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Passing the 11+ with NLP



NLP is a completely different way of viewing your world. Once you have been introduced to the NLP way of thinking and communicating it will seem like you’ve come home. It is respectful of others and more importantly of yourself and your 11+ student because it is positive.

John Grinder and Richard Bandler developed what they came to call NLP from a combination of Virginia Satir’s Family Therapy, Franz Perls’ Gestalt Therapy and the work of Milton Erickson in the area of language patterns. What Grinder and Bandler added was the idea of coding excellence by observing how effective people communicated and forming ground rules that would bring these results to anyone who applied them. These ground rules are what we call NLP or Neuro Linguistic Programming.

We have used these to underpin the 11+ strategies you want to know about in order to support your child throughout the preparation for the 11+ exam.

This workbook is designed first and foremost to be a practical workbook for you to use to support your 11+ student on a day to day basis.

It is specifically geared towards mums and dads as we feel it is they who will be supporting the 11+ students on a daily basis although it will also make interesting reading for grandparents, teachers and carers who have regular contact with children sitting the 11+ and who want to help them.

We have referred to your child as ‘him’ throughout the book in order to tie in with the boy on the cover and for consistency ………and perhaps because we know from experience that boys of this age seem to find it harder to focus on work because they’d much rather be outside kicking a ball around!

Obviously all the contents of this book relate to girls as well so just substitute ‘she’ or ‘her’ for ‘he’ and ‘him’ or ‘they’ when you are reading it with your child.

One of the questions asked by mums on a regular basis is how much they should be involved in their children’s 11+ preparation. We recommend taking a middle road.

Some mums are just not interested; they sign their child up for 11+ tuition and take no further interest in the lessons or homework at all. Other parents are on the case for the whole year, even years. Then there is the middle road where the parents make sure homework is done, vocabulary learnt, reading done, and that, we feel, is the ideal level of involvement. Children need to know that their parent is interested in what they’re doing and that they are both working towards the same goal which is to get them to the school where they want to be.

I had a little boy one year who was never going to pass from the moment he walked in the door. He actually didn’t seem to care whether he passed or not. But he could have done so much better for himself. He could have felt so much better about himself and his confidence. If he did homework it was all wrong and nobody ever looked at it, nobody helped him. He was one of the only children I’ve had who didn’t progress. (Quote from co-author Carolyn Fitzpatrick)

Little and often seems to work best rather than expecting them to sit down for an hour and a half, they literally need ten minute bursts.

At the start of Year 5, work earnestly on times tables and reading, nothing else up to Christmas. It doesn’t matter if they are reading a comic, a newspaper or a Dr Who annual, so long as it is words on paper. Get them to read and extend their vocabulary.

Give them a reason to do things, so rather than sitting down and saying ‘we’re doing this workbook’ make it relevant to their daily life.

For example, if they want to buy 7 toys at 50p how much change would they get for a £10 note? Encourage them to understand why tables are so useful. We do not recommend looking at 11+ papers at home until May.


If you know what compound words, homophones and similes are, this all helps your 11+ child because you can notice them in sentences and point them out to your child as examples. These will be covered in the literacy chapter.

Teach your child to visualise the letters in words because this is a very important skill for the 11+. NLP has a great spelling strategy that is covered in the first chapter on how children learn.

Encourage them to have a go at every question when they do practice papers because it doesn’t matter if they get a question wrong. What they will learn from this and the feedback they get will be how to get it right. There is no learning from no response.

Another way you can help them is by practising at home a good way of sitting at a desk that will enable them to work effectively. We see children sitting sideways or crouched up or with their head on their hand. The 11+ paper lasts 50 minutes so learning how to sit comfortably and resourcefully at a desk is a handy skill to have. We suggest that the hand not used for writing needs to be used to point at the question to focus them in so they don’t lose their place. Once shown, children are really surprised how it helps them. This book will show you how your child learns best, how to build their confidence, set goals and how to tackle the different types of question in the 11+.


CHAPTER 1: THE GROUND RULES Neuro Linguistic Programming has a number of presuppositions or ground rules that personally, we have found life changing. We hope you do too. Read through them before you start reading the book because they underpin all the tools and techniques covered in the different chapters. We have written the ground rules specifically for you to apply to your own life and know that you will pass them on to your child by example which is how they learn best.

1) If you always do what you’ve always done then you will always get what you’ve always got This is by far the most important in our opinion because it states quite clearly that you can’t change other people’s behaviour so if you want a different result you must change your own. By changing what you do, you can affect a different result. So if you feel your child is not working hard enough, spending long enough on his homework or getting good marks at school then by changing what you do, you will influence this result.

