Wicked Smart

Welcome to our handy guide of everything you need to know about the 7+ English exam!

The English exam is normally split into two sections: reading comprehension and creative writing. It's worth point out that recently, some schools have moved away from creative writing and have asked children to write a recount piece, or write about what they can see in a picture of photograph. 

Some schools will also administer spelling and punctuation papers, and generally speaking these will assess the statutory Year 3 and 4 spelling words.  Listening papers are rare, but it's worth checking with the school to see if they administer a listening or dictation paper. Luckily, audiobooks are a fantastic and fun way to develop these skills without children really noticing! 

Tell me more about the comprehension paper!

Sure thing! The paper consists of around a 200-300 word text that ranges from children's classics to non fiction reports. Sometimes line numbers appear in the margin to help direct children when answering questions, e.g. 'look at line 5. Which word means the same as x?'

Children are asked to answer various questions about the text. Below is a simple summary of the types of questions that can appear within one paper. The examples we have used come from real 7+ exam papers.

Type of question



‘Name 4 things that Catherine did with her doll on her birthday’

North London Collegiate School


‘Why is it an advantage for some snakes to have dark skin?’

King’s College


‘Write what happens next to Sam in the museum’.

King’s College


‘Read the whole passage again. What does it tell you about the sort of person Cruella De Vil is?’

Westminster Cathedral Choir School

Word association

‘Explain what the word grumbled means’

Haberdashers’ Aske’s Boys’ School


‘Read the sentences below then number them in the correct order in which they appear in the story. Use the numbers 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 and 7. The first one is done for you.

Mum and Dad took Catherine and Thomas to the seaside.

Dad and Thomas made a sandcastle.

The family went home.

They all ate a picnic lunch.

Catherine was given a doll on her birthday. 1

Mum, Dad and Thomas paddled in the sea.

Catherine decided to leave Annabel at home.

North London Collegiate

General knowledge

‘Why do you think the birds build their nests in spring?’



‘How would you feel if you got lost on a school trip?’

King’s College

Multiple choice

‘William’s army had: 840 men, 8400 men, 1066 men, 84 men’

Magdalen College

Tell me more about the writing paper!

No worries! The writing paper can last for as little as 15 minutes, but more often than not children will have around half an hour to complete the paper. Very often the comprehension and writing exercises are combined into one paper, so it's worth revising time management with children to ensure that they have left themselves enough time to write a full story.

At the 7+ stage, schools are looking for a clear beginning, middle and ending, a coherent plot and writing that includes description; adjectives, adverbs etc. For extra brownie points, children can show off their ability to add speech into writing, and may want to drop in some examples of similes or alliteration.

Some schools will simply give children a title, and they must then create a story based around this theme. Some examples from previous exams include:

- The magic box

- The picnic

- The best birthday present ever

- My favourite school trip

Other schools will offer a writing task that is a continuation of the comprehension task. For example:

- 'Max was going on an important quest or journey to find a safe place to cross the road to get to the park. Write a story about a quest or journey that you would like to go on to find something special' - Solihull School

- 'Write about what happens to Sam next in the museum. Call your story 'Lost in the museum' - King's College

It is also common for children to write about a photograph or a cartoon series. For example:

- 'Write a story entitled 'The strange visitor'. Use the picture below to help you' - Westminster Cathedral Choir School

- Latymer are known for providing children with a series of pictures, and children need to piece them together in the form of a story. 

We hope that this breakdown of the English component of the exam helps to relive any stress before the big day - for both you and your child! 

Happy learning!