11 Plus Creative Writing: Tips & Strategies for Success

Preparing for your 11 Plus creative writing exam doesn’t have to be a worry. We’re here to help you practice and improve your writing techniques and creative writing skills so you’re ready for your 11 Plus exams

Creative writing can be really fun – you can explore something you really want to and write about something that means a lot to you. Although, we know it can be a little bit worrying for some students that don’t enjoy writing as much or don’t feel confident in their writing skills. 

So, ahead of your 11 Plus exams we want to help you prepare with these creative writing tips and strategies.


What does the 11 Plus creative writing exam include?

The 11 Plus creative writing exam is usually 25-30 minutes and could involve the continuation of a storyline that you’ll be provided with. Alternatively you might be asked to write a short piece of your own in response to a visual stimulus – this could be describing a character or writing something from their perspective, like a diary entry. 

Here are some the potential writing tasks you could be given for your creative writing exam: 

  • Descriptive task – continuing on a short story that you’ll be provided with, or describing a place or situation that your character finds themselves in. 
  • Persuasive task – you could be asked to write a letter or an article with the goal to persuade the reader to feel or act in a certain way after reading it by using emotive language. 
  • Narrative task – this would usually involve writing your own short story. 
  • Expository task – this could involve writing an article or set of instructions designed to inform the reader how to go about doing something properly. 


What are the 11+ creative writing topics?

Before you even start your creative writing piece, you’ll need to have a topic. That topic will be at the centre of everything you’re writing and will shape the direction of the story and the characters.

You can think of a topic as a theme for your story. This can be really simple, as a simple theme will really help write a story in your own way. 

For your 11 plus creative writing exam, you’ll likely be presented with a topic that you then have to write about. Often these topics will have you writing about: 

  • Being lost or scared, capturing the feeling of being alone and writing a story about overcoming it.
  • Doing something exciting or achieving something impressive, the best day of your life so far. 
  • Animals
  • A holiday or an adventure
  • Travelling to the city or countryside and what you might experience there.

As a writing task for you to work on, why not write a short story for each of those topics you might be presented with in your creative writing exam? 


What do examiners look for in creative writing?

Successfully passing your creative writing 11+ exam is a lot less daunting if you know what the examiners are looking for in your creative writing. 

Unlike other subjects, it’s difficult to prepare exact answers for creative writing. It’s not like a sum in maths, where there’s only one correct answer after your working out. That doesn’t mean there aren’t specific things that examiners are looking for. Let’s take a look at those:

  • A well planned piece of writing
  • Strong creativity and good imagination
  • A fluent writing style
  • Good and correct use of punctuation 
  • Good use of English grammar
  • Complex sentences that are broken in an easy-to-read way with commas
  • Good spelling
  • Good and exciting vocabulary
  • Neat, easy-to-read handwriting

You can use those things as a checklist for your creative writing. When you write practice pieces, read them back and see if you can check off everything on the list of things that examiners are looking for. 


11 Plus creative writing marking scheme

Your creative writing task will be worth 50% of your English 11 plus exam paper. So, you’ll want to make sure you’re well prepared!

Part of preparing for the creative writing task is ensuring you know how the exam will be marked. Here’s what your examiner will look at when they mark your work: 

    • The plot – you need to write a piece that’s got an engaging plot, but more importantly it needs to follow a strong beginning, middle and end structure. We’ll be getting more detail about that further on. Make sure you plan your story to ensure you have a well-structured and easy-to-follow plot. 
    • Vocabulary – Make sure you’re using a wide range of adjectives, nouns and adverbs. Rather than describing everything the same way, come up with some other engaging ways to write something. Use a good amount of complex words that you normally wouldn’t use (and make sure you understand what they mean so you use them correctly). 
    • Writing devices – no, your examiner isn’t looking at what pen you used to write the exam. Writing devices refer to things like metaphors, similes, tension building short sentences, alliteration and irony. Try sentences like “he was as fast as a runaway train,” for a simile example. See if you can write a few sentences that each use a different writing device to practice.
    • Grammar – now is a good time to start practising your grammar skills. Make sure you’re using commas correctly when you write long sentences, and that you format your character dialogue properly. There are a few common grammar mistakes that may catch you out, so keep practising. 

  • Spelling – While avoiding spelling mistakes is good, to get great marks on your exams you’ll want to use complicated words and spell them correctly. It might be tempting to avoid complicated words if you’re not sure how to spell them but it’s actually not a bad idea to use one or two complicated words and spell them so they’re recognisable than to use no complicated words at all.


Creative writing techniques

Every great writer has one thing in common – writing techniques! Everyone can develop their creative writing skills by practising these creative writing tasks.


Getting creative 

If you want to write a story this should be your starting point! Have a good think about the topic for your story and the character you’ll be writing about. Take a minute to sit back, close your eyes and think about the world of your story. Can you see it? 

If you can visualise the world of your story, then you’ve got a good idea to work with! Get creative about the story and think about directions that it can go, and the characters you can work with. 


Planning and structure

Once you’ve got your theme in place you need to have a think about the direction of your story. Think about how your story starts, how you want it to end and then think about how you want your main character to get there. 

