11+ / 11 plus / Eleven Plus

The 11 Plus Exam

The 11+ is a test taken by some pupils in England and Northern Ireland in Year 6 (their last year of Primary School) which decides whether or not they are able enough to attend a grammar school, it has since been adopted in Barbados 11 plus and Singapore as the GEP and GAT test. The 11+ is also commonly known by the names of ‘entrance exam’ and ‘transfer test’. The 4 subjects that are tested in the 11+ are English, Mathematics, Verbal Reasoning (VR) and Non-Verbal Reasoning (NVR).

The name of the test comes from the idea that it allows entrance to schools from the age of 11 (Year 7).

We have broken the information down into the following topics:

History of the 11+

The 11 Plus exam was introduced during the time of the Tripartite System(Wikipedia link) in 1944, having been created by the Butler Education Act 1944(Wikipedia link). It was used to determine which educational route a pupil would follow after their primary education, at the time these routes being a grammar school, a secondary modern school or a technical school. The 11+ created a fierce competition for grammar schools, which gave pupils the best education academically, and as such, pupils were seen to ‘pass’ or ‘fail’ the 11+. When a pupil ‘failed’ their 11+, this would often remain with them for a long time.

The original 11 Plus exams put emphasis on skills rather than financial resources, as different schools could provide teaching for different skills.

Nowadays, the 11+ is used to test pupils academically in a range of subjects, to decide whether they are able enough to attend a grammar school. Different areas test a variety of these subjects, not everywhere is the same, some areas test only 3 of the 4 possible subjects. The current tests, written predominantly by CEM and GL Assessment, are taken in addition to SATs, which cover the National Curriculum for Key Stage 2.

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Structure of the 11+

Most children who take the test take it in their final year of primary education. The test is voluntary and only taken by pupils who intend on applying for a place at a grammar school.

The structure of the test varies by county and by the exam board. When examined, English and Mathematics are generally tested on separate papers. Some tests are computer-based and others are written long-hand or marked on OMR multiple choice grids(Wikipedia link).

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Schools Using the Eleven Plus Exam

According to Wikipedia, there are 164 remaining grammar schools in various parts of England, and 69 in Northern Ireland. BOFA has a full list of schools including information about:

  • school contact information
  • registration date
  • date of the 11+ exam
  • the type of exam
  • 11plus subjects

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11+ Subjects

The 4 subjects that are tested are (not all subjects are tested at every school):

The tests are designed to judge a pupil’s capability in material that they should already have covered in school by the time they are taking the test.

In English, pupils are tested in their ability to comprehend a piece of text (reading), on their spelling, and their ability to write cohesively (punctuation and grammar). Often, English tests will compromise of a long writing task and other reading and spelling exercises.

In Maths, pupils are tested over a huge range of topics. Depending on where pupils are taking an exam, tests may be multiple choice or not.

Verbal reasoning is believed to be a good way to test a pupil’s potential ability rather than just what they can already do, as VR touches on problem-solving and the application of knowledge rather than just what they are classically taught in school.

Non-Verbal reasoning tests are designed to judge a child’s capability regardless of their general English knowledge. NVR tests logic rather than academic capability and serves to judge how well a child can solve a problem.

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Scoring of the 11+

Scoring of the 11+ can vary depending on which part of the country you are from. Most areas use a technique called standardised scoring’.

The scoring of the 11+ does vary slightly depending on where you are in the country, and some areas/schools weight some subjects more heavily than others. For example, in Kent, more importance is placed on English and Maths than Verbal Reasoning, but VR still counts towards a pupil’s final mark.

A standardised score is created using a normal distribution with a mean 100 and standard deviation of 15. This means the average score of the cohort/year-group is 100; the bottom 2% score less than 70; the highest 2% score more than 130. The raw pass score, therefore, will vary year to year depending on the ability of the pupils sitting the exam, since the standardised scores are calculated after the exam has been sat the raw pass score will not be known prior to the exam.

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11+ Districts

BOFA has compiled a list of all the state grammar schools in the UK, sorted by district.

You’ll find information about individual schools by clicking on the district where your child will be attending school.

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How to Prepare your Child for the 11+

The 11+ can be very daunting as it will be the first ‘proper’ exam that a pupil has ever taken. Giving your child a well-rounded education is key to their success as the 11+ tests their all-round ability.

