InspireBlog11 PlusWhat is the 11+ exam?

What is the 11+ exam?

The 11+ exam is a test used by grammar and independent secondary schools to select children. The test is taken by children in year 6 who are hoping to gain a place in these selective schools.

The 11+ tests can be extremely challenging, as they tend to employ types of questions that aren’t generally covered in state primary schools. The tests assess all or some of the following areas:

  • Mathematical skills
  • Verbal reasoning (vocabulary and word associations)
  • English comprehension, spelling, punctuation and grammar (SPaG)
  • Non-verbal reasoning (mathematical concepts, pattern recognition and logical reasoning)
  • Creative writing


Grammar schools use 11+ exams created by CEM (Centre for Evaluation & Monitoring) and GL (GL Assessment). Some independent schools also use GL assessments while others create their own exams. Alongside a written exam, some schools also require children to attend an interview and some request a reference from their primary school.

Will my child have to sit different exams at different schools?

Some grammar and independent schools are part of a consortium which share one written entrance exam. Other schools organise their own entrance testing. The best advice is to check the website(s) of the school(s) you are interested in. Most school websites have an area dedicated to admissions. Here you will also find information about deadlines for registering for 11+ entrance testing. Please also bear in mind that independent schools currently charge a £100 registration fee.

How can I give my child the best chance of success?

Grammar and independent school entry are highly competitive. This makes sense when you consider, for example, that there are only approximately 163 grammar schools in England out of a total of around 3000 state secondary schools. Indeed, the pass rate for grammar schools can be as low as 3 per cent!

As mentioned, 11+ tests tend to use types of questions that aren’t addressed in state primary schools, so it is important to give your child plenty of time to learn and prepare for the exams.

At VAKS, we are experts with 18 years of experience in preparing children for grammar and independent school selection in North London, Hertfordshire, Bedfordshire and Essex. We provide specialist 11+ tutoring specific to GL and CEM as well as independent school specifications, aimed to give children the best chance of success in the 11+ exam. Alongside filling gaps in learning and developing key skills, we thoroughly teach exam technique and strategies. These include time management, understanding different types of questions and school specifications, and exam tips and tricks from our experienced teachers. We teach mindfulness skills to help children to cope with any stress they may be feeling. We also organise mock exams to ensure that children become familiar and comfortable with exam conditions. Children are taught in small groups to ensure that they receive the attention and support they need to refine, consolidate and accelerate their skills.

Please call us on 0800 4048172 or email if you would like to discuss ways that we can help you.


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