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11 plus exams: frequently asked questions

Mar 19, 2024, 5:08 PM

Are you considering applying to a grammar school? We've collated answers to common questions about the 11 plus and grammar school admissions.

Watch the video below to learn more from Gemma, Head of Customer Success at Atom Learning.

11 plus FAQs

What is the 11 plus?

The 11 plus is an academic test which children take to apply for a place at a grammar school. The exam is designed to identify children who are working at the top ability range in their year group (normally the top 25%).

What subjects are tested on the 11 plus?

The content of the 11 plus exam varies between schools and local counties. Most grammar schools assess children's skills in English and maths as these are the core subjects studied in Key Stage 2. Some 11 plus exams include questions in verbal reasoning and non-verbal reasoning, which are not taught on the national curriculum.

When will my child take the 11 plus?

Your child will take the 11 plus exam in the autumn term in Year 6. It usually takes place on a Saturday in September, although dates will vary between schools and local areas.

Learn about the key dates for your local 11 plus exams.

Where will my child sit the exam?

Your child will usually take the 11 plus exam at the school you’re applying for, or one of the other schools in the consortium. In some areas (such as Buckinghamshire), your child will take the exam at their own primary school.

Does the 11 plus cost anything?

No – the 11 plus exam is completely free. Some schools hold familiarisation sessions (mock exams) which may incur a small cost, but these are optional.

How long does the 11 plus exam take?

The length of the exam will vary depending on the number of papers set. It’s rare for an individual paper to last longer than one hour, and most 11 plus exams will be completed within two hours. If your child’s target school sets more than one paper, they will provide a short break between papers so that children have time for refreshments and toilet breaks.

What are the question formats?

Multiple-choice questions are the most common types of questions in 11 plus exams. English and maths papers provided by GL Assessment are all multiple-choice.

However, some papers may require free responses – particularly creative writing tests and papers created internally by school staff (often as a second-stage assessment).

How are 11 plus exams marked?

Most 11 plus papers – particularly those created by GL Assessment – will be marked by computer. Your child will note their answers on a separate answer sheet which is scanned and marked electronically.

Papers with free-form answers will often be marked in person. If your child has to complete a written exercise as part of the exam, this might only be marked in certain circumstances – such as if your child has achieved a high enough score on the multiple-choice papers, or if the written exercise needs to be used in borderline cases.

How are 11 plus exams scored?

Your child’s raw marks in the paper will be added together to create a total score. In most cases, this score will then be age-standardised to ensure that children born later in the school year aren’t disadvantaged. This is a statistical process that takes into account your child’s raw mark and their age at the time of the exam in years and months. Your child’s standardised score will then be placed in rank order with other children’s scores from the same cohort.

What is the pass mark for the 11 plus?

The pass mark will vary depending on the school your child is applying for, or whether the school is a member of a consortium.

Some schools and consortiums will have specific pass marks (children taking the Kent Test, for example, usually need to have standardised scores higher than 109 in each of their tests to be eligible for a place), and we recommend that your child works towards a standardised score of 110 and above when preparing for the exam.

However, plenty of schools will not set their pass mark until the exams have been completed, while some schools will just select the highest-ranked children until all of the Year 7 places have been filled.

Can my child retake the 11 plus?

Unfortunately, no. the 11 plus exam may only be taken once for each school or consortium.

When should my child start preparing?

We recommend that children start preparing for the 11 plus at the end of Year 4 or the beginning of Year 5.

A lot of content is covered in the exam – particularly if your child’s target school assesses verbal reasoning or non-verbal reasoning, which are not taught on the national curriculum. Using a little-and-often approach to revision will help your child establish a routine and avoid becoming demotivated.

Where can I download 11 plus past papers?

There are no officially-published 11 plus past papers as these are usually intellectual property and have copyright regulations. However, some schools may publish familiarisation (sample) papers on their website, and with an Atom Home subscription, you can access 11 plus practice papers for every grammar school and consortium in the country.

