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What is 11+?

The 11 + is a selective entrance test for a secondary school place. State-supported grammar schools and private schools use them, although private school typicallyt have entrance tests. The 11+ tests for grammar schools occur at the beginning of year 6 in primary school, while independent schools have them any time from October to January.

Different 11+ Exams For Grammar Schools

There are two main examination boards for the 11+ level test: CEM (Durham University) and GL Assessment. Northern Irish grammar schools use Northern Ireland Transfer tests and some boroughs use CSSE papers or SET tests. 

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It is essential to check with your chosen grammar school what exam boards they use as it affects how to prepare your child: Check with the school where you go to the exam board and which.

Many new parents ask questions they think could help their child prepare well for the 11+ exam. The 11+ processes can be VERY demanding and require much commitment from parents and children. Some parents worry about how best to help their children revise for the various 11+ tests. The two main examination boards, CEM and GL Assessment, offer different papers. There is some crossover in the content of the papers, but each board also covers specific areas.

CEM and GL Exam Differences

The CEM (Centre for Evaluation and Monitoring) 11+ test is used by many grammar schools. CEM tests usually have two exam papers: a reasoning paper and an English paper. 

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These days, fewer grammar schools use the GL Assessment 11+ tests compared to the CEM papers. The CEM formatted tests, which the University of Durham produces usually has two papers: a verbal reasoning paper and a non-verbal reasoning paper. The verbal reasoning paper covers word relationships, synonyms, antonyms, and literal comprehension. In other words, vocabulary is a key component of the paper. The non-verbal reasoning paper covers series, codes, matrices, analogies, and classification questions.

GL Assessment papers cover a range of skills such as mathematical problem solving, reading comprehension, and grammar. There is usually an English, maths, verbal and non-verbal reasoning paper. Some schools may pick some of the fourth topic areas and add other forms of assessment such as creative writing (Medway).

The 11+ is not just a test of your child’s academic ability but also their speed and accuracy under pressure. That is why it is so important to start preparing early and doing regular practice papers.

Most parents prepare their children for the 11+ tests using a mixture of 11 Plus preparation materials found online and revision guides produced by the examination boards. There is no one ‘right’ way to prepare for the 11+ tests, but parents and children must work together to establish a revision schedule that covers all the various topics tested. However, using sample papers from private schools, which have a different exam-style, is probably not the best way to go for most exams.

11 Plus exams

Some parents send their children to tuition classes run by private companies. These can be expensive, so you may consider an intensive course covering all the topics in the 11+ tests. We often run them at Geek School – in April and August (and sometimes during the Christmas holidays). If you decide to go down this route, it is important that your child has the basics for maths (time tables, for example) and is confident with grammar rules.

Many parents opt to use a home-based revision programme, which can be cheaper than sending their children to tuition classes, and allows children to revise at their own pace. However, nothing beats having the oversight of an experienced 11 Plus tutor, whether face-to-face or online tuition. There are many different programmes available, so it is essential that you choose one that covers all the topics in the 11+ tests. 

Whichever route you decide to take, both parents and children must fully commit to the revision process. Children need to do plenty of practice papers as part of their preparation, and parents need to be there to help and encourage them – even if you have a tutor. The 11+ exams can be daunting for children, but they can achieve success with hard work and parental support.