What is the 11+ Exam?

There are at least 164 grammar schools throughout England and with the ever-increasing fees for private education many parents are turning towards the 11-plus exam as a means to a first-class education.
The 11-plus exams are an important milestone in your child's education.

The 11-plus is used for selecting pupils moving from primary education to Secondary school.

It is known by a number of different names including “The eleven plus exam”, “Grammar school selection test” “Entrance test” and in Northern Ireland it is known as the “Transfer Test”.

The 11-plus is taken by pupils in their last year of primary school. In most situations parents must decide whether their child is going to take the 11-plus and must register them with the relevant body.

The exam is used to select pupils suited to the academic rigours of a grammar school education.

In simple terms will a child be offered a place in a grammar school chosen by their parent.

For about the last 50 years many areas of the UK have favoured a comprehensive education system that is
non-selective There are still a large number of Local Education Authorities (LEAs), independent schools and private schools that still admit pupils based on the 11-plus exam. While called the 11-plus exam most children will be younger than 11 years when they sit the exam.

What Sort of 11+ Test Will My Child Have to Take?

The content will vary from school to school and from LEA to LEA. The 11-plus exam papers will be based on some or all of the following types of questions. It may well be a combination of these four subject areas.

What is 11+ Verbal Reasoning?

Verbal Reasoning involves a child thinking and dealing with words and text. They will be asked to solve problems, sequences, series, antonyms, synonyms etc. While most questions will be text based there may also be some mathematics questions. It requires a child to have a good grasp of all aspects of English grammar and a wide vocabulary. Verbal Reasoning tests are used by most schools and LEAs.

What is 11+ Non-verbal Reasoning?

Non-Verbal Reasoning tests are also used by most LEAs and independent schools. This test involves a child thinking about pictures, shapes, shading in diagrams etc and solving problems based on these items. It will require a child to have good mathematical capabilities. Non-Verbal Reasoning makes much less demand on the understanding of written language.

What is 11-plus Mathematics and English?

These are two subjects that are taught in school and so should probably be accessible to all pupils. When used by an LEA or a school as part of their 11-plus exam you can expect the difficulty of the question to be quite high. Straight forward Mathematics and English are not used to the same extent as Verbal Reasoning and Non-Verbal Reasoning tests. However, be aware that both Verbal Reasoning and Non-Verbal Reasoning questions contain high levels of English and mathematics-based content.

Who sets the eleven plus exam?

There are two companies who set a lot of the 11-plus exams. Although their question content is similar the

11-plus test is sometimes presented in a different format. The two main commercial bodies are
GL (Granada Learning) and CEM (Centre for Evaluation & Monitoring – connected with Durham University). Many independent or private schools set their own 11-plus exams.


The 11 plus papers come in two formats:


         Traditional format

The pupil works out the answer and then writes the answer(s) in a space on the 11-plus exam paper.

Multiple choice format

In a multiple-choice 11-plus exam the child marks their answer on a separate answer sheet which contains 4 or 5 possible answers. They put a line against the correct answer or answers. Keeping track of question numbers is in itself a difficult task and the child must ensure that they choose the correct answer number to mark their answer against. Multiple-choice 11-plus exams may have been created to accommodate marking using an optical reading machine.

Will my child have to sit more than one exam?

The grammar schools that are in most demand may have several rounds of 11-plus exams. Sometimes the children have to take a computer based “Pre-test” before being allowed to sit the actual 11-plus. If a grammar school operates its own 11-plus and you want to apply for a number of such schools then your child will probably have to sit more than one 11-plus exam. Some grammar schools operate within a consortium and the same
11-plus is used by all schools in the consortium, in this case only one 11-plus exam will have to be taken.

Is there a set pass rate for the 11-plus?

There is probably no set pass rate for the 11-plus as this varies from year to year depending on the number of applicants applying for a particular school and the scores that pupils attain in the actual 11-plus. In popular schools there can be as many as 25 children competing for each place and the required pass rate differs depending on the scores in the 11-plus and the number of pupils seeking a place in that school.

What happens when you get the result of the 11-plus?

When you receive your child’s result you will probably know very quickly if this is likely to get them a place in your chosen school based on previous year’s scores. The result is usually in the form of a “standardised score” which takes account of a child’s age - there could be almost a year in age between the oldest and youngest candidates.

You will have a set period of time to complete administration and select a school(s). Schools are usually allocated in March time of the following year.

Who administers the 11-plus?

Usually the emphasis is on the parent to ensure that all relevant registration forms and details are provided to the relevant body. The LEAs, the consortium or the schools themselves usually deal with the parents and administer the exam and also allocate grammar school places.

This information is provided for guidance only and while the content is, to the best of our knowledge, accurate we cannot be held in any way responsible for any errors or omissions that it may contain. Please contact your LEA or chosen grammar school or private school for all admission and 11-plus queries.

Learning Together 11-plus Publishers Ltd.


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