Is your child due to sit the Eleven Plus this year? Are you looking to find some more information on the exam? Well, this guide is designed for you. It’s packed with all the information you need; with descriptions of what the exam entails and list of counties where the exam is used, enabling you to find information that is specific to your child.


The Eleven Plus exam was introduced in 1944 when the three-part system of secondary schools was created; Secondary Technical schools, Secondary Modern schools and Grammar schools. It was put in place to ensure that there would be a secondary school suitable for each individual pupil’s needs; with the Eleven Plus being used to determine which children would be better suited to the ‘elite’ grammar school system.
To this day, some Local Education Authorities (LEA) still offer grammar school education and, therefore, still use the Eleven Plus exam as a way of selecting those most suitable to attend these schools.
Children living in these areas will be given the opportunity to sit the exam during Year 6 (their final year at primary school).


The exam itself is split into four papers. This is a generic guide and may differ from one LEA to another but, generally, they follow a similar format:

1. Verbal Reasoning
The verbal reasoning tests are short tasks used to test a child’s vocabulary and also maths skills. They are likely to be based mainly around words but also numbers. However, a brilliant vocabulary and grasp of maths skills are not the only tools required to complete these tasks confidently.
The child is also tested on their logical deduction skills, by way of making sense of codes, for example. This is all designed to test the natural level of intelligence of the child and not just those skills that can be learned.
The tests may include exercises such as:

- Finding two words from a group that are the closest in meaning
- Finding a word in a sentence that is hidden between two words, e.g. the ending of one word and the beginning of the following word go together to form a new word.
- Finding words in a sentence that have the opposite meaning
- There may also be words that are formed by way of a code, which may include letters and numbers, and the child would need to crack the code to provide the answer

2. Non-Verbal Reasoning
These tasks also require logic, but are more based around shape, pattern and sequences. They will test the child’s spatial awareness and ability to process graphic information and will require more understanding of rotation and symmetry. They are not taught widely in schools but are more used as an aptitude test, and the skills needed to solve the problems are all integral to general learning.
The non-verbal test, which is normally a multiple choice format, may have tasks such as:

- Looking at a sequence of shapes and deciding which shape should come next in the sequence
- Looking at some shapes that have been rotated in a particular order and choosing the next shape following the rotation order
- Looking at a pattern and selecting the correct answer, from a selection, that shows that pattern correctly reflected

3. Mathematics
The maths test will obviously require a good understanding of general maths. The topics covered in the test follow the same structure as those learned through Key Stage 2.
It will probably be the test that most children will ‘feel at home with’ as they will have, no doubt, had numerous maths tests of a similar nature during their primary school years.
Some of the concepts that children need to be familiar with are (click on the links to see our worksheets in that topic):

- Four basic operations: addition, subtraction, multiplication and division
- Time
- Money
- Metric system
- Fractions
- Decimals
- Prime numbers
- Graphs
- Ratio
- Problem solving

4. English
This is the paper that will probably vary the most between regions. Some are only used in the appeal process, and others are taken as part of the whole exam.
The paper could consist of a comprehension exercise, where the child is required to read a text and then answer questions about that text and meanings of words in it. This will provide evidence that although they may be proficient readers, they also have a good understanding of what they are reading.
There may also be an essay, or short story exercise; the child being given a subject matter or style of writing in which they should write.
Other English papers may include a selection of tasks such as (click on the links to see our worksheets in that topic):

- Punctuating sentences appropriately
- Ordering words alphabetically
- Putting words in the correct order to form a sentence
- Inserting words, from a bank of words, where they have been omitted in a sentence

To be successful in these papers, the child will have a vocabulary that is appropriate for their age, a basic knowledge of grammar and sentence structure and be able to engage the reader with an interesting piece of writing.


As mentioned before, grammar schools now only exist in a few Local Education Authorities around the country, so only schools within those regions will invite children to sit the eleven plus exam. The pass grades also vary between authorities and, indeed, from year to year. A general rule of thumb seems to be that a pass mark would be in the region of 115-125. The ‘raw’ score, i.e. the number of questions the child answered correctly, is also weighted in accordance to the child’s age at the time of the test, and a ‘standardised’ score is given. The top say, 15-20% of children may be then offered a place at a grammar school. This figure is in accordance to how many places are available at grammar schools in the area that year. Although, if some of these places are not taken up, the places will then be offered to next highest scoring children.
To comfortably pass the exam, your child should be looking to achieve an 80-90% score on the different papers.
To find out more detailed information about the exam in your area, the best place to look would be on the relevant page of that LEA website.
Click here to find a list of links to the authorities that still have grammar schools in their area and links to the appropriate page where you can find out more about selecting the correct school for your child and what the process involves.

In the next chapter, you will be given tips and tricks on how to help your child prepare for the exam and how to revise for the different elements that they will be tested on.