Is the 11 plus compulsory?

No – the 11 plus is not compulsory. In some areas, such as Buckinghamshire, your child will automatically be registered for the 11 plus if they attend a primary school in the county. However, you can opt-out if you do not wish your child to take the exam or apply for a grammar school place.

How do I apply for the 11 plus?

In most counties, you will need to register your child to take the 11 plus – usually via an online form on your target school’s website. The form is sometimes called a Supplementary Information Form (SIF).

Check the website for each school you’re applying for, as the process and registration dates can vary. Note that this process is just for registering your child to take the exam, as you will need to apply for a school place separately.

When will I get my child's 11 plus results?

The grammar school will write to you, or send you an email, with the outcome of your child’s results in mid-October – about a month after they have taken the exam.

In most cases, you will not receive a breakdown of your child’s marks; the school will just inform you whether your child meets the eligible standard. You can then use this information to apply for a school place.

Can you fail the 11 plus?

Yes, unfortunately it is possible to fail the 11 plus exam. If a student does not pass the 11 plus, it simply means that they are not eligible for admission to a grammar school.

However, it doesn't mean the end of their educational journey. There are many other secondary school options available including comprehensive schools, faith schools, and other types of academies which do not require the 11 plus exam for admission.

If my child passes, are they guaranteed a place?

No. Passing the 11 plus demonstrates to the school that your child is suitable for a grammar school education (i.e. ‘eligible’), but places will be allocated depending on other criteria. This will be outlined in your target school’s admissions policy.

We have information about each grammar school and its admissions criteria on our blog.

My child is eligible for a place. How do I apply?

Secondary school places in England are applied for through your local authority (local council). If you’re applying to any state secondary school, you will need to complete a common application form (CAF), listing your school preferences in order. This form will need to be submitted on your home local authority website by 31st October when your child is in Year 6.

My child hasn't been successful. Can I appeal?

Yes – you have a legal right to challenge the school’s decision through an appeal. The appeal success rate will vary depending on the school and county, but on average, around 20% of parents who appeal their child’s place are successful.

What is a good 11 plus standardised score?

A good 11 plus standardised score can vary depending on the school your child is applying for, or whether the school is part of a consortium.

Some schools and consortiums have specific pass marks. For instance, children taking the Kent Test usually need to have standardised scores higher than 109 in each of their tests to be eligible for a place. However, as a general rule of thumb, we recommend that your child works towards a standardised score of 110 and above when preparing for the exam.

Please note that some schools will not set their pass mark until the exams have been completed, and some schools will simply select the highest-ranked children until all of the Year 7 places have been filled.

Learn more about what makes a good 11 plus score.

What's the difference between the SATs and the 11 plus?

The SATs and the 11 plus are both exams taken by students in the UK, but they serve different purposes.

The SATs are standardised tests taken by all students at the end of Key Stage 2 (Year 6) and are used to measure a student's understanding of the national curriculum. The results are used by the government to assess school performance.

On the other hand, the 11 plus exam is an optional test taken by students who wish to apply to grammar schools. The subjects tested and the format of the 11 plus exam can vary depending on the school or consortium, and it often includes areas not covered in the national curriculum, such as verbal and non-verbal reasoning.

Tailored preparation for your local 11 plus

Unlock everything you need for 11 plus grammar exams, in one package.

Atom Home gives your child powerful, targeted learning. You'll get 90,000 practice questions across English, maths, verbal reasoning and non-verbal reasoning. Real-time feedback and simple explanations make your child’s learning stick.

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Your subscription includes 11 plus mock tests and practice papers – both paper and online – that mirror your local 11+ exam. Practice makes perfect.

No other 11 plus provider gives you such a clear plan for your child's prep. Each week, we give your child a list of activities, designed to make sure they master every topic in time for exam day. You can track their progress and compare it to other applicants.


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We know how important this process is for you and your child. Please don't hesitate to get in touch with any questions you may have about the 11 plus or applying to grammar schools.

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