CSSE Exam Creative Writing Tips

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The CSSE Exam: 9 must know creative writing tips

Children can all too often feel overwhelmed by elements of the 11+ exams, with their parents frequently equally as intimidated. With this in mind we’ve put together an easy to understand and implement list of tips for those preparing for the CSSE exam.


1. Be aware of the test’s length and format
Essay tests can range in length of time from as little as twenty minutes, to as many as 50 minutes. The format usually allows for a choice between titles, however it’s particularly important that you check with your child the types of past topics that have come up in the past.


2. Understand that examiners from different regions can have differing priorities
Examiners within different regions are subject to varying priorities; this may then mean that some papers will be marked with more of a focus upon the content of the exam, whereas others may demand a higher command of spelling and punctuation.
However there is one thing that every examiner will focus upon: a well-defined beginning, middle and end.


3. Make the most of your child’s strengths, whilst accepting their weaknesses
Your child will most likely not be naturally strong across all forms of writing and if they do not excel at fiction, focus instead upon developing their strengths at factually based essays (or vice versa) if you know that they will have a choice between factual and fictional topics.


4. Put into place an effective planning technique
Good planning is absolutely vital in order to achieve success at 11+ creative writing. Specifically you should plan for the following key elements:
– Who are the characters? How can they be described?
– What is the story’s setting?
– How does the plot develop/what will happen over the course of the story?
– What will happen at the beginning of the story?
– What will happen in the middle of the story?
– How will the story end?


5. Build up a collection of characters
There is little to no time within the 11+ creative writing exam to craft characters and so building up a bank of characters prior to the exam is essential. Good base characters that may serve a purpose within the exam include: a criminal; an elderly man; a scary woman and a pleasant friend. Similarly to this you should also encourage the development of a range of settings. Useful settings may then be: a spooky house; a moonlit forest or a sunny seashore.


6. Develop a beginning, middle and end balance
Many children struggle with defining the beginning, middle and end of their story, however you can help by drawing three sections onto the paper at revision time, asking them to stay within these sections. To this end the beginning and end sections should be of similar length and shorter than the middle section.


7. Prepare for an emergency ending
Despite all the planning and revision in the world your child may still find that they run out of time towards the end of the exam and for this event you should plan for an emergency ending, covering a range of differing settings and characters. However, one emergency ending to avoid is the “It all turned out to be a dream” ending.


8. Spend time upon adjectives and adverbs
Spending time upon adjectives and adverbs will provide your child with a bank of words to rely upon. It may be particularly useful to hone in on certain types of story, such as a spooky story, and writing lists of adjectives and adverbs that would be fitting in such a story.


9. Stock up on well written phrases
A last stockpiling exercise to consider is time saving phrases. These could include the linking of mood to weather (e.g. tears that fall like the rain, heart beating as loud as thunder or twinkling eyes like falling snowflakes); descriptions of settings (e.g. a patchwork quilt of autumn leaves; beams of sunshine or trees that rustled and whispered to one another) and finally descriptions of being frightened, or some other such emotion (being followed, hiding from someone or being found in hiding).