What is the 11+ exam?

Last updated: May 6, 2022

What is the 11+ exam?

The 11 Plus is an exam taken by many students in their final year of primary school to gain entry into grammar and independent schools. The 11 Plus exam was once used throughout the United Kingdom, but since the 1970s most areas replaced the 11 Plus exam with the non-selective comprehensive education system. However, some local authorities have retained some or all of their grammar schools and today, in England, there are still over 160 grammar schools.

There is no standard national 11 Plus exam, and each school, whether grammar or independent, will set its own exam, and each will vary in style and content. The tests will examine the student’s ability in 4 key areas: Maths, English, Verbal and Non-Verbal Reasoning. At Examberry, our tuition covers all of these areas in depth with regular testing and is reinforced by our mock exam program.

It is important to note that the 11 Plus entrance exam is different from what is known as the “Common Entrance Exam” which is usually taken at the age of 13 for independent schools. The Common Entrance Exam also includes an English comprehension and Maths paper but it also replicates some of the elements of the 11 Plus exam i.e. Verbal Reasoning. However, many independent schools also take new students at Year 7 and their tests generally include Verbal and Non-Verbal Reasoning tests in their entrance exams.

It is also important to note that, the 11 Plus exams can only be taken once. There is no provision for resitting tests if the results are disappointing.  Whereas the GCSE and A Level exams can be taken again and again if necessary, the 11 Plus is a ‘once only’ opportunity.

What is the difference between GL, CEM and ISEB?

Click HERE to read about GL, CEM and ISEB exams.

At what age do the students sit the 11 Plus exam?

Your child will sit these exams at the start of Year 6, their final year of primary school, when they are aged 10 or 11.  

How do I find out about admission information for the schools in my area?

It is important to contact your Local Education Authority’s Admissions Department as well as each individual school directly to ensure you obtain the most up-to-date and precise information about individual admission policies.  Each local authority and school will have its own policy.

How do I find out about exam dates?

You should contact individual schools for exam dates and test arrangements. Links to many schools can be found HERE.

What is Non-Verbal Reasoning (NVR)?

Non-Verbal Reasoning questions are symbol and picture-based.  They test a child’s ability to understand and remember a visual sequence, interpret the meaning of the visual presentation, find the ‘odd one out’, solve codes and missing sequence patterns.  At Primary School, your child will have been taught how to deal with words and numbers but dealing with pictures is very different and your child will need to develop a new set of skills.  Rather like musical ability, you may find your child is very good at ‘academic’ subjects but struggles initially with visual skills.  Our teaching encourages these skills to develop but, just as with musical skills, you cannot expect these abilities to develop overnight – they grow over time.  Practice and perseverance are needed to succeed and at Examberry we support your child during this journey.

What is Verbal Reasoning (VR)?

Verbal Reasoning is largely language-based problem-solving and your child will need a broad vocabulary and good grasp of English grammar to be successful in these ultra-competitive exams.  Although our tuition covers this area it is very important that your child is reading a wide variety of books at home.  We do provide a reading list but the most important thing is simply to read and read and read! 

Although a verbal test would logically be entirely about words you will find that the 11 plus Verbal Reasoning test also includes questions requiring basic numeracy skills.  It is therefore important that your child is comfortable with simple mental arithmetic – knows the ‘times tables’ and can add, subtract, multiply and divide in their head quickly and easily.  The test itself often includes questions involving simple algebra and number sequences.  Our teaching covers these specific areas but, as with vocabulary, the importance of your contribution, as parents, cannot be over-emphasised.

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