What is the 11 plus?
The 11 plus (or 11+) is a selective entrance examination for secondary school (which starts from Year 7). It is used by grammar schools as well as many private schools to identify the most academically-able children.
It is also sometimes referred to as the Transfer test.
There are two main exam boards for the 11+ exam: CEM (Durham University) and GL Assessment.
It is important to check with the grammar school what board they are using (you can either call them or find the information on their website) as it will affect and also determine how to prepare your child for the exam.
GL Assessment: Dorset, Kent, Lancashire & Cumbria, Lincolnshire, Buckinghamshire, Plymouth, Northern Ireland and Wiltshire.
CEM: Berkshire, Bexley, Birmingham, Medway, Gloucestershire, Shropshire, Walsall, Warwickshire, Wirral, Wolverhampton.
GL and CEM: Devon, Essex, Hertfordshire, Trafford, Yorkshire
Please Note: This is an indicative list and we encourage you to consult with the local authority to understand the current provider for the 11+ test.
What does it consist of?
It consists of and focuses on the below four main areas. It might include all four or a combination from the four which varies between different areas of the country
• English – follows the content of national curriculum and tests your child’s creative writing skills
• Maths – follows the content of national curriculum and tests your child’s maths concept
• Verbal reasoning – tests your child’s English grammar and vocabulary
• Non-verbal reasoning – consists of logical based deductions. Often consists of problems with diagrams and pictures
When is it taken?
The exam is taken towards the end of Year 5 or beginning of Year 6 of primary school. Each county has slightly different pattern, criteria and dates for the exam. We encourage parents to contact their local authority website for specific information: check your local authority website.
Where is it taken?
If your child goes to a local authority primary school, they’ll take 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.
Which counties use the 11+?
The 11+ is used in the following counties which have state-funded grammar schools: Berkshire, Bexley, Birmingham, Buckinghamshire, Cumbria, Devon, Dorset, Essex, Gloucestershire, Hertfordshire, Kent, Lancashire, Lincolnshire, Medway, Shropshire, Trafford, Wiltshire, Walsall, Warwickshire, Wirral, Wolverhampton and Yorkshire.
Do all children need to sit for 11+?
No, it is not a compulsory test and it is entirely up to the parents to decide if you want your child to sit for the exam.
For more information please, check your local authority website.
How do I know if this is right for my child?
For many students, the 11+ exam is the first competitive exam they undertake and the process can be stressful and daunting.
By heritage Grammar Schools were designed to be focused on academic studies, with the assumption that many of their pupils would go on to higher education. This is reflected in the results as a disproportionate number of Grammar School graduates find spaces in top universities. It is thus important to consider:
1. How well your child is/has been performing at school?
An important indicator for this is if their school reports are above average or if your child has displayed interest in academic subjects – Maths, English and Science through the school years
A lot of the questions in the 11+ exams are solvable assuming clarity of maths concepts and a good level of English reading abilities as well as good language and general aptitude (solving puzzles and odd one out type questions).
2. How passionate your child is about getting into a grammar school?
Even if the school results till now have not been a positive indicator but the child has shown keenness in sitting for the exam, then coaching and a level of disciplined preparation can also help them achieve their goal.
3. Does going to a top university excite them or you significantly?
Although it is tough to judge this at such an early age, do you as parents feel the children would like to continue their education at a good university? The process of getting into a top university is very gruelling, so it only makes sense to put the children through that if the achievement will hold significant value for them.
How do I prepare my child for 11+?
Preparing your child for the 11+ can be rather daunting, but here's some simple, straightforward advice on how to start preparing your child for the 11+:
Step 1 – Find out about the 11+ in your area
Before you do anything else, it’s crucial that you find out about how the 11+ works in your area.
The 11+ exam is highly regionalised and the subjects your child will be tested on will depend on where you live and what grammar/private schools you’re applying to.
P.S. It is very important that you fall in the catchment to secure a place in the school if your child clears the written exam.
Step 2 – When should you start preparing?
We recommend that focused preparation for the 11+ ideally should start 1 year prior to the exam, this is based on feedback from successful applicants as well as review of sample tests provided by the test setters themselves and from past papers. This being said, it is important to make sure that your child has a grasp of the basics before the start of this focused 1-year prep. With this in view we recommend:
Year 2: Focus should be on the concepts taught in school covering key stage 1. This can be firmed up by doing some practise at home using widely available key stage 1 books for Maths and English
Years 3-4: Focus on key concepts taught in school covering relevant key stage 2 syllabus. Towards the end of year 3 and in Year 4 children can also start a structured training program that is age appropriate. Many parents use Bond 11+ to help prepare their child for the 11+. Start developing your child’s subject knowledge in Maths and English and introducing the development of some exam techniques, such as working under timed conditions.
Year 5: Focused preparation for year 11 Plus. This should include:
- A structured teaching program – face to face tuition, an online course or through the use of books and guides. This should cover the essential concepts and question types that are relevant for the exam as well as lots of practice questions to help develop speed.
- A Mock Test series – It is very important to enrol your child in a Mock Test Series, as mastering the exam techniques is just as important as mastering the subjects themselves. This means being able to successfully manage within the allocated time, managing the exam stress as well as having clarity on
Step 3 – Visit the schools you plan to take admission in
To find out exactly what the 11+ exam is like in your area, it is worth contacting the schools you’re hoping to gain entry to directly. Most school organise an open day for prospective students. It is always a good idea to go for these and make up your mind after looking at the prospectus, talking to students and teachers and looking at past achievements of the school.