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Your guide to the 11+ exam

If your child is in their final year at primary school, you may have heard people talking about the 11+ exam and wondering what exactly it is.

Questions like ‘is it compulsive?’, ‘how hard is it?’ and ‘what will they be tested on?’ may be running through your mind, so hopefully our guide to the 11+ exam will answer all the things you don’t know.

What is the 11+ exam?

The 11+ exam is a test taken by pupils in year 6. Not all pupils take it as it is not compulsory, it is a way of determining which pupils are academically suited to grammar schools or selective schools when it is time to move forward in Year 7. Wales and Scotland have abolished grammar schools, meaning that the 11+ exam is now only taken in parts of England that still have grammar schools.

When and where can I expect my child to sit the 11+ exam?

If your child attends a local authority primary school, they will sit the exam in one of their classrooms. If you go to a different type of school, you will have to visit somewhere else to take the exam, most commonly a grammar school. Testing day depends on where you live, although it’s often early on in the autumn term in September. You will usually get a chance to take a practice 11+ a few days before at school.

What kind of things are covered in the 11+ exam?

The exam will cover four main topics: verbal reasoning, non-verbal reasoning, maths, and English. All the questions are multiple choice, except for the English one, which will require your child to produce a written piece of work. Below are descriptions of all the different topic areas in the exam.

  • Verbal reasoning: These questions are about solving problems and following sequences to do with words and text. Verbal reasoning tests your child’s English grammar and vocabulary.
  • Non-verbal reasoning: During the non-verbal reasoning paper, your child will need to solve problems to do with diagrams and pictures. There’s also an element of maths.
  • Maths: In the maths section your child will be tested on maths concepts, skills, and problems that have to be solved in multiple stages.
  • English: The English paper is looking to test your child’s creative writing skills and they will be required to plan and produce a piece of written work.

How should my child prepare?

You can ask your child’s teachers for help regarding the 11+ exam, as most of them will be able to give you pointers and tell you about where your child’s maths and English needs to improve. You can also make use of the great resources on our website, including practice papers and tutorials, to give them vital practice ahead of exam day.