It is a good idea to give your child access to practice assessments, particularly if your child is sitting a PRe-tests, GL Assessment or CEM examined tests. There are plenty of resources available for practice questions for CEM as well, but a solid understanding of the subject is more important as the types of questions on the paper are much more unpredictable.

Developing a wide vocabulary is important for any child sitting an exam in English or Verbal Reasoning. In order to encourage this, you can help your child by explaining the meanings of more complex words in context and general conversation, as well as encouraging them to read books beyond what they find ‘easy’. Ensuring that pupils understand synonyms and antonyms and can give multiple examples of each.

Time management skills are important for a child to learn within their education. Pupils at this age won’t be used to formal exam conditions and won’t have experienced the pressure to finish a test in a limited amount of time. To help them get used to this, have them do practice papers in timed conditions.

Parents often ask many questions about the 11 plus are here are some examples:

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Would you pass the 11+?

Many newspapers like to ask parents if they would pass the eleven plus so we have created a link of the links below, none of them ask for your details and general only take 5-10 minutes. We have included our BOFA demo tests in the list, these have the practice and retest questions to demonstrate the unique learning platform and require an email address to demonstrate the feedback and reports sent to parents.

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CEM and GL Assessment

CEM and GL Assessment are the two main examining boards for the 11+ for both state school 11+ exams and Independent school 11+ Pre-tests.

CEM is perceived to be the more difficult of the two papers as it is designed to be ‘tutor-proof’, as they don’t produce or endorse any sample material. However, there is so much practice material available for the CEM 11+ that it is impossible for the exam to be tutor-proof, the success of BOFA 11 plus as used by prep schools and tutoring centres demonstrates that pupils who prepare for the exam. 

CEM is also said to be based more closely on the National Curriculum for Key Stage 2, which is the curriculum followed by all state primaries.

Verbal Reasoning differs the most widely between the two examining bodies, and a child’s success in a CEM VR exam will be reliant on them having a strong vocabulary.

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Independent school 11+ Pre-tests

The Common Pre-Tests are age-standardised tests used to assess pupils' attainment and potential when they are in Year 6 or Year 7, prior to entry to their senior schools. If your son or daughter is offered a place after completing these tests, he or she will normally still be required to sit the Common Entrance examinations in Year 8. This information is taken from ISEB Common Pre-tests parents section, the lists of GL Assessment ISEB Pre-test schools is found below:

  • Bedford School
  • Bradfield College
  • Brighton College
  • Caterham School
  • Charterhouse
  • Cheltenham College
  • City of London School
  • Dauntsey's School
  • Eaton Square Upper School
  • Eton College from September 2017
  • Harrow School
  • Headington School 
  • Hurstpierpoint College 
  • Marlborough College 
  • Monkton Combe School 
  • Mount Kelly College 
  • Northfields Int High School 
  • Palmers Green High School 
  • Radley College
  • Reddam House School 
  • St Paul's School
  • St Swithun's School 
  • Stowe School
  • University College School 
  • Wellington College 
  • Westminster School 
  • Wetherby Senior School 
  • Worth School 

View our admissions information for the ISEB schools.

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How to Find a School’s Admissions Information

We have compiled a list of the 11+ admissions information for every state grammar school in the UK, as we know how tricky it can be to find this. Every school’s website is different, so it can often be tricky to find what you are looking for. When looking for admissions information, keep an eye out for terms such as ‘joining our school’, ‘joining in Year 7’ or ‘admissions’.

You’ll want to look for the date to register for the 11 Plus, the date it is taken and the subjects that are tested.

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Current Government 11 plus Proposal

With Theresa May as Prime Minister, selective secondary education is again the focus of all attention.  Theresa May plans to repeal a 1998 ban on new grammar schools (imposed by Tony Blair), allowing the existing grammar schools to expand and further ones to open.

This is a controversial proposal, some people believe that this is advantageous only to those who are more able, entrenching inequality and disadvantage. Theresa May has countered this by suggesting that grammar schools must sponsor an under-performing academy and establish a new, ‘high quality’ non-selective school.

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11+ Forums and Shops

There are a number of places you can find resources and information to help you with the 11+, including Amazon, eBay and directly from publishers such as Bond and CGP. You can often find books in supermarkets, bookshops such as Waterstones and The Works. Here are some links:

You might also want to take a look at these 11 plus forums but be aware that this usually contains more questions than answers. These forums often increase a parent's stress and anxiety rather than reduce them and supply comfort, common questions about the 11 plus are found above, the forums are below (BOFA does not have a forum and does not encourage their use):

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