The Ultimate Guide to the 11+ Exam

Are you considering sending your child to a grammar school or an independent school? Entry requirements for schools in these categories usually require your child to pass the 11+ exam.

Whether you’ve already started looking into what’s involved in taking and passing the 11 plus, or you’re just starting out on your 11+ journey, we have all the answers you need right here. Read on to discover how to register for the exam, what to expect on exam day, and how to prepare your child for success.

What Is The 11 Plus Exam?

The 11+ exam assesses the academic abilities of students who are in their final year of primary education. The exam is used as part of the secondary school admissions process and is designed to determine which students are eligible for placement at selective grammar schools and other academically-focused schools.

What Is On The 11 Plus Exam?

While we can’t tell you what is specifically on the 11+ exam, we can tell you a little about its content and structure. This will help you to prepare your child for the exam and to plan out revision so that it covers all subjects.

The format and requirements of the exam may differ depending on what area of the country you live in and which exam board manages the exam for your area. For example, if you live in Birmingham, your child will take the GL Assessment. If you live in Berkshire, your child will sit the CEM Assessment. We’ll explore more about these exam boards in the next section.

The 11 plus exam typically focuses on a combination of the following four subjects:

  • Verbal reasoning: These questions are about solving problems and following sequences with words and text. Verbal reasoning tests your child’s ability to think constructively and assesses their use of vocabulary and grammar and their understanding of the relationship between words.

  • Non-verbal reasoning: This paper is an abstract reasoning test, where your child will answer questions about various patterns and shapes, such as identifying which figure does not belong or which figure comes next in a sequence. Non-verbal reasoning assesses your child’s ability to think logically and critically.

  • Maths: Your child will be tested on mental maths, maths concepts and skills, and problems that have to be solved in multiple stages.

  • English: The English paper tests your child’s creative writing skills and normally includes planning out and writing a piece of work.

What’s The Difference Between CEM And GL Exams?

Although both CEM and GL Assessment exams cover English, maths, and verbal and non-verbal reasoning, there are a number of key differences. It’s important for parents to know which exam their child will be taking so their study plan can be tailored accordingly.

GL Exams

GL exams are split by subject (English, maths, verbal reasoning, and non-verbal reasoning). Questions are chosen from GL question banks, so regular practice helps to familiarise children with the question types they will see. GL exams can also cover any of 21 different verbal reasoning skills, much more than seen in CEM examinations. However, CEM examinations require a much broader range of vocabulary.

CEM Exams

CEM exam papers do not separate subjects by paper. Commonly one paper tests English and verbal reasoning skills, whilst the other tests maths and non-verbal reasoning skills. Questions can be either standard or more commonly, multiple choice, with answers being written in a separate answer book. CEM exams also align much more closely to KS2 National Curriculum content than GL Assessment exams do.

Does My Child Have To Take The 11+ Exam?

The 11+ isn’t a compulsory test and it’s completely up to you to decide if you want your child to apply to a grammar/private school. If you’re unsure about what the registration process is like in your area, check your local council’s website.

When Do I Prepare My Child For The 11+?

11+ exam success is much more likely if your child is prepared academically and has their exam technique mastered. Ideally, it’s a good idea to start developing your child’s subject knowledge and skills from at least Year 4.

Hiring a private tutor is a great way to help introduce some of the exam techniques separately to their general school work. Tutors can also help prepare students for working under timed conditions and getting to grips with some of the trickier types of question formats. Having this extra support means you know your child is getting all the right information as well as the extra help they need. For more information regarding our 11+ tutoring programmes, click here.

Can We Practice With 11+ Mock Exams?

One of the most effective ways to get to grips with the 11+ exam is to take 11 plus mock exams. These not only give your child insights into how the exam will be on the big day but will also give you insights into how your child might perform on the day. Their results will also help you to plan further revision and focus on any areas of weakness.

Mock exams can be taken in person at a testing centre or there are many online mock exams that your child can take at home. Practice papers can also be purchased online.

When Can I Apply For The 11 Plus Exam 2024?

Most grammar schools open their registration for the 11+ exam in April or May and set a deadline around June or July for parents to register their child. Deadlines differ from school to school, so it’s always best to check with your individual school. If you are looking to register your child for the 2023 exam, there may still be time. Check with the schools in your area.

What Happens After The Exam?

Normally you’ll receive your child’s 11+ results in October as a ‘standardised score’. This is thought to be the fairest way of presenting the results as it considers the fact that some children are almost a year younger than others when they take the test. Once you get the results, you’ll usually have until the end of October to apply for secondary schools. Secondary school places are normally allocated on the 1st of March or the first working day afterwards.

Give Your Child the Best Chance of 11 Plus Success

At Tutor Doctor, we know the importance of preparation when it comes to passing the 11+. That’s why we offer 11 plus tutoring programmes that get your child exam ready and confident. No matter where your child is in their 11+ journey, our tutors can tailor their services to suit your needs. Find your local tutor today to get started.