Navigating the Summer Break Before Exams

The Summer holidays before exams can be anxiety-inducing for many parents. Read our definitive guide on how to structure summer learning effectively and efficiently.
Couple sit eating dinner in Santorini

13 Jun 2022 | Isabelle Waring

Welcome to Paideia’s inaugural blog post. Parents have come to me for years looking for clarity, direction and a balanced approach to academic work, so I wanted to share some of these details with our wider Paideia audience on a monthly basis, starting with the extended summer holidays.

How to plan your child’s 11+ preparation (and the below can be adapted for many other ‘plus’ exams)

One of the key problems parents face is how to structure learning over the summer holidays. Two months of directionless learning can be a real issue, particularly with the speed at which term starts in September. 

I’ve written many 11+ summer work programmes for my clients and I have included my top tips below alongside an example timetable you can download. 

Little and often triumphs over cramming

Parents often ask me to confirm that their child should be studying 5-7 hours a day over the holidays. Working too intensely invariably has, in my experience, a negative effect on a child’s academic development. My approach has always been to work sensibly across the breadth of the summer. Take days off if you have a trip or birthday planned, but a good aim would be 1-2 hours a day, 5 days a week. Don’t fret if you don’t meet this goal, just get back on track when you can. A timetable I recommend often looks a little bit like this:


  1. 30 minutes NVR + 15 minutes review; and, 
  2. 20 minutes vocabulary work (synonyms, antonyms, word connections, odd ones out, words with multiple meanings) + 15 minutes review


  1. 30 minutes VR + 15 minutes review; and, 
  2. 20 minutes maths fundamentals review (geometry, units of measurement, number rules, times tables, mental arithmetic)


  1. 30 minutes Maths + 15 minutes review; and, 
  2. 30 minutes written story writing + 15 minutes review


  1. 30 minutes English + 15 minutes review; and, 
  2. 20 minutes vocabulary or maths review, select according to their weaker area


  1. 30 minutes Spatial Reasoning + 15 minutes review; and, 
  2. 45 minutes written comprehension + 15 minutes review

Download our timetable here to structure your child’s summer learning to suit your needs.

Your child should be reading every day 

Reading is not a task or a chore, it should be a time your child has every day when they can relax away from distractions, screens and a space in which to process their thoughts. Ideally, they should be reading a mix of fiction and non-fiction, but allow them to choose if it means keeping them reading. 

You can see some of my reading recommendations here and they should be reading for a minimum of 20 minutes a day: this will really support vocabulary and spelling progress, which is one of the trickiest parts of the exams to prepare for. 

Aim for an even spread across all subjects, even if your child has weaknesses 

It’s really tempting to double down on specific areas you know your child is struggling with, but this risks weaker development in other areas. In addition, these other areas are likely to be easier for them to accelerate in, making these more efficient working areas. Though a sensible bias towards English, for example, with a child who struggles with writing will certainly help, you want to make sure that you’re also optimising other subjects too, as this will help them excel in their strengths, helping to improve their average score. 

Be strategic about the exams your child is actually going to take

Depending on your school list, your child may or may not need to master all subjects and exam types. Make a list of the exams your child will sit, the question types they’ll need to master and the dates when they will sit their exams. You can use this to make sure you are working as efficiently as possible and to minimise confusion. If you need any help with this, you can sign up to our live Summer Learning Q&A on 24th June at 13h00.

Thank you so much for reading! I’m hoping this was helpful. Please don’t hesitate to share this with friends or family who might find it useful. 

I’ll be back soon with more insights. 


Need more help with your summer learning? You can book our unrivalled Summer Programme here by signing up as a Premium subscriber.

In our Summer Programme we cover every single question, topic and strategy for the 11+ exams. We finish with a full mock assessment week so they’re completely ready for the new school year. We even create a programme completely unique for your child and the schools to which they’re applying. 

I’ve added the Programme timetable here for you, so you can see what you get. 

Subscribe as a Premium subscriber to access the Summer Programme or sign up for our live Summer Learning Q&A, hosted by me and my Head of Education, Ed, to find out more.