An Overview Of The Eleven Plus Exam
The eleven plus exam is an assessment given to a child during their final year of their primary education in order to access a place at grammar school. Grammar schools use the eleven plus exam to pick the top achieving children who are deemed to have the potential to perform well within this demanding environment.
Grammar schools used to be compulsory throughout the UK, but since 1970, the eleven plus exam was only required in regions that still chose to operate grammar schools.
A great deal of private schools, independent schools, foundation schools and local authorities are still admitting students based on the result of the test. It is still recognised extensively in Lincolnshire, Kent, and Bucks.
What Type Of Eleven Plus Exam Will My Child Take?
The eleven plus exam that your child will take will vary between different grammar schools and Local Authorities. Each school can choose how it selects the children it will take on board, but overall the eleven plus exam is the preferred option for non-selective schools.
Selective schools look to accept children who not only have high academic potential but also show great skills in one particular area e.g. music, sport, technology. We’ll focus on non-selective grammar schools.
Grammar schools choose either to set their own exam using their own teachers to set the questions, or follow the format of one of the nationally recognised eleven plus testing bodies. Out of all the schools in the country, 95% will follow the nationally recognised formats.
These bodies are GL Assessment and the University of Durham CEM. Both test along the same lines, looking at verbal reasoning, non-verbal reasoning, English and numerical reasoning, just in different ways.
The Durham CEM is probably the wider adopted format, with its popularity growing in recent years due to its ‘untutorable’ content. They do not release past papers and look to test on natural ability. The aim is to make the test fairer for those who cannot access additional tutoring.
As mentioned, the questions incorporated into the assessment will be based on English, Mathematics, Non-Verbal Reasoning and Verbal Reasoning. The examination may be divided into 2-3 examinations. Let us take a closer look at each area.
English and Mathematics (Numerical Reasoning)
The English and Maths tests are often incorporated by the Local Authorities and the schools themselves. However, the coverage on the topic may not be that extensive compared to the non-verbal and verbal reasoning. When they are used in the eleven plus exam, expect that the requirement on the exam will be significant.
Your child’s learning should be focused on comprehension work, vocabulary skills, cloze text, and general English ability.
A competence in maths should also be shown by your child that pushes the level taught in the national curriculum. Areas such as ratio, long division, long multiplication, percentages, fractions, and importantly, manipulation of all of these, will be covered.
Most independent schools and Local Authorities highly emphasise non-verbal reasoning skills. The assessment will prompt your child to analyse diagrams and images, finding a solution based on the complex patterns shown.
Non-Verbal Reasoning tests your child’s logic, thought process, and the ability to solve problems that have no numerical or written reasoning. It is a part of the eleven plus exam which does not require a high precision and eloquence on the written language.
The verbal reasoning included in the eleven plus exam will compel your child to examine texts, word structure, sequencing events, and problem-solving skills amongst others. In this part, your child is required to have a profound understanding of English grammar and an extensive vocabulary. Most independent schools and Local Authorities are administering at least a single verbal reasoning assessment.
The Format Of The Eleven Plus Exam
The eleven plus exams are sat in 1 – 2 exam periods depending on location. The majority of schools will sit one exam with 2 papers, lasting approximately three hours.
The answer format for the nationally recognised exam types (Durham CEM & GL Assessment) is typically multiple choice with the answers being identified on a separate page. Some exams do require the answers to be worked out on the paper themselves.
A great way to prepare for the eleven plus exam is for your child to sit mock exams before the main event. Here at Fraser Stevens Learning, we offer up to three mock exams to all our face to face students, with options for our FSL 11+ Online customers, too.
Passing The Eleven Plus Exam
The eleven plus exam is highly competitive with there only being a set number of places within the grammar schools available. Passing the eleven plus exam is not a guarantee for a school place in some regions so it is best to carefully consider which schools you want to apply for. See our regional information for more details on the schools in each region.
Typically the pass rate of the eleven plus is high, with only the top 30% of children sitting the exam passing. The pass rate is set at this level to ensure that the schools have access to the top performing students.
In some regions, due to demand, the pass rate is set so that only the top 25% of children pass. Again, it is crucial that careful consideration is taken as to which school you want to apply for to have the best chance possible to succeed.
Failing The Eleven Plus Exam
Obviously, everyone wants to pass the eleven plus, but as can be seen above it’s not possible, and some children will fail. If the mark is close to the pass mark then an appeal can be lodged to overturn the result. This can work, but there are no guarantees.
Kent has a unique appeal system if a child fails the eleven plus. If the headteacher of that child deems the exam not to be representative of their ability, as proven by the child’s work standard at school, they can appeal the result and submit a report to the examiners.
But failing the eleven plus isn’t the be all and end all. In preparation for the exam, a child will often improve greatly their abilities in core subject areas which help them to push on in their future academic studies and they gain more confidence in their own abilities which can have a positive impact on general behaviour.
So What Next
To get started on your eleven plus journey, we have free worksheets available for your child whether they are in Year 4 or Year 5. Within our free worksheets, you can access various different work samples across the eleven plus exam range.