Jun 24

Everything You Need to Know About the 11+ Exam: The Ultimate Guide

The 11+ exam is used by grammar and private schools to test a child’s knowledge. Many prestigious schools view the test as a gateway to becoming a student, and the exams are completely voluntary.

While most students take the SATs, the 11+ is an entirely different exam administered by two boards (CEM & GL). The schools don’t regulate the exams but use the results to decide whether to offer prospective students a place.

If your child is in year six of their primary education, it’s time to begin preparations for the exam. So, if you’re unsure what to expect, read on because we’ve got everything you need to know.

What does the test involve?

Most children can take the 11+ at their current school, but some grammar schools ask for prospective students to sit the exam in their classrooms. As two exam boards run the 11+, the test content can vary.

CEM Exams

If your child takes the CEM exams, each paper will focus on various skills rather than subjects.

For example, CEM exams often have one Maths and non-verbal reasoning skills paper and another English with verbal-reasoning skills paper.

GL Exams

Many people prefer the GL exam format because they follow the SATs in many ways and are easier to prepare for.

These tests are split into individual subjects, including Maths, English, Verbal Reasoning and Non-Verbal Reasoning.

Let’s take a look at each subject in more detail.


The English paper is an opportunity for your child to display their creative skills, and it usually consists of planning and writing a story.


During the Maths test, your child will need to demonstrate their understanding of theories and perform practical exercises such as mental maths.

Verbal Reasoning

Verbal reasoning is an ability to solve problems using grammar and vocabulary skills.

Non-Verbal Reasoning

Non-verbal skills are defined by a child’s ability to think critically and notice gaps in sequences and patterns.

Passing The Exams

As the 11+ exam is standardised, the pass rate is surprisingly high at 80%, but while a score of 100 is the national average, certain counties might set lower or higher thresholds.

For example, some might list the entry score above 100, while others might have a lower score.

While most schools expect the national average, more competitive grammar schools might accept students that score highly on the test. Therefore, it’s essential to prepare your child for the exam.

Preparing Your Child For The Exams

So, now you know how the exam works, it’s time to think about how to support your child with the revision process. Preparation is key, and there are many ways to approach revision.

Here are some of the most popular.

Make A Revision Schedule

If your child is the type that needs structure, a revision schedule is an excellent way to help them focus on each subject. You can find free templates online or sit down with your child and make one together.

It’s also good to let your child know there will be a reward afterwards to encourage them to sit down during each session and revise.

Use Practice Tests

As the saying goes, practice makes perfect, and past papers can give your child more confidence when they step into the exam. It can also help you identify the areas your child struggles with and put aside extra time to focus on them.=

Hire A Tutor

One-to-one tuition is an effective way of helping children who struggle to focus in class or need extra support.

Tutors are experts in evaluating a student’s skills and identifying knowledge gaps so that they can create a more structured learning experience.

Also, when you hire a tutor, it takes the weight off of your shoulders and allows you to support your child with other elements of exam preparation.

As a tutor is also skilled at revision and exam techniques, hiring one could be the difference between your child passing or failing their exam.

Use Practical Learning Techniques

Every situation is a possible learning experience, and you can make the entire process more fun for your child by incorporating these techniques.

For example, the next time you’re shopping, ask your child to mentally work out the final cost.

Or, hold fun quizzes for your child and offer rewards when they get the questions right.

Doing this can also help your relationship, as children respond to positive reinforcement, and the revision process can sometimes cause tension between parent and child.

Work On Your Child’s Confidence

The 11+ exam is a big step for any child, but with the proper preparation, it doesn’t have to be daunting. However, focusing your child on getting the best grades can lead to anxiety, and they can fall apart during the exam.

If you’re unsure how to approach revising with your child, a tutor can help you learn ways to build your child’s confidence and reduce their anxiety.

Remember, the learning process should be a fun and rewarding experience because when a child feels pressured, they might shy away from future opportunities.

Even though these exams are important, you should always try to be encouraging rather than controlling.

Don’t Stress

We all have unique skills and abilities, but it’s rare for someone to be great at all topics. If you want to help your child, it’s best to focus on the subjects you’re familiar with and hire a tutor to support them with others.

That way, you can keep a cool head and support your child instead of becoming frustrated and causing arguments.

The Bottom Line

Passing the 11+ can give your child better education opportunities, and it’s no secret that grammar schools usually perform higher than other educational facilities.

However, it’s also essential to encourage your child and help them develop a passion for learning instead of feeling it’s a chore.

If you need any help, please don’t hesitate to contact our friendly tutoring service for more information.

We work with young students from all backgrounds and abilities and can give your child the confidence and knowledge they need to pass the 11+ exam and look forward to a future with more opportunities.