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Dorset grammar schools 11 plus guide

By Atom | Apr 11, 2024, 9:32 AM

Dorset 11 plus

Are you considering a grammar school in Dorset for your child? We’ve collated everything you need to know about admissions in 2024–2025. Keep reading to:

  • Find out more about grammar schools in Dorset

  • Learn about the shared Dorset grammar schools’ entrance test (11 plus)

  • Discover which subjects your child will be tested on

  • Plus, get exclusive resources to help your child prepare!

Which schools in Dorset use the 11 plus?

Four grammar schools in Dorset have a shared 11 plus exam. These schools are known collectively as the Dorset Consortium. These schools are:

Poole High School and Budmouth Academy are partially-selective secondary schools in Dorset. Only a small proportion of Year 7 places are based on academic criteria. These schools have their own admissions processes.

Dates for your diary

  • Monday 15th April 2024: Dorset 11 plus registration opens

  • Friday 6th September 2024: Dorset 11 plus registration closes at midday

  • Monday 9th September 2024: deadline to submit form for exam access arrangements

  • Friday 13th September 2024: parents receive test information by this date

  • Saturday 21st September 2024: Dorset grammar schools’ entrance test (11 plus exam)

  • Friday 11th October 2024: results of entrance tests sent to parents

  • Thursday 31st October 2024: secondary school applications close at 5pm

  • Monday 3rd March 2025: secondary school national offers day

Dates can vary, so always check with your target schools!

What is the Dorset grammar schools’ entrance test?

The Dorset grammar schools’ entrance test is an 11 plus exam used by the four grammar schools in Dorset. If you’re interested in more than one grammar school in Dorset, your child will only have to take the exam once.

The exam takes place in September in Year 6. Children who were born between 1st September 2013 and 31st August 2014 will take the entrance test on Saturday 21st September 2024 for Year 7 entry in September 2025.

The test is designed to be challenging. Grammar schools use the 11 plus to select children working in the top ability range in their year group. Children who are working at least within the top 25% of their year group are normally well-suited for grammar school.

What's on the Dorset grammar schools’ entrance test?

The Dorset entrance test consists of three papers provided by GL Assessment. Most grammar schools in the UK use 11 plus papers provided by GL Assessment.

All three papers are multiple-choice. Your child will have separate pre-printed answer sheets, which they will use to mark the answer(s) they think are correct.

The three papers are:


The maths paper lasts 50 minutes. The questions are based on the topics your child will have learned at school during Key Stage 2. These cover Year 5 content, with some questions aimed at Year 6.

The topics normally assessed in a GL Assessment 11 plus maths paper include number, measurement, geometry and statistics. Your child will need to use their skills to solve new kinds of problems for some more advanced questions.


The English paper lasts 45 minutes. The test will assess your child’s understanding of English based on the national curriculum taught up to the start of Year 6.

Some questions will test reading comprehension. Your child will need to read a passage of text and answer questions to demonstrate their understanding. Other questions assess further English skills, such as spelling, vocabulary and punctuation.

Verbal reasoning

The verbal reasoning paper lasts 50 minutes. Unlike the English and maths paper, this paper is not based on topics your child will have learned at school. Verbal reasoning is not taught on the national curriculum, so the questions might be unfamiliar to your child. Grammar schools often use 11 plus verbal reasoning papers because they analyse children’s academic potential, rather than what they have already learned.

Verbal reasoning involves reasoning with written information, such as words, letters, numbers and symbols. Your child will need to understand how words are produced and used, and the relationships between them. They might also need to use logic to solve codes and work out the next item in a sequence.

There is a short unmarked practice exercise at the start of the test to help your child understand how to answer the different types of questions.

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Verbal reasoning paper

How is the Dorset entrance test scored?

After the test, your child’s answer sheets are marked using Optical Mark Recognition (OMR). This technology picks up the marks your child has made to indicate which answers they think are correct. Your child receives a mark for every correct answer.

These marks are then age-standardised. Age-standardisation is a common practice in 11 plus scoring and ensures younger children aren’t disadvantaged.

Your child’s results will be emailed to you on Friday 11th October 2024. If your child meets your target school’s qualifying standard, you can then apply for a place for that school on your common application form (CAF).

What's the pass mark for the Dorset 11 plus?

