Tutor Icon  Request A Tutor

Just the Word – Vocabulary and 11+

As a literacy specialist and tutor I have always been interested in how language and literacy is developed in childhood. Often there are signifiers that are mightily important. For example, are there books at home? Does the child witness their parents reading? Does the family have dinner around the table and are the children encouraged to ask questions? There are so many small factors that make an impact on literacy and this development is now doubly interesting for me because I have a toddler myself. 

At the moment we are at the stage of words used as labels. So, ‘car’, ‘bird’, ‘cat’ etc. There has been a recent explosion of words borne out of a hunger for labels; she toddles about the house naming everyday items. You sometimes need to tell her once “that is a bin” and the word is in there for life. She stands next to the overflowing receptacle pointing “Bin! Bin!”

Fast forward a decade, and words are vitally important as part of the exam at 11. Not only are you expected to have a wide-ranging vocabulary for the creative writing element of the test, but traditionally there is always a question in the comprehension that tests word meaning. This is generally worded ‘give the meaning of the following words as they are used in the passage.’ Words like ‘counterpart’ and ‘monotonously’ can then be defined by looking at their context within the passage – there are always clues even if you have never heard of the word before!

Of course the most effective and enjoyable way to expand your vocabulary is read, read and then read again. This goes for adults as well as children. When we read we learn words without even knowing we’re doing it.

Let’s say you are engrossed in a book and you come across a word. For the sake of argument ‘deficit’. You’re enjoying the book and loathed to put it down and look up the word so you carry on reading. This is perfectly fine. Not knowing the exact word meaning hasn’t effected your understanding and so you plod on. Perhaps later in the book the word deficit comes up again. The context is different but you are starting to build up a clearer picture. Later in the year the word comes up again in another book. You’re starting to get it now. Then one day you’re overhear your parents talking about politics. There’s that word again, but you surprise yourself that somehow you know what they’re talking about. You have incorporated the word into your vocabulary without ever consciously knowing it. The next stage is to start using it yourself!

So, how can you practice for the vocabulary question in the exam? Well, are you able to explain your word meaning efficiently? We all know what a table or a pen is, but how many of us are able to briefly define the word?

Try this exercise with your son or daughter. Can you define a simple word? Explain what it means to someone who doesn’t know. For example, a doorbell – a device placed next to a door which, when pressed, alerts the occupant of a visitor. 

Here is a list of words:

Ladder                      Present (noun)

Weapon                    T-Shirt

Painting (verb)         Tomato

Shouting                   Zoo


Read out each word. What you’re aiming for is a definition that is effective. For example, describing a toaster as something you toast bread in is not an effective answer. So, ask a follow up question: What does to toast something mean? They may say that it is another word for cook – well now we’re getting closer to a definition.

A fun way of completing the worksheet is for the questioner to say that they are from the planet Venus. That way every concept, no matter how simple, has to be explained. Your son or daughter will think that some terms speak for themselves. Not so if you’re from Venus.

There’s an old board game called Articulate in which you have to define 6 words against an egg timer and your partner has to guess. If you want, how about 12 words in 1 minute? If they’re having trouble, ask them to speak in sentences. Then work your way down: define the word in 5 words. Then define it in 3 words.

You’ll discover there are shortcuts. So, a toaster is an express bread cooking device, with the word ‘device’ being pretty handy for other definitions.

Buy a big adult dictionary – a heavy one they can only lift with two hands! – kid’s dictionaries become annoying the first time you are unable to find a certain word in them, and by 10 that will start to happen. An online dictionary is fine, but there is something about the manual task of looking a word up in a big book that helps you to remember it. 


