Skip to main content

Understanding the 11+ Exam in the UK

The 11+ exam is a pivotal milestone in the UK’s education system, often serving as the gateway to grammar and selective secondary schools. 

This article aims to demystify the 11+ exam by explaining what it is, outlining the exam boards involved, the topics covered, and how the process works.

What is the 11+ Exam?

The 11+ is an entrance exam for gaining admission into grammar and other selective schools in the UK. It is typically taken by students in Year 6, at the age of 10 or 11, hence the name ’11+’. 

The exam is designed to assess a child’s academic abilities and potential for success in a more challenging educational environment.

Exam Boards and Variations

The 11+ exam is not standardised across the UK, which means the content and format can vary depending on the region and the school. The exam is generally set by one of the two main exam boards:

  1. CEM (Centre for Evaluation & Monitoring): Operated by the University of Durham, CEM exams typically cover verbal reasoning, non-verbal reasoning, and numerical reasoning. These exams are known for their mixed subject test papers and are less predictable in terms of the types of questions asked.
  2. GL Assessment: Formerly known as NFER (National Foundation for Educational Research), GL Assessment exams cover similar subjects but tend to have separate papers for each area (verbal reasoning, non-verbal reasoning, English, and Maths).

Topics Covered

The 11+ exam usually tests the following areas:

  • Verbal Reasoning: Assesses a child’s ability to understand and reason using words. This includes tasks like solving word puzzles, completing sentences, and comprehending passages.
  • Non-Verbal Reasoning: Involves solving problems using pictures, diagrams, and patterns, testing a child’s ability to understand and analyse visual information.
  • Maths: Covers topics from the Key Stage 2 curriculum, including arithmetic, problem-solving, and understanding of mathematical concepts.
  • English: Focuses on reading comprehension, vocabulary, spelling, punctuation, and grammar.

How the 11+ Works

  • Registration: Parents need to register their child for the 11+ exam, typically during Year 5. Registration procedures vary, so it’s important to check with the specific school or local authority.
  • Preparation: Preparation for the 11+ can start as early as in Year 4. Many parents opt for tutors or 11+ preparatory courses to help their children.
  • Exam Timing: The exam is usually taken at the beginning of Year 6, around September, although the exact timing can vary.
  • Results and School Selection: Results are typically released in October, and parents can then apply for schools based on their child’s performance. The competition is often high, and not all students who pass the exam will secure a place in a grammar school, as admissions depend on the scores and the number of available places.

The 11+ exam is a significant step in a child’s educational journey in the UK. Success in this exam can open doors to prestigious grammar and selective schools. 

It’s a process that requires preparation, practice, and a clear understanding of the exam’s requirements. The exam is tough, and the standard is very high. In addition to tutoring, students must work through exam questions independently at home. If any parents need help and advice, please call or email us.

For parents, being aware of the exam format, registration process, and preparation strategies is crucial to support their child effectively through this challenging yet rewarding milestone.