Maybe you’ve had the experience of constantly saying the same thing to your child. We’ve all done it! I suppose we hope against hope that one day the ‘penny will drop’ and they’ll do what we ask. Well it won’t and they don’t. We need to change if we want to get a different and better result because what we have been doing is not working.

Equally of course if your child keeps getting results he is not pleased with then he needs to change what he does and how he does it.

Because we do what we do and say what we say because of our beliefs; if we want to change what we do and say we have to also change those beliefs. We’re not talking here about your values and identity, we’re just talking about the premises you have about what you do. We will be looking at this in more detail in the book.

Some beliefs limit your choices of behaviour so by revisiting them you increase your options. This enables you to change your behaviour and get the result you want.

2) You have the resources to do whatever you want to do Both you and your child already have a huge resource of skills that you have built up since birth and each one enables you to apply it in different ways by transferring it to the application you need it for. Believing he has the resources he needs is an empowering belief to take on board because it encourages him to look within himself to find his skills, knowing that he does have them somewhere. We will explore skills and beliefs later in the book. For now, it is enough to believe you have the resources. If you find that difficult at the moment, act ‘as if’ you believe it. Acting ‘as if’ is a way of ‘trying it on for size’ as it were.

3) If someone else can do it, you can too Nothing is impossible, your child can acquire new skills and hone existing ones by modelling (or copying) them in someone who demonstrates that skill with excellence. Have you ever regarded someone and thought ‘I wish I could do that’? We take on the belief that we have the resources we need and one of those resources is to copy the qualities and skills we observe in others so that we can replicate it in our own life.


This can be a simple skill like putting on lipstick without a mirror or a more complex one such as knowing your tables. Each skill is broken down into its different parts and we learn and accept the underlying belief that we can do it.

This is a core and unique aspect of NLP which differentiates it from other therapies. There is a whole chapter about it in this book.

4) There is no failure only feedback Every experience he has will have a learning potential for him, including negative experiences. This is just as true for you as well.

Instead of feeling he has failed when things do not go well or if he is dissatisfied with what is going on in his life; encourage him to reframe this by looking at it in a different, positive way to find the positive intention which is for him to learn from it.

Feedback is a resource to help us learn what is working and what could be even better. How he uses this feedback is his choice. No-one can make him feel an emotion, encourage him to make his own choices about how he chooses to feel and respond.

5) If you spot it you’ve got it When we notice a quality (or a failing) in someone else, this is because in some way we have it too which is how we can recognise it.

When your child observes a quality he admires in someone else, ask him, ‘and how are you like that as well?’ It may be in another aspect of his life. Be curious with him and explore everything he does so together you can find that skill.

It may be that you have noticed it and need to point out what you have observed that shows him how he has that quality.

Later in the book we’ll talk about how we can transfer the quality or skill to where we need it now. 6) If you try, you won’t succeed How often do we say ‘Just try that question’ or ‘Can you try to concentrate?’ Are we acknowledging that they won’t succeed? Do we really mean that we want them to try or do we just want them to get on and ‘do it?’

Reword your request without the word ‘try’ and note the different response. There is built-in failure in the word ‘try’.

Just ‘do it’.

7) The map is not the territory How you see the world is different from how your child sees it. This is because of the millions of little bits of input we receive into our unconscious mind; we each select what we bring to our conscious mind. We each select differently according to our experiences, values and beliefs and our internal referencing system (VAK). We will learn more about that in the first chapter.

What we select becomes our map but it is only our map of the territory and we need to be aware that other people’s maps are different and yet just as valid. Your child’s map is certainly different to yours so you will have greater rapport and affect your result when you connect with his map by stepping into his shoes and seeing his life as he sees it.

Be curious.

8) Look for the positive intention We do things for a reason. We have a positive intention behind our behaviour as does our child. If we think about what is going on in our life that we don’t like, think about what we get from this. There will be some sort of pay off.

If something in our life is not working well once you have identified the positive intention or pay off, question what other behaviours could give you the same positive intention with more satisfactory results for you.

Similarly, if we see behaviour in our child that we don’t want, consider other ways for them to get the pay off without giving the behaviour. The starting point for this is finding out what their positive intention is.

9) Mind the gap We often react spontaneously from an associated state. This means that we take what our children say and do very personally.

11+ year can be an emotional roller coaster. Our children will probably get stressed at some point and so will we. They will say hurtful things they don’t really mean. So how do we ‘mind the gap?’

Before responding, stop and consider how an impartial bystander might see or hear the situation differently. We can do this by imaging we are a fly on the wall looking at the situation and hearing what has been said from a ‘disassociated’ position.

It gives us the chance to experience the stimulus objectively and then we have a choice about how we want to respond rather than react spontaneously.

10) The person with the most flexibility controls the system Flexibility in this context is based on understanding how we think and the patterns of behaviour that we use because of the way we process the inputs that enter our unconscious and conscious mind. What you will learn in this book and pass on to your child will enable you to have the sort of rapport with him that will give you the flexibility to choose your options in order to get the results you want.

