Don’t try to run before you can walk. I am sure we have all heard this expression but have you ever thought about it in relation to 7+ entrance exams? So often, I hear of both parents and tutors who use exam practice papers as their primary tool for preparing for exams. Perhaps this makes sense to you. Surely we all need to practise, right? But how can you practise running if you haven’t mastered walking?
The 7+ entrance exam is an assessment of knowledge and skills in English, Maths and Reasoning. In each of these areas, there are multiple competencies that must be learned at different levels. Think of it like a toddler who first learns to crawl, then stand, then walk, and finally run. If we take creative writing as an example, a child must learn to tell a story verbally and sustain that narrative (crawl). Then they can begin to write their ideas down (stand). Next, they will learn to improve their written work with mature and interesting vocabulary (walk). And finally, they will be able to put all of this together and write a story to any given prompt in a specific time frame with correct spelling and grammar, and neat handwriting (run).
Practise papers are a great tool to use in 7+ preparation but they should come at the point the child is learning to run, not when they are learning to crawl. Building those foundation skills in increment steps first is vital to achieving success at the end. I would like to see more tutors and parents focusing on these building blocks rather than beginning with practise papers. Those that do will help children soar to the finish line rather than fall at the first hurdle.