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A parents' guide to CEM Select

By Atom | Jun 21, 2023, 10:20 AM

A parents' guide to CEM Select

Is your child applying for a school that uses CEM Select as part of the admissions process? Keep reading for an in-depth breakdown of the skills and content assessed and find out how your child can prepare for success.

What is CEM Select?

CEM Select is a computer assessment designed by the Centre of Evaluation and Monitoring (CEM). A growing number of independent and grammar schools in the UK are using it as part of their entrance tests for standard entry or late transfer.

The test is designed to make the selection process fair for candidates. It allows pupils to show their academic potential and ability and demonstrate their real understanding of the content, rather than what they have learnt through repetition.

CEM Select is a highly time-pressured exam with six sections that have a combined time limit of one hour. Unlike other online assessments such as the ISEB Common Pre-Test and the London 11+ Consortium, CEM Select is non-adaptive. This means that the questions are pre-selected; students will see the exact same questions throughout the test. They can also move back through the questions to double-check their answers.

What are the question types in CEM Select?

There are three different question types in the test.

1. Multiple choice

Multiple-choice questions make up the vast majority of the CEM Select test. Pupils will need to use their mouse or trackpad to select the correct answer from a group of options shown on the screen. The option selected will be highlighted in yellow.

Multiple choice.gif

2. Drag and drop

Your child will need to use their mouse or trackpad to drag one of several options and drop it into the correct place on the screen.

Drag and drop question type on CEM Select

3. Auto-complete

Children will need to type the correct letters into each answer to auto-complete the word. If they type the incorrect letters, it will not auto-complete.

Complete the word.gif

Your child may wish to have a go testing out the different question formats with a CEM Select familiarisation test.

Which subjects are tested in CEM Select?

Candidates are tested in English comprehension, verbal reasoning, non-verbal reasoning and maths. It is important to note that English comprehension is included within the verbal reasoning section.

There are six sections in the test:

1. Comprehension

Comprehension is one of the longest sections in the test and is included within verbal reasoning.

On the left side of the screen, pupils will see a passage of fiction or non-fiction text, which can be scrolled through using a mouse/trackpad.

On the right side of the screen, they will need to work through 23 questions which assess their understanding of the text and the extent of their vocabulary.

2. Anagrams

In this verbal reasoning test, pupils will have 21 questions to answer.

Each question contains a sentence with one jumbled-up word – it is the pupils' task to drag the jumbled letters into the correct order.

3. Missing words

Candidates will be shown two passages of text (one after the other). Both passages will contain missing words.

For the first passage, pupils will need to type in the correct first two letters for each of the 25 missing words (the rest of the word will auto-complete). They will then need to repeat this process for the second passage, which has 20 missing words.

4. Shuffled sentences

In the last of the verbal reasoning questions, children will be presented with 20 sentences (one at a time). Each sentence will be made up of jumbled words and an extra word which is not required.

Pupils will need to rearrange the words to create a completed sentence, disposing of the unnecessary words by dragging them into the Word Bin.

5. General mathematics

Numerical ability is assessed in the general mathematics section of the test.

Pupils will have 30 questions to answer – each mapped to the Key Stage 2 maths curriculum.

6. Pictures

The final section of the CEM Select test assesses non-verbal reasoning – the ability to analyse visual information and solve problems.

There are 25 questions to complete. Each question contains 8 pictures on the left of the screen and one missing picture (signified by a question mark). On the right side of the screen, there will be 4 further pictures. Pupils will need to select a picture from the right which completes the set on the left.

CEM Select

Free practice questions

Download free resources to help your child practise drag-and-drop and missing word questions for the CEM Select exam.

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CEM Select free resources

How is CEM Select scored?

After completing the test, each pupil's scores will be age-standardised to take into account how well they have performed and their date of birth at the time of the exam. Candidates will input their date of birth within the ‘your details’ section before the exam begins.

Each school has their own secure account through which they access the assessment and results, which are made available to them within 72 hours of when the pupils take the test. Parents will not see the results.

As every school will have its own Planned Admission Number (PAN), the ‘pass mark’ or ‘required standard’ will vary depending on how many pupils the school can admit into the year group. This means there is no universal pass mark.

Which schools use CEM Select?

The following independent schools use CEM Select as part of their admissions process for 11 plus entry:

  • Bancroft's School

  • Cheadle Hulme School

  • City of London School for Girls

  • Dunottar School

  • Edgbaston High School for Girls

  • Exeter School

  • Farnborough Hill School

  • Guildford High School

  • Heathfield School Ascot

  • Holme (Eaton) Grange School

  • Hymers College

  • King’s Ely Junior School

  • Leicester Grammar School

  • Mill Hill School (Somerset)

  • Mill Hill School (Belmont)

  • Moreton Hall

  • Newcastle High School for Girls

  • Nottingham High School

  • Princethorpe College

  • Queen Anne’s School

  • Rendcomb College

  • St Edmund’s College

  • St Edward’s School, Cheltenham

  • St George’s Weybridge

  • St Joseph’s College, Ipswich

  • St Paul’s Girls’ School

  • Sutton High School

  • The Cathedral School Llandaff

  • The Grange School

  • The King’s School, Gloucester

  • The Royal Masonic School

  • Warwick School

  • Worth School

What exam technique is needed for CEM Select?

Work quickly

Students will need to work quickly but efficiently to answer as many questions as possible within the hour.

If they are struggling with a question, it is best that they move on to the next one to pick up marks. If they have time left at the end of the test, they can go back and work on any questions that they have left blank.

Read carefully

While it is important to work quickly, it is equally important not to rush. When both the question and possible answers appear on the screen simultaneously, it can be easy to get distracted. Students should read every question carefully to ensure they completely understand what they are required to do before moving on

Trust your instincts

Pupils should trust their instincts when answering questions and try not to overthink each one. If there is still any lingering doubt, they should return to the question at the end if they still have time and use the process of elimination to narrow down the correct answer.

How can my child prepare for CEM Select?

Learn new words

Help your child prepare for the verbal reasoning section of the exam by encouraging them to create a vocabulary log.

Every time they learn a new word, they can write it in their log along with the definition. To help them internalise their new vocabulary, use the words together in ordinary conversation so they become familiar with their meanings in context.

Read widely

Your child can develop key analytical and comprehension skills by reading a range of fiction and non-fiction material in advance of the exam day.

If your child is not a natural reader, check out our top tips for engaging your child with reading. If your child needs more support with their reading comprehension exam skills, we have a guide for that too.

Complete puzzles

Completing puzzles and playing games such as Sudoku and Lego can help improve logic, attention to detail and visualisation skills – all of which are vital for success in non-verbal reasoning.

For more guidance, take a look at our top tips for success for non-verbal reasoning.

Practice everyday maths

Successful candidates in the CEM Select exam will have a strong understanding of the Key Stage 2 national curriculum for maths.

Encourage your child to practise everyday maths at home. Activities such as practising times tables, calculating the food shop and cooking together can all help develop mathematical ability and improve academic confidence ahead of the exam day.

Excel in the CEM Select exam with Atom Nucleus

Atom Nucleus is an award-winning online learning platform designed to help children in Key Stage 2 prepare for school entrance exams. You and your child will have access to thousands of resources, including:

  • Over 90,000 interactive questions in Key Stage 2 English, maths, science, verbal and non-verbal reasoning

  • Unlimited online practice papers, including replicas of the CEM Select test. All tests are automatically marked with instant score breakdowns

  • Daily live lessons and holiday revision programmes to help your child master key topics and revise efficiently

  • A detailed parent dashboard, allowing you to easily track your child's progress, set targets, and quickly create exercises for your child

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