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CEM 11 plus: everything you need to know

Exam guides
Learn about the CEM 11 plus test, question styles and how to help your child prepare.

Contents

What is CEM 11 plus?

Until recently, CEM (Centre for Evaluation and Monitoring) was a main provider of grammar school 11 plus exams.

In late 2022, CEM announced they were switching to online exams and no longer providing standard 11 plus exams. GL (Granada Learning) has once again become the main provider of admissions testing for UK grammar schools.

Most grammar schools are switching to GL for the 2023–24 admissions season. If you're applying for your child to enter Year 7 in September 2024, they will likely be taking a GL exam. Learn more:

GL exam guide

If you have any questions about which exam your target school will be using, we're happy to help – email us at [email protected].

Looking for information on CEM Select?

The Centre for Evaluation and Monitoring also provides a computer assessment, CEM Select. A growing number of UK schools are using it as part of their tests for standard entry or late transfer.

Check our CEM Select guide for an in-depth breakdown of the skills and content assessed:

CEM Select guide
A parents' guide to CEM Select

What was the difference between CEM and GL 11 plus?

Both exam providers assessed similar skills, but the key differences were:

  • GL publishes practice materials, while CEM did not.

  • Timings and structure – GL papers are separated by subject, while CEM integrated all subjects in shorter timed sections.

  • GL content is less closely mapped to the national curriculum and places more emphasis on logical reasoning and spelling.

How is the 11 plus scored?

All marks from each paper are combined to give a total score. Subjects may be weighted differently depending on the school. The score is usually age standardised to remove any disadvantage for children who were born later in the year.

Atom Mock Tests provide your child with a standardised age score (SAS) equivalent to the scoring used in real 11 plus exams. We recommend that students aim for a SAS of at least 120 when practising for grammar school entry.

However, there is no single pass mark, as scoring cut-offs will depend on the admissions criteria of the school. Grammar school entry is more competitive in some regions than others. We can provide estimates for your target schools – please email us at [email protected] stating the schools you're interested in.

How challenging is the 11 plus?

The 11 plus is designed to test children’s potential to thrive in an academically demanding grammar school environment. It’s intended to challenge the top 25% of a cohort, with a number of questions covering academic content not yet taught in the classroom, under stringent time constraints.

How to prepare for the 11 plus

The ideal time to start preparing for the 11 plus is in the summer term of Year 4 or early autumn term of Year 5. Starting early and practising often in bitesize chunks will minimise stress and pressure.

Build curriculum knowledge

When preparing for an exam it can be tempting to jump straight into using past papers. However, this is not an effective way to learn, and can cause children to feel demotivated. Learners should build a secure understanding of the 11 plus content before being tested under exam conditions.

Build exam technique

Once your child is confident with the 11 plus curriculum, begin to introduce practice tests to help them get used to question formats and timings. They will develop essential time management skills, and become familiar with what to expect on exam day.

Celebrate progress

To keep motivation high, be sure to celebrate each milestone in your child's revision, no matter how minor! Small rewards and plenty of breaks help young learners to stay engaged.

Support wellbeing

Preparing for exams can feel overwhelming for young people. Here's how to prepare mentally and emotionally, and how to help your child manage test anxiety should it arise.

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All-in-one online platform for 11+ preparation

Wondering how to make sure your child covers the depth and breadth of the entire 11 plus curriculum, stays on track with their progress, and gets help when they're stuck? Online learning is a particularly efficient, cost-effective (and fun) way to do this!

Atom Nucleus is an online learning platform that gives your child everything they need to prepare for grammar school exams.

Children work independently through over 90,000 interactive practice questions in English, maths, verbal and non-verbal reasoning. Teacher-created helpsheets and videos help them discover new concepts and consolidate their learning.

Atom's algorithm keeps children on their ideal learning path, tailored to their unique learning style and pace to keep them challenged and motivated.

See how Atom Nucleus works

Try answering some 11+ questions

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Know they're on track for 11+ success

Atom’s Parent Portal gives you at-a-glance progress reports and detailed transcripts.

You can see how your child is performing in each subtopic compared to their peers, making it easy to celebrate those milestones together.

Example of Atom Nucleus Parent Portal

Unlimited Mock Tests

Atom Nucleus gives children access to unlimited Mock Tests tailored to your target schools. They're designed to mirror the format and style of real 11 plus questions, so your child will go into the exam knowing exactly what to expect.

And what's more, everything is automatically marked for you.

Try Atom Nucleus free for 5 days

Begin your child's journey to grammar school today. Use the full features of Atom Nucleus free for 5 days – cancel anytime.

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