What is the 11 Plus Exam?


If you wish your child to attend a selective state grammar school, then you will need them to sit and to pass the 11 Plus Exam (also called the 11+ or Eleven Plus). In reality, most children will only be 10 years old when they take the test; and the term “11 Plus” refers to the fact that the test selects for schools with an entry point for children aged 11 or over. There are over 160 Grammar Schools remaining in England, with the potential for numbers to grow. The pass rate for the 11 plus test varies considerably around the country. Often private tutors are used to help children prepare for this exam. The tutor will first ensure that foundation skills are rigorous, before then shaping the tuition towards the demands of this unusual exam; and then building confidence and a good exam technique, to ensure that child can perform to their full potential on the day. Tuition generally begins a year or two in advance of the exam. The 11+ exam takes place at the beginning of Year 6.

What Sort of Eleven Plus Test Will My Child Have to Take?

This will vary from school to school. The eleven plus exam papers will be based on some or all of the following types of questions and it may involve sitting two or even three eleven plus examinations. Sometimes the tests will be of a different kind, e.g. a non-verbal reasoning and a verbal reasoning test and in other cases the tests will be the same e.g. two verbal reasoning tests.

  • Verbal Reasoning test
  • Non-verbal reasoning tests
  • Mathematics tests
  • English tests

Verbal Reasoning eleven plus tests (VR)

This requires the child to think about words and text in solving problems, sequences etc. It requires the pupil to have a good grasp of English grammar and a wide vocabulary. Most Grammar Schools administer at least one verbal reasoning test. Many Independent Schools also use verbal reasoning tests for Year 7 or Year 9 Entry Exams.

Non-verbal Reasoning eleven plus tests (NVR)

This requires the child to think about pictures and diagrams, solving problems based on these items. It makes demands upon the child's mathematical capabilities, but less on the understanding of written language. Many Independent Schools also use non-verbal reasoning tests for Year 7 or Year 9 Entry Exams.

Mathematics and English eleven plus tests

These elements are tested by the most competitive Grammar schools, but not all. Exams test skills and confidence in both literacy and numeracy. The requirements are quite high. These exams are less coach-able that the VR and NVR tests and are arguably better predictors for schools to use in terms of gauging future potential.

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