Neuro Linguistic Programming teaches us that we have options in how we respond to what is being said to us, how others behave with us, our own self talk and behaviour. These choices give us flexibility. The more flexibility we have, the more we are in rapport. This rapport enables us to get what we want according to our desired outcome.

By having a desired outcome in every situation we focus on what we want rather than being passive and simply getting what’s given. This way we can influence the outcome using rapport and the flexibility we have from knowing how we and others are processing.

Neuro Linguistic Programming is how our minds process external inputs, how these affect what we say and do and what become patterns of behaviour that either work for us or not. The challenge of this book is to learn how we can use this knowledge to get the results we want and show our children how to do it too so they can get the results they want.

NLP also encourages us to be ‘ecological’ this means that we need to always bear in mind how what we do affects others because the changes we want may have adverse effects on those around us. CHAPTER 2. LEARNING STYLES At any point in time our unconscious mind receives about 2 million inputs but our conscious mind can only process between 7 and 9. This is why when we go to visit a Grammar School with our 11+ student each of us will notice different things and filter out other aspects of the school.

I recently took my Year 5 son to visit a Grammar school and it was as if we’d been to completely different schools! He noticed the food in the canteen (pizza!), the dramatic science experiments (they were setting fire to methane bubbles) and the sports facilities. He must have zoned out during the Headmaster’s talk because he didn’t remember anything about it! How we filter these inputs depends on our experiences of the world, our values and beliefs and our internal representation.

It is our internal representation I want to focus on in this chapter. There are 3 basic ones: Visual, Auditory and Kinaesthetic. We can use all three although our child will favour one of them and this will be how they learn best.

By knowing which they use most, you know how best to support them, how to use language that will motivate them and how to work with them on 11+ papers in a way that they will be able to understand immediately because your words will connect with the way they process information. How do you know which your child is?

Your child is visual if he is arty, notices what he sees and is more aware than others of how he and other people look. He will be visual if he uses imagery in his language and remembers what he has seen rather than what is said to him.

A visual child will say things like ‘Look at this!’, ‘Have you seen this?’, and ‘I see what you mean’. They will be observant and notice differences and patterns so the non verbal reasoning tests may be easier for him than for an auditory or kinaesthetic child especially if he focuses on what he sees on the page. He may well be a good reader and be able to imagine what he reads. He will notice new words and visualise what they mean in the context of the sentence.

He will break words up visually and notice prefixes such as ‘inter’ and ‘un’, ‘in’ and so on. He will also notice compound words and be able to see the two parts and imagine what the combination of the two would mean eg motorcycle. Words that look the same but sound different such as refuse and refuse might be more confusing and take more practise.


He will also work best on homework and practice papers in an area he finds visually attractive. Your visual child will also have a memory of his chosen Grammar School that is visual and based on what he saw rather than what the Headmaster said in his talk. Focus on his visual memories to motivate him and encourage him to visualise himself being there.

I was asked to see an 11+ student, Max, who was feeling stressed about the forthcoming exam and met him at home with his mum. We talked about when he felt most uneasy and I could tell he was visual by his language patterns. He told me that his mum insisted that he worked at the kitchen table in ‘exam conditions’ because she was kinaesthetic. Max however did not like the look of the table where he worked because it had scratches and marks on it. From where he sat he could glimpse out of the corner of his eye, the television flickering through the dividing door and this distracted him. He was also distracted by other people walking into the kitchen. I asked him where he’d prefer to work and he showed me the playroom which was very tidy and he said he felt more relaxed there and would work better because he wouldn’t be visually distracted. He sat down and showed me that what he could see if he looked up from the sofa was attractive. His mother was reluctant because she felt this wasn’t exam conditions working from the sofa but was prepared to give it a go. I spoke to them a few weeks later and she reported that he was much calmer and well prepared for the exam.

By now you will have worked out if your child is visual and also whether you are visual. Be aware of your own internal preference because this will influence your own choice of words and what is important to you. If your child is not visual, his needs will be different. Awareness gives you flexibility to choose the type of language and conditions for work that will connect best with your child.

An auditory child will notice what he hears and will probably be quite musical. He will be chattier than the visual child and speak slower and with more thought about the words he uses.

Because of the focus on words, your auditory child will have picked up on words people use around him and his vocabulary will be based on those words. You can encourage this by using words that he will have in the 11+ paper and telling him what they mean. He will remember these more easily if you say them rather than by his reading them on the page.

