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About the 11 Plus Exam – How to train your 11 Plus dragon

It’s a big year, and the best way to help your child succeed in their 11 Plus Exam is with preparation and knowing what to expect. Have them read this. 


If you think of all the things that you’ve learned at school like tools in your toolbox, the 11 Plus Exam is a way to see how you’re able to solve different kinds of problems using these tools.

These tools are called foundations and are important for succeeding with the next level of learning without difficulty, confusion and frustration. Think of it like building a card castle. What will happen if you try to add the next level when you’ve got gaps below?

What is the 11 Plus Exam?

The 11 Plus Exam serves two purposes: By testing Maths, English, Verbal and Non-verbal Reasoning, your parents and teachers can test your understanding of these foundations so that they can be strengthened if needed.

The 11 Plus Exam also differs depending on whether you take the CEM 11 Plus Exam or the GL 11 Plus Exam. It’s important to find out which one you’re preparing for. Here are the main differences:

GL 11 Plus Exam

  • Your exam will either be Standard format, which means you write your answer in the space provided next to the question, or
  • Multiple choice, which means you choose your answers in a separate booklet. Multiple choice questions can have similar answers. Make sure you read them carefully so you choose the correct one.


CEM 11 Plus Exam

  • This is a mixed exam where skills are put together, like English and Verbal Reasoning, or Maths and Non-verbal Reasoning, for example.
  • Your test can be Standard format – where you write your answers in the space provided after the question, or as a multiple choice – where you mark your correct answer in a separate booklet.
  • With this exam, not all sections are the same length, some may be longer than others and you’ll be given a time allocation for each section. Read these instructions carefully when you start your exam so you manage your time correctly.


Types of questions in the 11 Plus Exam

There are four areas of testing for the 11 Plus Exam:

  • Maths: Fractions, graphs, word problems, shapes, sizes, numbers and equations
  • English: Comprehension, spelling, punctuation, grammar, tenses, homophones, homonyms, singular and plurals
  • Verbal Reasoning: Verbal logic, codes, anagrams, sequences, pair words, hidden words, synonyms and antonyms
  • Non-verbal Reasoning: Missing shapes, codes, sequences, nets, cubes and matrices.

There are some of the different question formats, too. Here are some:

  • Cloze: This is where parts of the text is missing and you need to figure out what it is.
  • Multiple choice: After a question you’ll be given a few answers to choose from. Read them carefully because sometimes they can be very similar.
  • Essay questions: These questions are long-form and you need to think about what you want to say before you start writing so that it’s logical, it flows, and that you answer the question.
  • Word problems: Not all Maths questions are in the form of numbers. Read word problems carefully so you know what you need to answer and how.
  • Comprehension questions: Here, you’ll be tested on your understanding. Make sure you read your material at least twice for full understanding.
  • is a great way to master questions like these. Why not sign up today?


When is the 11 Plus Exam?

The 11 Plus Exam is in your last year of primary school. Generally it’s in September and January so you have lots of time to prepare. You’ll then get your results about four weeks later.

Where do you sit the 11 Plus Exam?

Usually it’s at your school, but sometimes the grammar school you want to attend will host the exam. It’s important to find this out early so there’s no extra stress about getting there early and without getting lost.

How long is the 11 Plus Exam?

Because you’re being tested on a number of areas, the test can feel quite long. Generally, you will get two exam papers that are each around 1 hour long. This means preparation is important. In the same way that you get fit by doing lots of exercise, you need to exercise your brain so you can concentrate for the whole exam without getting tired. You also need to learn how to pace yourself so that you’re not straining your hand and getting writing fatigue.

What is a pass for the 11 Plus Exam?

Different areas have different pass marks, and these also change from year to year because of available spots in grammar schools. To find out what marks you need, ask your school, chosen grammar school or your Local Education Authority. The 11 Plus Exam uses a clever system that adds up your marks from all the sections, looks at your age, and compares your marks with other kids taking the test. Your mark is then based on an overall picture with a pass being 121.

What’s the best way to prepare for the 11 Plus Exam?

Preparing for the 11 Plus Exam is like climbing a mountain. You can’t do it all in one big jump, rather step by step. Rather than climbing an actual mountain, you’re practicing a variety of question formats and skills you can expect in your exam. The more you practice, the more confident you’ll feel about doing well in the exam and getting a great score. By starting early on in the year, managing your workload in to bite-size chunks, and dedicating yourself to uninterrupted preparation time, you’ll soon have what it takes to ace your exam.

The most important starting point with your 11 Plus Exam preparation is to make sure you’re accurate before you’re fast. Start off by learning your foundations at your own pace. Then start taking untimed quizzes and mock exams. Next, start working on your speed so that when you’re in your exam you’ll have extra time to dedicate to the questions you needed to skip past.

A great way to make preparation fun and successful is to study online.

  • You can study whenever you have time, like after school, on weekends and during the holidays.
  • So long as you have the Internet, you can study anywhere without carrying heavy books.
  • You can practice as many times as you want until you get it right.
  • With lots of games and quizzes, studying online is really fun.
  • Learn more about the benefits of studying online here.


Getting your family involved

 The 11 Plus Exam can be a stressful hurdle for you to overcome. And when you’re stressed out, other members of your family feel it too. It’s really important that you and your parents create a study plan and routine that makes everyone happy. It’s also really important that you communicate with your parents about how you’re feeling and what you’re stuck with – keeping your feelings bottled up inside can lead to an explosion and conflict over something small.

Never forget that your parents want you to succeed and love you very much. If it feels like they’re nagging you to study it’s because they’re concerned.

Have a conversation with your parents in which you talk about what happens if you don’t get the marks you thought you would, or all the positions at your chosen school are filled. It’s important to have a goal to work towards, but it’s also important to have a ‘Plan B’. Find out more information on how your family can support you with 11 Plus Exam preparation here.

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