Melodie Argi
Melodie Argi
08:14 18 Oct 19
Tavistock tutors is by far the best tutor agency is London. The tutor selection is of the highest quality. Handpicked from the British intellectual elite in all sorts of disciplines. The staff is wonderfully helpful as well as being extremely attentive to feedback.read more
Henry Smith
Henry Smith
22:27 17 Oct 19
I have been employed as a tutor with Tavistock Tutors for over 5 years. I tutor mathematics and also help people with job preparation for different career routes (cv, cover letter, interview preparation and online test prep). They are simply a wonderful team of individuals who work collectively and strive to deliver the best possible service to both clients and their tutors. They work doggedly to achieve results. They are particularly honest and their feedback to tutors on how to improve is tailored, concise and always highly constructive. Even after 5 yrs, they only put me forward as a tutor if they think I am the absolute best they can find otherwise they are honest with me and explain why I was not put forward. I think this transparency is a huge reason for their success and keeps the best tutors on their books for years. Their communication on what a client wants is also clinically precise and effective and the team go out of their way to provide potential interests/passions of the client to help the tutor prepare accordingly for the lessons and nurture that interaction. Simply the finest agency and I have tutored with some of the best. World-class tutors and utmost confidentiality with respect to their clientele. I cannot be happier to work for them, a dream job with a team whose capacity for kindness, empathy and boundless intellect never ceases to amaze me. Their work ethic inspires me to relentlessly push myself to be a better tutor with their encouragement and constructive feedback.read more
Albert Tam
Albert Tam
20:50 17 Oct 19
Best tutors in London! Great experience and amazing customer service. Highly recommend, my tutors were all fantastic and a huge help. Really recommend Tavistock Tutors as I never had to worry about not getting the highest quality tutors unlike other agencies and online tutors.read more
16:13 17 Oct 19
I’ve used Tavistock multiple times and they never disappoint! I used them for myself secondary school, whilst at university and even now whilst working. Their service is second to none as are their tutors. I highly recommend them to anyone looking to better themselves academically or personally.read more
13:22 06 Oct 19
Why most reviewers have one contribution, namely to the Tavistock Tutors? High standards ? Mate get a real job rather than living off other's qualifications. Reality Check (See photos attached - that is the owner “looking for me” 1.5 years after leaving London and while my name and photo was on first page of Tavistock Tutor website...)read more
Jonathan Aaron
Jonathan Aaron
16:39 01 Aug 19
Amazing experience, the tutor was reliable, knowledgeable and reasonably priced and the company was both professional and reliable. Definitely will be using them again!read more
David T
David T
16:34 01 Aug 19
I used Tavistock for some Corporate Finance and Financial Modelling training at my firm. They were extremely helpful and the trainer, Simon, was of top quality, experience and charged a fair price. Thank you!read more
Olivia Pluss
Olivia Pluss
11:05 13 Jun 19
I had a fantastic experience with my tutor Elena and Tavistock Tutors. They were very well organized and made the entire experience so seamless and easy for me. I passed my assignment with great marks and the experience was much less stressful than if I had tried to complete the assignment without Elena's help.read more
J Mathews
J Mathews
11:27 22 May 19
My child used Glenda for HL biology. Glenda was outstanding. I would not hesitate to recommend her. Extremely intelligent, always prepared, knows how to teach/very helpful, and also just a nice person. Also, I would use Tavistock again for sure because we had such success with Glenda.read more
Alan Radford
Alan Radford
09:34 09 May 19
Tavistock Tutors were a delight to deal with, and highly professional at all times. They provided my daughter with an excellent tutor at very short notice - after my having approached them on a Thursday urgently requesting a tutor for that weekend. Tavistock Tutors immediately gave the matter their attention; they appreciated the urgency and responded quickly and efficiently, and helped to set my daughter up with exactly the right sort of tutor. Fantastic!read more
Sophie Taieb
Sophie Taieb
12:55 29 Mar 19
Very happy with Tavistock tutors services. They provide a wide range of tutors, from all backgrounds and for all types of needs. My uni son needed some help in research and methodology. We found a perfectly suited tutor in less than 3 days. He is very knowledgeable, punctual, open minded and brings the support needed to my son. I would definitely recommend Tavistock tutorsread more
Next Reviews

How to memorise quotes – (great for closed book exams!)

Memorising quotes can be a crucial element to your GCSE and A-level exams, so mastering the skill can be essential. Being able to use quotes in your written responses is a sure way to get marks fo...

How to choose quotes to learn for English GCSE

We know that learning quotes for a closed-book exam can be daunting, difficult and boring – especially when you’ve already been studying the text for an entire year. In our article ‘Do I need ...

Do I need to memorise quotes for English GCSE?

With the new GCSE specifications released in 2015, most English Literature GCSE exams have now become closed-book exams.

But what does this mean?

This means that in your exam, you won...

Call Now Button