Remember the classic story structure of beginning, middle and end:

  • Use the beginning of your story to introduce your character, where they are and maybe one of two of their friends. Maybe even try to set them a goal at this point, what’s something they really, really want? 
  • Introduce the middle of your story with a problem or an obstacle for your main character to overcome. This is going to be the longest section of your story, so make sure you don’t spend too long with the opening! Think about how your character would overcome the problem you’ve introduced for them. 
  • In the end your main character overcomes the problem that you introduced for them. Think about what they would feel, the relief they’d experience and how you can sum that up in a paragraph or two. 

There are lots of different ways to write a story, but following the beginning, middle and end structure like this will really help you plan. Try to just write a few short sentences from the beginning, middle and end, then expand it out from there. 

If you need a few more tips and some inspiration to improve your writing skills, why not see what David Walliam’s has to say for young writers like yourself?


Using the senses

Remember to write descriptively! The ideas you have in your head need to really come across in what you’re writing – the person reading your creative writing piece can’t read your mind! 

A great way to really set a scene in your creative writing is to use the senses:

Sight – what can your character see? Describe how the scene around them looks, and be sure to use some good adjectives.

Sound – can your character hear anything? Even if your character can’t hear anything, that can sometimes be a great way to set a scene. Or maybe your character can hear lots of noise? Either way, make sure the reader knows that.

Smell – what does the place your character’s in smell like? You can make a disgusting, murky bog seem even filthier by describing how smelly it is to the reader. We all react strongly to smells, good or bad, so make sure you’re describing them to your reader.

Touch – what can your character feel? Are they sitting on a really soft sofa? Is the cat they’re stroking extra fluffy? Describe everything your character feels!

Taste – is your character tasting anything? Of course, if your character’s eating you need to describe it. How sweet are the sweets they’re eating? How bitter is the medicine they had to take? You could even get creative and describe a smell so bad that your character can almost taste it!


Get creative when you write about senses. You don’t have to cover every sense in order, you can mix things up in a paragraph or two, and sometimes you only need to cover two or three senses in a particular scene. Make sure you’re always telling your audience what your character is experiencing so the reader can put themselves in your character’s shoes. 


Fluent writing

Practice makes perfect when it comes to fluent writing. So to practice fluent writing, try setting yourself a creative writing task as if you were taking your creative writing test. 

Try making the stories really short, just a few paragraphs so you can do a few attempts. When you’re finished, read them back to yourself out loud. See if the sentences are easy to read out loud. If they’re not, it might be good to rewrite them in a way that makes them easier to say. Try doing this out loud too, rephrase the sentence so it means the same thing but is easier to say. 

Of course, in an exam you can’t read out loud, so make sure you practice your fluency a lot at home. Never be scared to do a few practice stories before your 11 plus creative writing exam.


Proofreading – Grammar, punctuation and spelling check

Finally, once you’ve finished writing and you’re happy with how fluent your piece sounds you’ve got to proofread it! That means checking your grammar, your punctuation and spelling. 

    • Make sure you’ve only used capital letters where they need to be used – the start of sentences and the names of people and places. 
    • Make sure you’ve used quotation marks correctly – start a new paragraph for when a character starts speaking, open with a quotation mark and then write what they said before closing with a quotation mark. Make sure you carry on writing after they’ve finished speaking with a new paragraph!
    • Have you checked the tenses? Make sure you’re not mixing up past, present and future tenses!
    • Have you used enough punctuation? Make sure all your sentences end with full stops, but also that questions end with a question mark. Space out long sentences with a well-placed comma and make sure if a character says something loudly or is surprised that you’re using exclamation marks. 

  • Check your spelling! Are there any words you struggle with? Go back and check them to make sure they look right. If you’re really struggling to spell a word, maybe use a different one for your creative writing piece – lots of writers do this! If you do this a lot, then it might be worth doing some spelling practice. 


How do I prepare for creative writing? 

When it comes to creative writing exams it’s difficult to find something specific to revise – unlike exams in maths or English spelling, creative writing exams don’t have a right or wrong answer. So, don’t get overwhelmed by reading countless creative writing books (although we’ve suggested a few below that can help). 

Instead the best way you can prepare for your creative writing exam is to practice everything we’ve mentioned above. Set yourself some small creative writing tasks, practice your spelling and get some help from your teachers, they want to see you do your best. You could also ask your parents or guardians about tuition to help you prepare for your creative writing

We also have some creative writing book suggestions and worksheets that could help you prepare. 


11 Plus creative writing examples books

If you’re looking for some books to help you prepare for your grammar school entrance exam in creative writing and creative writing examples, here are some of our favourites: 

Remember to always ask a parent or guardian before buying anything online.


11 Plus creative writing tasks and worksheets

Here are some of our own worksheets that’ll help you prepare and improve your creative writing skills: 


Try an 11 plus creative writing tutor

If you’re really worried about your 11 plus creative writing exam, that’s okay. There are plenty of ways you can prepare without getting yourself overwhelmed. We’ve already talked about how practice makes perfect when it comes to writing, so creative writing courses could be a great route for you to improve your confidence. 

11 Plus tuition will also help with your creative writing. Explore Learning’s expert tutors can help you work on your story planning and structure, grammar, writing fluency and vocabulary. 

Don’t let yourself get overwhelmed about your 11 Plus creative writing task, we’re here to help you do your best.  

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