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11+ Entrance Exam

11+ Entrance Exam

The 11+ is an examination used in areas that have retained state-funded grammar schools or for those seeking entrance to some selective private schools. It is taken towards the end of Year 5 or beginning of Year 6 of primary school and is used to identify the most academically-able children.

The content of the 11+ Entrance Exam varies between different areas of the country but generally it will focus on a combination of the following four subjects:

  • English
  • Maths
  • Verbal reasoning
  • Non-verbal reasoning/spatial awareness

Although the English and maths tests tend to follow the National Curriculum, the verbal and non-verbal reasoning/spatial awareness tests are not school-based subjects and will not be taught as part of the curriculum in state schools. Therefore your child is likely to need additional support and practice to familiarise themselves with verbal and non-verbal reasoning/spatial awareness exam question types.

There are two different formats for 11+ exam papers:

  • Standard format – where children write their answers on the test paper
  • Multiple-choice format – where answers are marked in a separate answer booklet

11+ exam papers are timed and usually last between 45-60 minutes. Children should practise with timed 11+ mock test papers, as well as working through non-timed practice, so they can see what they are able to do within a given time frame.

There are two main exam boards for the 11+ exam:

  • GL Assessment – previously known as NFER, GL Assessment develop and administer 11+ exams in the majority of grammar schools in the UK.
  • CEM – developed by the Centre for Evaluation & Monitoring at Durham University, the CEM 11+ exam was created in response to fears from some grammar schools that the existing 11+ exam system had become too predictable. The CEM exam was designed to address concerns over question spotting and ‘teaching to the test’.

Find out more about the differences between GL and CEM exams and which Local Authorities use which exam board in the CEM 11+ section below.

There are always more pupils applying for grammar schools than there are places available, (sometimes as many as 10 pupils for every one place) and so competition can be fierce. It is therefore vital to find out how the 11+ exam is structured where you live and to prepare your child adequately.