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Everything You Need to Know About the 11 Plus Exam

If you've been wondering whether to send your child to grammar school or an independent school, then you will have already started hearing about the 11+ exam. Most 11+ exams that are administered are written by one of 2 exam boards (GL and CEM), not the school. Even though past versions of the exams from GL can be found easily online and practice papers from CEM are available, the 11+ exam can be an area many parents don’t know much about. Here’s everything parents need to know.

What Is The 11+?

The 11+ is a selective entrance examination used by some grammar schools and many private schools to identify the most academically-able children. Normally the exam is taken towards the end of Year 5 or beginning of Year 6.

Where Does the Test Take Place?

If your child goes to a local council primary school, they’ll usually sit the 11+ in one of their classrooms. If they go to another type of school, they’ll be asked to take it at a central location like a local grammar school.

What Does It Test?

The content and structure of the 11+ exam does vary between different areas of the country and depending on whether it’s a GL or CEM exam. However, generally exams will focus 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, verbal and non-verbal reasoning, there are a number of key differences. It’s important for parents to know which exam your 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 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+?

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 councils website.

When Do I Prepare My Child For The 11+?

Being successful in 11+ tests is often when children are prepared academically and have 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. 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 tutoring programmes, click here.

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.

For more information regarding the 11+ exam, we recommend contacting the schools you’re applying to or your local council.