Auditory children learn well with music in the background and often talk to themselves. It is extremely important for children to know their times tables thoroughly for the 11+ so for an auditory child a times tables CD played in the car with songs will be easier to learn than seeing them written down. Auditory children enjoy stories being read to them so to increase their vocabulary, read to them at bedtime, stories from books with more advanced vocabulary and sentence construction than they would normally read to themselves.

Point out and explain new words and notice types of words like nouns, adjectives and verbs that are unfamiliar as well as words that look the same but mean different things such as ‘refuse’ (rubbish and say no) emphasising the different pronunciation (emphasis on the first part of the word for ‘rubbish’ and the second part of the word for ‘say no’.

I teach auditory children best by making funny sounds out of words for example where there are words with oo we make ‘ooo’ sounds and pretend to be ghosts. So every time we saw a double o we went oooo. This really helps children who are struggling with reading. They’d expect me to give them a page and say ‘read that’ and they are thinking ‘I can’t’ instead we look at the pictures and say what’s happening in this story and pick out some words like ‘lolly’ and think about other similar words like ‘golly’ ‘holly’ ‘molly’ and maybe jump up and down while we did it. So every time they saw the word ‘lolly’ they remember when they were jumping up and down and being really funny.

Your auditory child will focus on what he heard at the open day for the Grammar School of his choice. He will remember the talks, what was said, any musical event there and what he heard other people say about the school.

When you want to motivate him, remind him of auditory memories. If your child is auditory and you are not, it may not be the most natural thing for you to sound out words and focus on sounds so when you are working on practice papers together, be prepared to read out instructions and talk through examples.

Kinaesthetic children are active and fidgety and would rather be doing anything than studying so make work times short and keep up whatever sport or activities they do.

Lois is a fidget. She can't sit still on her chair and often ends up kneeling and leaning right over the table. She tends to invade the others’ workspace. She also talks continually - very interesting stories but nothing to do with the 11+ and very distracting for the others. Her listening skills are poor and her concentration span is short.

Firstly I will allot a few minutes as they arrive for her to tell me what she has been doing during the week. She is then asked to save another story until the end of the lesson when I will listen again. If she starts to story tell during the lesson I stop her immediately. If she talks at the same time as me I continue and then she finds that she cannot recall what I have said.

She begins to realise the benefits of listening and talking as separate entities. I encourage her to sit down with her feet under the table and each time she kneels I remind her and she sits back down. This begins to occur less and less.


I use a great deal of visualisation while I am talking so she has to look as well as listen and this focuses her concentration more fully. After 6 weeks she is used to the routine and finds that her work improves as she is able to sit still.

She has improved her sitting, listening and looking skills and is surprised how much easier she finds the work.

I ask mum to follow a similar routine while she is doing her homework or even when they are sitting at the dinner table as a family.

Your kinaesthetic child will be more aware of temperature than other children and will be distracted if he is too hot or too cold so provide a warm place to work in the winter and a cool one in the summer. These children learn best by doing, so practise and practise again. They respond well to working on a computer because it is interactive so use whatever 11+ material you can find online. They also work well in pairs, testing each other and working through examples together so group tutoring works especially well for them as well as getting them to buddy up with another child with whom they can work on practice papers.

Your Kinaesthetic child will use phrase like ‘I get this’ or ‘I’ll have a stab at that question’. Their words are action orientated and relate to doing things like ‘Hold on’, ‘I need to grab a pen’ and so on. They remember feelings and experiences so they will remember what happened at the open day at the Grammar School and what they felt.

My kinaesthetic daughter visited several Grammar Schools and didn’t like any of them because they didn’t ‘feel’ right. One was too claustrophic (it was a very old building), one felt too big and sprawled out, another felt dirty. I despaired. Then we visited St Bernard’s and from the moment we stepped in through the entrance she was smitten. She squeezed my hand and said ‘Mummy I really want to come here, it feels right’. She was completely motivated to go there and was happy throughout her Secondary Education. I never heard her complain once about the school.

You will need to ensure that your kinaesthetic child builds their visual and auditory skills in preparation for the 11+ because they won’t be natural readers, preferring instead to be out doing things, mostly sport. If you are not kinaesthetic but your child is, be prepared to spend more time working together than perhaps you needed for a previous non kinaesthetic sibling.

Meta Programmes So we have learnt the three internal representations and know what this means in terms of our children’s learning styles and how best to communicate with them. However, there is another facet to this. According to NLP there are also Meta Programmes that we run. This is more about personality. There are a number of variables so I’ll just focus on those I believe are most relevant to the 11+ and learning.


Read about these and much more in my book 'Passing the 11+ with NLP' on sale in my bookshop for £5.

It is a fascinating subject and if you’d like to read more about it then may I direct you to Teach Yourself: Be a happier parent with NLP both of which include a larger selection of Meta Programmes which are more relevant to adults.




Passing the 11+ with NLP is on sale in my bookshop for £5.

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