Creative Writing at 11+ is, for many students, one of the most difficult sections of the 11+ exams. Whereas questions in Maths simply must be solved and there are only a finite number of topics which are tested, with creative writing it can sometimes be difficult putting pen to paper and starting to write. If ten minutes or so passes in the exam with little written down, panic can slip in and it can be difficult to gather your thoughts under the tight time constraints.
So, how can students improve their creative writing skills and by extension maximise their chances of scoring highly on arguably the trickiest part of the 11+ exams?
Here are six of My Tutor Club’s core strategies which, with practice, can help boost your child’s mark in creative writing at 11+
At My Tutor Club, our tutors are fanatical about essay planning. It takes 5 minutes of your time but it is time so well invested. Having an idea of how your story holds together, and ends, before you start writing gives you a sense of direction when you write. Unless you are a very able writer, navigating your story to a well-structured conclusion while you are writing, having avoided the initial planning section, is incredibly difficult to do.
Keep it simple
Descriptive writing that is deep and meaningful will always win the day over action packed stories. Most candidates at this level write about action. The stories tend to be “action packed thrillers” talking about how this happened, and then that happened and then this happened. Writing about action well is actually a very difficult skill to acquire. It is much better, and simpler, to write about one object, say a “tree” or a “mountain,” and talk more about emotion, feelings, sentiment and description. In these stories very little will actually happen but the level of descriptive writing and attention to emotion will result in a piece of writing far more impressive, mature and sophisticated.
If you are having trouble thinking of a story, don’t panic, start brainstorming. The best way to do this is to take a blank sheet of paper in the exam and just start noting down anything that comes into your head relating to your title. Spend a couple of minutes putting anything down, don’t hold back. Ideas are more likely to come to you as you write down snippets that come into your head.
All creative writing pieces need a beginning, a middle and an end. At My Tutor Club, we use the “hamburger” analogy: the top bun for the beginning, the 100% pure British beef (or veggie bit if you’re vegetarian) in the middle, and the bottom bun for the ending. When brainstorming, think which of the three sections your ideas will fit into.
How To Be Descriptive
Revise your key lists of adjectives, adverbs, similes, metaphors, colours and emotions. As an emergency, have a couple of phrases that you can use. Of course the idea is not to learn phrases by heart, but if you have a couple of “golden phrases” up your sleeve that can be applied to many circumstances, then they are worth remembering in case your writing flow starts to cease up.
Leave 5-7 minutes to read through what you have written. It is so much better to write less but higher quality (with no silly grammar or spelling mistakes) than to write more but with mistakes. Less is more (to an extent). It’s amazing how you will probably pick up 8-12 silly errors when you read back through your work. Don’t let these silly errors drag your mark down. Check your work.
Below is a list of creative writing titles that have frequently appeared in past 11+ papers:
- The Day Trip
- The Broken Window
- The Abandoned House
- Lost Boy
- The Voice in the Darkness
- The Garden
We are more than happy, a gratis, to take a look at creative writing at 11+ pieces over the coming weeks if you email them to us so that we can mark them and offer suggestions for improvement.
For further details about 11+ preparation, tuition, or My Tutor Club’s 11+ Revision Booster courses in December and January, please contact us.