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Our short guide to understanding the 11+ exam

21 December 2023

Our short guide to understanding the 11+ exam

Is your child due to take the 11+? Find out more about the process and learn how you can help your child feel confident and ready with Our short guide to understanding the 11+ exam.

Every year, around 100,000 pupils sit the 11+ exam. The competition for places at grammar schools is fierce as many schools receive considerably more applications than they have places available.

Navigating the 11+ process can sometimes be confusing. In this blog post, we’ll explain the ins and outs of the exam and suggest how you can support your child.

Who takes the 11+ exam?

Ten-year-old children take the exam in certain parts of the country to get into selective secondary schools such as grammar or independent schools. It’s typically taken in the first term of Year 6.

The four sections of the exam

The 11+ exam generally consists of four sections: English, maths, verbal reasoning, and non-verbal reasoning. While the maths and English sections test pupil's academic knowledge, verbal, and non-verbal reasoning test logical thinking.

Verbal reasoning focuses on letter, word, and number problems whereas non-verbal reasoning looks at solving problems related to shapes, pattern, and spatial reasoning.

However, it’s important to note that the exact subjects and structure of the exam differ by school. We recommend researching the format of the exam at the school your child is applying to before beginning preparation for the exam.

Exam Boards

GL Assessment (occasionally known to schools as NFER) is the primary board for the 11+ exams. Although you may see revision resources for CEM (The Centre for Evaluation and Monitoring), grammar schools are not currently using this board. Some grammar schools might also write their own tests or use tests created by FSCE (Future Stories Community Enterprise).

Starting the 11+ preparation

The 11+ preparation process can be challenging. As the exam is not related to the National Curriculum, it’s up to parents to familiarise their children with the topics outside of school hours.

Our 11+ range, written by tutors and teachers, can help boost your child’s confidence. These books offer extensive practice with step-by-step guides and exam-style questions. They introduce new question types gradually using child-friendly language and practical examples. We also provide answers and progress charts for effective self-assessment, which are useful for both tutor and DIY 11+ preparation.

Choosing the right resources 

Every child is unique, so there is no correct time to begin preparing for the 11+. However, we recommend you begin revision about one year before the exam. The 11+ Study and Practice Books will teach your child about the different question types. Introduce timed practice through the 11+ Rapid Tests about six months before the exam to build their speed. About three months before, the 11+ Progress Papers can ensure your child has the stamina to complete a full paper. Finally, at one month to go, the 11+ Practice Papers will familiarise your child with the exam-style questions.

Preview our 11+ range

Click here to view our full 11+ exam range. To order, simply call 01484607080, email, or purchase directly via our website.

Tags: 11+
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