Creative Writing for the 11+: seven strategies for success!

For many children, the creative writing element of the 11+ is by far the hardest. Whilst some students have a natural love of storytelling, for the majority, the combination of the unlimited possibilities, alongside the restricted timeframe, creates an environment under which it is very difficult for creativity to thrive.

The key is getting pen to paper as soon as possible. As soon as a student realises they have written nothing in the first five-minutes, pressure will start to mount, making it even harder to regain momentum.

To help, the tutors at Bright Young Things have pulled together their top tips and strategies, which, with practice, will ensure your child succeeds in their 11+ creative writing exam.


The part that most children find difficult is creating a plot that will give their story a clear beginning, middle and end. All too often, far too much time is devoted to the beginning, with the middle and end rushed together into a couple of lines; everything getting blown up being quite common…

Help your child prepare by making sure they always start their creative writing practice by spending 5–10 minutes making notes that answer the following questions:

Who are the characters?

Where will it take place?

What is going to happen?

How is it going to start?

What happens in the middle?

What happens in the end?

Keep things simple

The creative writing exam varies in format, but the one thing that is for certain is that there is not a lot of time to write a whole story, let alone a complex one with lots of characters, settings and plot twists.

It is crucial to keep the story as simple as possible, whilst demonstrating an understanding of plot, descriptive writing and character.

Choose only two or three characters to focus on, and try and keep the setting the same throughout. This will make it easier to describe each element in detail, whilst still having time to develop the narrative. If your child has five different characters and six different settings it is unlikely that they will even finish describing them all before time is up.

Also, avoid trying to pack in too much action. Children have a tendency to try and write ‘and then… and then… and then’ style stories, but these are actually the hardest type to do well. It is far easier to describe a single place, and then go into detail about feelings, thoughts and emotions. The result will be far more descriptive and mature, even if it seems like very little has actually happened.


A core element of the exam is demonstrating a strong grasp of vocabulary, and in particular, how to use words to enhance a piece of writing.

To make this easier, you can play quick five-minute games with your child to help expand their vocabulary. Ask them to think of words to describe colours, emotions, textures and also test their grasp of metaphors, similes, adjectives and synonyms. You can even get the whole family involved to make it into a fun game you can play at the dinner table — i.e. “who can think of the most different types of word for the colour blue?”…


Whilst the titles are never the same from one exam to the next, the topics that they fit into are fairly similar. If you get your child to practice writing a story for each of these leading up to the exam, it could help them work out some story elements that could be easily adapted to suit any title that fits into the topic they have practised.

Topics include:

 Having an adventure

 Being lost, scared or alone

 Being in a city or in the countryside

 Doing something exciting or achieving something

 Taking a holiday


Practice developing some core characters that could be used in several different stories. Explore each character in detail — what do they look like, sound like, smell like, speak like etc? It will help to have a bank of characters that your child can quickly access and use when time is tight.

Characters to explore could be:

 A friend

 An old man

 A criminal

 A teacher

 A bully

 A mysterious person


The same technique can be applied to settings. Practicing describing five or six different scenes can help a child jump straight into writing during the exam because they can immediately imagine where the story is going to take place and how to describe it.

Settings to explore could be:

 A beach

 A mountain

 A playground

 A dark forest

 A spooky house

 A bedroom


This is crucial, but often overlooked. Most children will be scored on both their creative writing skills, and their spelling and grammar ability. Encourage your child to spend the last five minutes reading back over their work. Even great writers will no doubt discover a handful of silly mistakes that can easily be rectified, making that five minutes time well spent indeed.

At Bright Young Things we help children prepare for all elements of the 11+ exam. To find out more about how we can help your child achieve their potential, call or email one of our experienced tutors today.

0207 723 0506

[email protected]