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From September 2015 there are a number of changes:
There will be no discrete verbal reasoning paper. Also, there will be a new English and Maths paper. Both of these will be more in line with key stage 2.
English paper will last 1 hour with some extra reading time and is valued at 60 marks. It will assess comprehension, grammar and vocabulary as well as two pieces of creative writing. In addition there will be a verbal reasoning section
The maths paper will be based on content from the Key stage 2 curriculum. The paper will also have applied reasoning which includes mathematical and non verbal. This maths paper will last 60 minutes.
What does this mean?
Well traditionally, the Essex 11 plus maths paper had a lot of Key stage 3 maths content. The English paper was based on 19th century English. CSSE will be releasing a specimen paper in January. We will have to see what that looks like. It seems to be making the exam easier from the surface. However, maybe they seek more students within the catchment area of the school. Already some students have journeys of an hour to get to school. If more students in area now pass, it means that there will be less places for those outside. A lot of parents will be keen to move to be nearer to the school and within the catchment zone.
For those parents outside the catchment area, the children will need to be prepared to an even greater extent. As a professional 11 plus trainer I am happy to share ideas on where to obtain great resources for creative writing. Stephen Curran has written some great books on creative writing. Another good choice is Guinea pig education. If you already have older siblings in a grammar school for Essex, preparing them for creative writing is perhaps something that you previously did not do. However, it is now essential.