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What is the 11+ examination?

The 11+ examination is a test which your child might take in the last year of primary school if you are considering sending them to a state-funded grammar school OR a private independent school for secondary school. It tests academic ability.


What is the difference between grammar and independent schools?

Grammar schools are highly selective state schools (state-funded) around the country, and they are incredibly competitive. Some grammar schools have as many as 1,500 students applying for only 200 spaces. Most grammar schools choose students based on a pass mark of the examination followed by proximity to the school.

Independent schools are also highly selective, but are fee-paying schools. Many of these independent schools offer reduction in fees through scholarships for academic, music and/or sports achievements. These scholarships might give discounted school fees, but they are not easy to receive.


Does my child have to take the 11+ exam?

If you intend to send your child to a maintained or academy state school (i.e. not a grammar school), then no examination is required. Selection for state secondary schools is based on factors such as SEND, siblings, medical/social needs and location. Faith schools, academies and free schools may have additional requirements.


Are the 11+ examinations all the same?

No! It is very important to be aware that the ‘11+’ is not one exam that is the same across the country. Usually, the exam includes the testing of a child’s maths and English ability, but it may also include Verbal and Non-Verbal Reasoning. Some schools include additional topics such as science or problem solving. There may be an interview involved, either before the exam or after. The exam may even be in two stages, the second round only for those who have been selected from the first round. Finally, the exam may be multiple-choice or it may require longer written answers. Check the admissions section of the school website, for each school you are considering. Find out what the exam will involve and what subjects will be tested.


How do I know which schools to choose?

Choosing the right school for your child is a big decision. Of course, you want to find a great school, but it must be right for your child. There are lots of different aspects of schools that you need to take into consideration, and these are all dependent on your child and their academic ability and interests. Read our blogpost which gives a list of criteria which you may wish to consider.


When is the 11+ examination?

The 11+ examinations take place at different times depending on the school and area. In general, 11+ examinations take place between September and February of Year 6. This is not always the case, so always check each school’s admissions criteria.


When should I start preparing my child?

There is no right answer to this question as each child learns at different speeds. As a guide, many parents choose to start preparation from the end of Year 4 or the beginning of Year 5.


What are NFER, GL Assessment, CEM, CEM Select, Future Stories Community Enterprise and ISEB?

GL Assessment and ISEB are the main examining boards for the 11+ examinations and NFER is the previous name for GL Assessment. CEM is another exam provider but as of September 2023 does not administer 11+ examinations. CEM Select is the new 11+ provider through CEM. Future Stories Community Enterprise is another 11+ provider, usually used for grammar schools. It is a good idea to check which examining board the school that you are interested in uses so that you can prepare your child accordingly.


What if the school does not use these examining boards?

You may discover that the school you are interested in creates their own examination papers. You should still, however, be able to find out what style examination it will be.


What is the London 11+ Consortium?

Previously known as the North London Girls’ Schools’ Consortium, this is a group of independent London girls’ schools that came together to essentially reduce the pressure on girls at the 11+ entrance examination stage. Rather than sitting multiple exams, there is only one exam whether you are applying to one or more of the schools. Read our blogpost about the London 11+ Consortium for further information.


Can I purchase resources to prepare my child?

Absolutely. Once you know what the examination will entail, do some research to find resources that are suitable. We offer the following resources:

  • Creative Writing Skills by Bright Light Education. It is ideal preparation for an 11+ examination with a creative writing element.
  • 11+ Interview Practice Skills by Bright Light Education. This book is both a guide and an activity workbook, helping children (and parents) to prepare for competitive 11+ interviews.


How can I support my child at home?

Read our blogpost which lists some activities that you can do at home to help prepare your child. Encouraging your child to read a range of novels is vital for 11+ success so please also read our recommended reading list.


How can I help prepare my child for an interview?

Buy our book: 11+ Interview Practice Skills! You might also like to read our blogpost which gives some guidance about the 11+ interviews. Contact us if you would be interested in further interview practice as we run our own 11+ Interview Practice Workshop and Mock Interviews.

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