There is no single pass mark for the Dorset grammar schools’ entrance test. All children’s standardised scores are placed in rank order, and each school will decide on a ‘qualifying standard’. ‘Looked after children’ and ‘previously looked after children’, along with children who are eligible for Pupil Premium, tend to be prioritised for places and might need to achieve a slightly lower qualifying score to get offered a place at a Dorset grammar school.

Every grammar school has different admissions criteria. We’ve included the admissions criteria for each Dorset grammar school below:

How to apply to Dorset grammar schools

If you're considering a grammar school in Dorset for your child, it's a good idea to speak to your child's teacher first.

Grammar schools are academically-selective and select children working towards the top of their year group. Your child's teacher will be able to indicate whether they think your child will be able to keep up with the pace in a grammar school.

1. Register for the Dorset 11 plus

If you would like your child to be considered for a place at one of the four Dorset Grammar Schools, you’ll need to register them to take the entrance test.

Registration for the 2024 exam opens on Monday 15th April 2024 and closes at midday on Friday 6th September 2024. You’ll be able to register your child for the test via the website of any of the participating schools. Details of the test day will be sent to you by Friday 13th September.

2. Apply for school places

Your child’s test results will be sent to you on Friday 11th October 2024. You’ll find out if your child has met the qualifying standard to be eligible for a place at your target school(s).

You can use these results to decide which schools to name on your secondary school common application form. Before listing a school on your form, check its admissions policy and make sure your child is eligible.

The application form must be submitted to your home local council by 5pm on Tuesday 31st October 2024.

3. National school offer day

On 3rd March 2025, you will find out which school your child has been allocated a place at. They will be allocated a place at your highest-preferred school for which they meet the entry criteria and which has places available.

If no places are available at your preferred schools, they will be offered a place at another school in your area. You can appeal via an independent panel. Information about how to appeal will be sent to you by your local authority along with your school offer on National Offers Day.

How can I help my child prepare for the Dorset 11 plus?

The 11 plus exam is designed to be challenging. Here are our top tips to help your child prepare for the Dorset grammar schools’ entrance test in September 2024.

Bitesize learning

It’s important to build a good knowledge base before the 11 plus. Using a ‘little and often’ approach when learning is key – our brains encode new information more effectively when dealing with smaller ‘chunks’ of information. For children aged 10–11, child psychologists recommend regular study sessions of 20–30 minutes.

Atom Home makes learning a more enjoyable process for your child. They'll explore exciting worlds full of interactive questions, earning coins to spend in the Atom shop. Atom adapts to your child, showing them questions at just the right level of difficulty to keep them motivated.

A maths learning journey on Atom Home

Read widely

11 plus exams test your child’s ability to analyse and interpret written information. Regular reading is a great way to help your child build these skills.

Encourage them to read books from different genres and by a diverse range of authors. Increasing the variety of your child’s reading will help them understand different styles, tones and purposes. Meanwhile, reading a little every day will help widen their vocabulary, sharpen their analytical thinking, and enhance their imagination.

Refine exam technique

When your child feels confident with the topics they’ve learnt in Year 5, they’ll be ready to put their knowledge to the test.

Practice tests can help your child develop problem-solving skills and build confidence working under test conditions. They’re also a great way to consolidate learning and highlight knowledge gaps for further improvement.

With Atom Home, you'll unlock online mock tests and printable practice papers for the Dorset 11 plus. Enjoy automatic marking and progress tracking with the online tests, and help your child get familiar with the real exam experience with printable practice papers.

A maths question on a Dorset grammar schools 11+ mock test on Atom Home

Celebrate progress

Setting regular, achievable goals and celebrating your child’s progress – no matter how big or small – will help keep their motivation high.

Make sure to encourage a growth mindset. This means celebrating effort, as well as achievement! When your child makes mistakes or struggles to understand a particular topic, help them understand that they’ll improve through practice. Regular praise will help your child improve their resilience when tackling new and challenging topics.

Tailored preparation for the Dorset 11 plus

Wish you could give your child a roadmap to success in the Dorset grammar schools’ entrance test? You can. Atom Home has everything you need to get prepared, in one package.

You don't need a tutor to get into your top-choice grammar school. You just need Atom. We’ll create a tailored plan for your child and support them along their fun revision journey.

  • Online and printable Dorset 11 plus practice papers

  • 90,000+ adaptive questions

  • 500+ hours of on-demand video lessons

  • Automatic marking and instant progress data

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Start your free trial today. Our specialists will get to work on your child’s plan. Relax, Dorset 11 plus prep is sorted.

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