Recently the London Consortium changed their layout of the 11+ English papers. Previously, the paper looked like this. It contained a reading comprehension and then a story writing task that was usually based on the comprehension passage. 

Now the writing task has been split into two tasks: a creative writing exercise and a discursive essay. Take a look here: Questions; Passage. Additionally, North London Collegiate and City of London School for Girls have also switched to this new format.

I already have a checklist for creative writing, but the requirements are quite different for discursive writing, so I have written a separate checklist below.

Checklist for 11+ discursive Essay

  • Include good linking words to show how your points relate to each other. Aim to include at least 3 linking words.
  • Structure it with a clear introduction and conclusion, with arguments for and against in the middle paragraphs. 
  • Aim for about 4 - 6 points, remembering that one detailed, well-developed point is better than 2 vague, brief ones. 
  • Avoid repeating yourself, although you can summarise in the conclusion.
  • Remember that good vocabulary is still important. Aim for 4 - 8 outstanding words. It's a good idea to cultivate a separate area in your vocabulary bank for words that might be more useful for this kind of writing.
  • Remember to answer the question that they asked you, not the question that you wish they had asked. For example, if the question asked whether 11 year old boys  and girls should be treated the same, don't spend your entire answer just talking about how you'd prefer to be in an all-girls school. 
  • Linguistic devices like similes, metaphors etc. can still be used to get more marks. However, you need to avoid being overly flowery if it is a 'explore both sides of the issue' analysis type question (which is what they seem to be setting). The rule of three device can be quite a good one to use for these essays.

It's of course important to do plenty of practice before the exams, and currently there are not many relevant sample papers, so I've created some sample questions.

Sample Papers Which Include A Discursive Writing Task

1. The original 11+ paper is here: Questions. Passage. Now replace the original writing task with the following two tasks.

a) 20 minutes - Continue the story, making up things that happen after the parrot bit Jamie. Do not introduce any new characters.

b) 20 minutes - Is it important to always keep a pet after you get it, or is it sometimes okay to give it away or have the pet put down? Explore both sides of the argument.

2. The original 11+ paper: Questions & Passage.

a) 20 minutes - You are the girl in the hairdresser's. Write your thoughts as you prepare for the day.

b) 20 minutes - Do you think it is important to give money to the homeless? Explore both sides of the issue.

3. The original 11+ paper: Questions. Passage.

a)  20 minutes - What happens to the cygnet? Continue the story. 

b)  20 minutes - Do you always need to be polite to the romantic partners of your family members when they join you? Discuss both sides of this issue.

4. Here's a stand-alone title for a discursive essay: 

Do you think children should be allowed to take their mobile phones into school and keep it with them during lessons? If so, from what age? Explore both sides of this issue.

5. And finally, here's a sample paper from City of London School for Girls which is also in the new format.

When it comes to the 11+, it pays to be prepared. If you're planning to sit for the Consortium, City Girls, North London Collegiate or for any other school which asks you to write an essay, make sure you do some practice first.