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Advice for the 7+ Examination

The 7+ exam is the main point of entry to King’s College Wimbledon, Westminster Cathedral Choir School, SPJS and Latymer School.  For St Pauls Juniors from 2018 they have increased their intake for 7+ to around 54 and will take less at 8+ .Girls generally take a 7+ for Bute House or Latymer. 



There used to be   a misconception that the 7+ was somehow easier than the 8+.  In my experience this is simply not the case.  The 7+ often proves to be a test of maturity rather than of intellect.  Some very able children often find the whole assessment process quite worrying and traumatic and do not do themselves justice on the day. The schools are not interested in making allowances for children who find the assessment difficult.  They have such large numbers of candidates that they are ruthlessly weeded out and the standard expected is amazingly high for children of that age.  The younger the candidates the more significant their birthday is - with such exams favouring those who are born in the early part of the academic year.


Parents often mention the fact that their children are bi-lingual.  II'm afraid this is not taken into consideration at all in terms of their performance in english exams.  


These days it seems that virtually all children take the 7+ which historically was not the case. .  However the numbers available at King's College have not increased.  St Paul's has increased its 7+ intake but Westminster and Latymer remain the same.  That leads to the inescapable conclusion that hundreds of children who take these exams will not pass.  I think there is a common perception that the amount of tutoring, mock exams and other courses will become the differentiating factor.  Given the huge numbers now applying, in other words everyone in the class, then it is clear that not all candidates will be accepted. There are just a great many children who are just not really suitable for these tests in terms of development and maturity.  It absolutely does not mean that they will not be highly successful a little bit later. 

What to look for in terms of success

The children whom I consider likely to succeed at the  7+ to St Paul's Junior, King's and Westminster Under are children who are naturally intellectually advanced for their age.  They will be at the top of their class, very advanced readers, extremely  numerate and self confident and mature.   Such children are often the oldest in their year group.  They then have some tutoring to 'polish' them up and then usually do really well.

These days to succeed at this exam requires a degree of commitment from child and parent.  If you feel uncomfortable about tutoring young children - whether by yourself or others, it may not be the right choice for you.  I would say please don't be pressurised into thinking that you must participate in the 7+ because everyone else is doing it.  There is no doubt that you are asking very young children to present themselves in a formal examination situation.  I have many parents mentioning 'they need to have a childhood." I could not agree more but equally it is not desirable to send along a child who has not taken exams before,  to these schools for high powered exams.  Other children will have had considerable amounts of tutoring and practice.  


Do not worry that this ‘advantage’ will be maintained throughout their school days.  Intelligence is not a fixed commodity which will never change- so do not make the mistake of thinking that if they ‘fail’ the 7+ they are doomed to be in some sort of academic ‘b’ stream for the rest of their school career.  There are many children who having done very well at an early age fail to continue on the same trajectory and others who suddenly ‘catch up’ when they are a little bit older. Children who did not do well at the 7+ often do extremely well at the 8+.  



Parental expectations have to be carefully managed in front of children at this age. There is a very difficult balance with trying to emphasise to them that this exam is important whilst not making them feel stressed.  Should they not succeed do try not to let the disappointment show.  Children of that age have very limited knowledge of whether one school is better than another so be careful to be positive about all schools. 

Summer - One very disappointing trend last year was brought about by King's having their exam earlier.  This has now started to lead to parents ruining their summer holidays by seeking courses and tutoring earlier.  I understand that people feel anxious but if you have worked steadily throughout the year and your child is clever and motivated, then try not to send them to too many mock exams and courses in the summer holidays.  They will benefit more from cultural visits on holiday, sport and having a good rest.  

Think ahead

The 7+ is often the first exam that families have had to confront. Please try to be realistic about your child.  If they are not at the top of their class or near it then why should they suddenly be accepted at the top academic schools?  I quite understand the level of anxiety this engenders but do try to remember that education is a long game.  Your child will be taking exams until they are 18 at least.  Try to avoid creating the impression that exams are 'difficult' and stressful.  The intention on the part of the schools is that they should accept children for whom the exams were merely a demonstration of what they already know.  



Post exam blame

There is also a natural inclination for parents whose children have not succeeded at 7+ to lose faith in our group lessons or their tutor.  My experience tells me that the work they will have done to prepare for the 7+ is most certainly not ‘wasted’ and if they continue to capitalize on the advances they made to prep for the 7+ they should have a very good chance at 8+ so don’t lose heart and stop working with them.  Every year I see boys who did not pass the 7+ absolutely sailing into the top schools at the 8+ so please do not invest everything in this exam and then feel stressed at the start of what should be the 8+ preparation.


The best policy to adopt if you have decided to try for this exam is to conclude that all children have a limited chance so do not get too excited about the whole thing.  Stay ostensibly calm and be prepared to reward them for simply attending the exam.  Be prepared for inexplicable lapses in performance even from normally strong candidates – some children really do have an ‘off day’ and no amount of preparation can eliminate this.


In conclusion it would seem that the emphasis for certain schools has shifted to snapping up the candidates who show signs of high potential at an early age. However experience tells me that there are many candidates who might not demonstrate the skills required at the age of 6 but go on to perform very well as they go through their academic career.



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