What to expect in the 11+ exam

What to expect in the 11+ exam



What is the 11+ exam?

The ‘11+’ is a term used to describe a variety of tests used to determine whether a child is eligible for entry the Grammar School. The exact contents and format of the exam can vary a lot from region to region, as can pass marks. Therefore, it is important to look into the details for the test in your area and be ready for what will happen on the day of the test.

This article will look into some of the main features of the 11+ exam and is intended as a general guide for you to help your child feel confident and prepared for the real test!


What should my child expect in the 11+ exam?



Most 11+ exams contain questions on all or some of the following subjects:

  1. English – Exams tasks could include comprehension, spelling, punctuation or grammar and questions will generally be based on skills covered in the Key Stage 2 English curriculum.
  2. Maths – Questions in the exam tend to be based on Key Stage 2 Maths concepts. Problem-solving and multistep word problems are common as examiners are looking for children to ‘think outside the box’ and use a range of skills.
  3. Verbal reasoning – Children will be tested on their ability to solve problems involving words, numbers and letters. Common questions include sequences, relationships, codes and word meanings (synonyms and antonyms). A wide vocabulary is essential for success!
  4. Non-Verbal and Spatial Reasoning - This area tests children on their ability to see patterns and relationships between 2 and 3D shapes. Common types include sequences and patterns, similarities and differences and code type questions.

Did you know EdPlace have thousands of activities, resources and practice papers for all of these 11+ subjects?

Test our 11+ activities


Timing of the 11+ exam

The timing of 11+ papers varies between regions and you should check the actual times for the test your child will be sitting. It is common for children to not finish the paper – but fear not, this is not necessarily a problem. There should be a clock visible in the room and the start and finish times (or the time allowed for the paper) should be clearly displayed for all students to see. Top tip: make sure your child can calculate time intervals so that they can quickly work out how much time to have left.


Answer formats in the 11+ exam

The majority of 11+ exams are either Multiple Choice format or Standard Answer format.

Multiple choice exams are where students are given a small list of possible answers to choose the best one from. Often, answers are recorded on a special answer paper with a grid format where children mark their chosen answers. In the list of possible answer choices, there is often at least one ‘silly’ answer choice, along with a few obvious ‘wrong answers’ which are designed to catch out children who haven’t read the question fully or who have not completed all the steps in a word problem, for example. It is useful to practice filling out the special answer paper and to look at the answer options with your child and discuss the types of wrong answers which are shown.

Standard format exams are where the child is asked to write their answer in a space provided. There will often be space for jottings in subjects like Maths and you should encourage your child to show their working as this sometimes means they are awarded 1 point in a 2-point question for example. In Standard Format English exams, children will normally be expected to write in full sentences with good spelling and punctuation. It’s important to check what the question is asking for e.g. ‘find and copy a word or phrase from the text’ means that they must quote directly from the text, not write their own idea.


Equipment needed for the 11+ exam

In most cases, stationery will be supplied for the exam, or a list of requirements will be supplied in advance. Make sure your child knows how to use a protractor and ruler properly if these are allowed. When rubbing out and changing answers, children need to be thorough and ensure their answer is clear, especially in Multiple Choice formats.


Using jottings in the 11+ exam

In most 11+ exams, children will be allowed to (and should be in the habit of) making jottings, underlining keyword and phrases and showing their working.


What to do if my child runs out of time in the 11+ exam

Many children worry about running out of time in the exam or finding the questions too hard and there are some important things to remember if this happens.

  1. Children do not need to gain 100% to pass the exam. It is really important that questions they do answer, are answered accurately and carefully.
  2. If a question is simply too difficult, they should make an educated guess and move on.
  3. Don’t leave any questions blank. Particularly in the Multiple-choice format, it is worth giving an answer to every question even if some are guesses towards the last few minutes.
  4. Pace – do some timed practice with your child. Discuss techniques, such as finding and completing the easier questions first and returning to tricky ones later.

If your child finishes the paper with plenty of time to spare, it is likely they may have made some mistakes. Practise how to check their answers with them, as many children don’t understand how to do this effectively and just check they haven’t missed any! Encourage them to go back to the first question and rework as many answers as they can before their time runs out.


Tips for success for 11+ exam success


Maths 11+ exam tips

  • Jottings, workings and notes! Always make notes and check your working.

  • Read the question carefully! Most 11+ questions are two-step or multi-step.

  • Have a really firm grasp of place value, times tables and fraction, percentages and decimals - this is essential for 11+ success.


English 11+ exam tips

  • Read the text carefully through once before you look at the questions.

  • Incomprehension tasks, check every answer against the text and ensure you’ve found evidence to prove your answer.

  • In proofreading tasks, bear in mind that there are unlikely to be more than 1 or 2 questions where the answer is ‘N’ for no mistake!


Verbal reasoning 11+ exam tips

  • Vocabulary questions can be the trickiest type in this area. If you don’t know the meaning or the words, look carefully at their roots and any prefixes or suffixes for clues as to their meanings.

  • Look and listen carefully in the practice section (if there is one), some question types look very similar and it is important you listen to, or read, any instructions really carefully.


Non-verbal reasoning 11+ exam tips

  • Look carefully for similarities and differences – this is key to many NVR questions.

  • Patterns feature heavily in NVR too, look for alternative patterns or parts of patterns which increase or decrease in size or number.

  • Think ‘What has stayed the same, and what is different?’ when you look at patterns and shapes. This can help you spot ‘like’ and ‘unlike’ shapes.


How can EdPlace help?

Is your child taking the 11+ this year? EdPlace are here to help your child succeed!

  • Our exam board specific articles for GL and CEM have more detailed information on exam boards and their test styles.
  • We can offer a huge range of 11+ practice papers, skill-building activities and materials for you to use online or download.
  • Take a look at our fantastic resources to help lead your child down the road to success!  

Try our 11+ practice resources