to be feeling at this age is stress or anxiety and we must protect their positive attitude towards learning as this can be so fragile.
If in doubt - during any stage in the 7+ preparations - stop. No exam is worth sacrificing a child’s self-esteem or confidence. Let’s get the balance right. Some light revision accompanied by lots of extra-curricular activities and play is more than enough for young children to happy, engaged and successful in the 7+ exams.
Of course, it is only natural for students to feel some pre-exam nerves and below you will find the top three concerns I have heard over the years, as well as advice on how to restore calm and ease anxieties.
1. “I’m going to run out of time”
The 7+ exam is notorious for giving children tight time frames in which to complete English and Maths exercises. Story writing is often the most challenging aspect of the exam as children naturally find it difficult to write a full story in approximately 25 minutes.
Advice: If you’ve run out of time, it doesn’t matter! The more you worry about the time, the more time you will lose. Try to relax and focus on your ideas rather than the clock.
Very often, a complete story can often be lacking in description and detail. Did you know that an incomplete story, but one that includes adjectives, similes, adverbs etc is far more preferable and may even be awarded more marks? A long story does not equal an interesting and well-written story!
In Maths and comprehension, you don’t need to answer the questions in order. Why don’t you try answering the questions worth the most marks first?
2. “I don’t know how to start my story”
Even as an adult, being faced with a blank piece of paper and being told to write a creative story without any real planning time would be extremely challenging! Writer’s block is very common among children sitting the 7+ exam and when working completely independently, thinking of an interesting story opener can often be rather daunting.
Advice: Why don’t you try starting your story with the word ‘As’? Even having just one word in your mind to start your story, I promise that it will help for more to quickly follow. Using ‘as’ automatically gives you a simile, right at the beginning of your story! You could write about the weather, “As cold as ice….” you could describe a character, “As strong as a bull…” or you could write about the setting, “As quiet as a mouse…”
The word ‘as’ opens up so many options, all of which give you a fantastically detailed story opener!
3. “I’m not sure when I should show my working”
Relating back to the worry of time, it is quite common for children to panic about when to show their working in the Maths paper. We know that marks are often awarded for showing working, but it can be time-consuming to write calculations for each question.
Advice: You only need to show your working when answering word problems. For simple addition, subtraction, division or multiplication questions, you can go straight ahead and write the answer. Another trick is to pay attention to how many marks are awarded. For example, one-mark questions show that only an answer is needed, two marks however show that working is probably required.
I hope that by discussing and addressing these concerns, students, parents and fellow educators will feel more at ease in the final run-up to the exams and can take comfort in knowing that these concerns are common and shared among many children. The exams aren’t built to assess for perfection, schools are simply looking for potential.
All we can ask is that our children try their absolute best on the day, and if they can do this, they should feel enormously proud of their hard work and effort, whatever the result.