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The “11 + Exam” explained

If you are planning to move to the UK and your children are still in primary school, you may have heard about the “11 + Exam”.

The 11+ Exam: a quick guide

The 11+ is an examination taken by pupils in their last year of primary school, which is Year 6 of the British Curriculum, for the entrance to Grammar Schools and Independent Schools.

The ’11’ does not refer to the school Year Group but to the entry age in the secondary education (for an entry in Year 7, which is when pupils are between 11 and 12 years old).

This exam is not obligatory, as comprehensive secondary state schools do not require any entrance exam. They will admit pupils simply based on their age.

1. What is the 11+ exam?

This test is a selective test.

It was born out of the “tripartite system” that was introduced to England, Wales and Northern Ireland in 1944, that split schools into grammar, technical and secondary-modern classifications.

It was initially created to select the most able children and give them the opportunity to gain a place into a state- funded grammar school.

This system has now become obsolete, and only a few Grammar Schools still remain these days.

2. Which schools is the 11+ for?

Today, the 11+ test is still used for:

  • Grammar schools entry (a category of state secondary schools)
  • Secondary independent schools (fee-paying schools).

3. How does it work?

The 11+ exam varies throughout the country and the type of school chosen (Grammar school/ Independent School) in terms of the subjects and also the examining board used.

There are generally 4 subjects:

–          Verbal reasoning: Selecting words, Sorting words, Codes and Sequences, Verbal and Numerical Logic

–          Non-verbal reasoning: Identifying Shapes, Missing Shapes, Rotating Shapes, Loaded Shapes

–          English: Comprehension, Spelling, Vocabulary, Punctuation & Grammar, Word Choice

–          Maths: Number Equation, Number Logic, Graphic Data, Shape & Size

Maths and English tend to follow the National Curriculum, but the verbal and non-verbal reasoning are not school-based subjects.

Parents should check, for each school they would like apply for, the calendar of these tests as well as the subjects taken.

Important to know: some Independent Schools may use the Common Entrance Exam (CEE), or their own exam instead of the standard 11+ Exam. You should always check for this information on the schools’ website or by speaking with the school’s Registrar.

4. How to prepare my child for the 11 + Exam?

The 11+ plus test is not prepared as part of the curriculum in the UK state school system.

This means that if your child is currently in the UK state school system, or abroad, you will need to prepare it privately, by yourself or with a tutor.

A lot of UK Independent Schools prepare the children for the 11 + (that is the reason why they are called “Prep-Schools”), but the selection is so hard that most parents still have extra tutoring for their children.

Check out this really good website on preparing the 11+ exams.

5. When shall I start preparing my child for the 11+?

From our experience, we would say that the ideal time to start this training is 12 to 18 months prior to the exam.

6. How do children pass the 11 + Exam?

  • For Grammar Schools, the test can be extremely selective. Few places and lots of competitors (e.g. 450 applicants for 80 places is often the ratio). This means that there is no standard pass mark. In this example, the school will take the top 80 test marks.
  • Same for the Independent schools: the better the academic results and reputation the school have, the higher the pass mark will be.

The last thing to bear in mind as well is that other criteria can exist to get a place in your most coveted school such as: faith, siblings, distance to the school, talent in sport/music …

Once again, always do your research and check the admission criteria for each school or contact Simply London if you need any educational advice.

Note: this post was originally published in September 2016 and has been updated for comprehensiveness.

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