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GL Assessment 11+ exams: all you need to know

By Atom | Jan 31, 2024, 3:01 PM

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If your child is taking the 11 plus in 2024, you're probably wondering what kind of test they will be taking. GL Assessment provides 11+ exams for over 80% of grammar schools in England. We've collated all the information you need to know here, including free resources to help your child prepare.

What is GL Assessment?

GL Assessment is a test provider that creates 11 plus exams. Their exams are used by most UK grammar schools, and some independent schools, to decide which children will be offered a place.

GL Assessment exams used by grammar schools tend to be paper-based and non-adaptive. This means that the difficulty does not adjust depending on the answers your child gives.

The eleven plus is designed to be a challenging exam. It looks to see which children will thrive in a selective school environment. It's intended to challenge the top 25% of the year group, with some questions covering content not yet taught in the classroom.

What subjects are on GL Assessment 11+ papers?

GL papers assess four subjects:

Not all schools and regions choose to use all four subjects and they can combine any of the papers with their own test content.

The test covers all Key Stage 2 national curriculum objectives in English and maths. This includes Year 6 objectives that children have not yet encountered at school, as they sit the 11 plus at the very start of Year 6.

English

The GL Assessment English paper structure varies, but the most common arrangement is:

  • A reading comprehension text with 25 questions, followed by

  • Three spelling, punctuation and grammar sections with 8–10 questions each

Reading comprehension

In the reading comprehension section, your child will see a text of around two sides of A4 in length. They are asked questions about the text to assess their inference, deduction, and understanding of vocabulary in context. The text may be fiction, non-fiction, or poetry, traditional or contemporary, so familiarity with vocabulary across many genres is helpful.

Depending on the format of answers chosen by your school, your child will be given multiple choice options (most common), or standard format answer boxes for written answers.

A reading comprehension question on a GL Assessment 11+ English mock test on Atom

All example questions shown in this article are from GL Assessment 11+ practice papers on Atom. They show the level of challenge and common question formats.

Spelling, punctuation and grammar

There are two types of spelling, punctuation and grammar questions on the GL test:

  • Complete the sentence

  • Spot the mistake

This can be a combination of 24 spot the mistake and 12 complete the sentence questions, or vice versa.

An example spelling question on a GL Assessment 11+ English mock test on Atom

Maths

Almost all GL 11 plus tests contain a maths paper comprised of 50 questions in 50 minutes. Rapid recall of number facts will help your child to excel in this section. Learn how to prepare for 11 plus maths here.

GL Assessment 11 plus maths questions are aligned with Key Stage 2 national curriculum content. They cover:

  • Number

  • Measurement

  • Data

  • Algebra

  • Geometry

The ‘number’ questions come up most often – there tends to be about five number questions for every question on the other topics.

The maths questions are in a multiple-choice format. They occasionally have a small standard format box for a written answer, but this is uncommon as most are marked by computer.

An example maths question on a GL Assessment 11+ mock test on Atom

Some worded problems are included, for example:

An example worded maths question on a GL Assessment 11+ mock test on Atom

11+ course

Is your child taking the 11+? Help them prepare with Atom's free 4-week 11+ course.

Includes 11+ practice papers for English, maths, verbal and non-verbal reasoning – just like the ones set by GL Assessment. You'll also get marking guidance and a video lesson every week!

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11 plus maths practice paper

Verbal reasoning

The GL Assessment 11+ verbal reasoning paper assesses a child’s ability to connect, spot patterns with, and manipulate verbal information. There are typically 80 questions.

Verbal reasoning relies on a broad vocabulary base and understanding of word meanings both in and out of context. It can identify pupils whose strengths lie in English, history, languages and the arts.

Verbal reasoning question structures can be confusing and time-consuming for children who aren’t used to them. It’s a good idea to familiarise your child with the different types of verbal reasoning questions early on.

An example verbal reasoning question on a GL Assessment 11+ mock test on Atom

Strong knowledge of synonyms and antonyms is helpful in this section – find free worksheets to support this here.

An example antonyms question on a GL Assessment 11+ verbal reasoning mock test on Atom

Non-verbal reasoning

Non-verbal reasoning tests children's ability to problem-solve using visual information. Children need to use logical thinking to solve puzzles and identify rules. Non-verbal reasoning is a useful skill in STEM subjects (such as maths and science).

GL non-verbal reasoning papers often contain 80 questions, split into four sections of 20 questions each. These four sections are separately timed. This means that your child will need to stop when they are told to do so, and all children will move onto the next section together.

Get top tips for non-verbal reasoning here.

A non-verbal reasoning question on a GL Assessment 11+ mock test on Atom

How is the GL Assessment 11+ scored?

Your child's marks in each paper will be combined to give a total score. Each subject might be weighted differently. The total score is then age-standardised so that children born later in the school year aren't disadvantaged by being younger.

There is no single pass mark for the eleven plus. The cut-off score, or qualifying score, depends on the admissions criteria of the school. Grammar school entry is more competitive in some areas than others. Find out more about grammar schools in your area.

Atom's 11 plus practice papers give you an indication of your child's standardised age score. We recommend that your child aims for a score of at least 120 when practising for entry to grammar school.

How many questions are on GL Assessment 11+ tests?

The number of questions and the timing of the test differs between consortiums and individual schools. Some schools choose to combine multiple subjects into a single paper.

Aside from school-specific variations, 'standard' GL Assessment formats are:

  • English: 49–56 questions in 50 minutes

  • Maths: 50 questions in 50 minutes

  • Verbal reasoning: 80 questions in 60 minutes

  • Non-verbal reasoning: 80 questions in 60 minutes

What's the difference between GL Assessment and CEM?

Until recently, another provider often used for 11 plus exams was CEM (Centre for Evaluation and Monitoring). In late 2022, CEM announced they were switching to online exams and no longer providing standard 11 plus papers. GL has once again become the main provider of admissions testing for UK grammar schools.

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 to prepare for GL Assessment 11+ exams

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 11 plus test papers to help them get used to GL 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.

Free resources

reading comprehension
Reading comprehension guide

Get free worksheets to improve your child's comprehension skills.

Verbal reasoning guide

All you need to know about verbal reasoning, plus a free question pack.

Maths worksheets

Free downloadable maths worksheets on challenging Key Stage 2 topics.

Non-verbal reasoning guide

Video lessons, questions, and tips for the 11+ non-verbal reasoning paper.

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Parent webinars

Specialist advice on exam preparation and admissions.

Award-winning exam preparation for GL 11+ exams

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 Home is an 11 plus online course 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.

GL Assessment 11+ practice papers

Unlock unlimited online 11 plus mock tests and downloadable paper tests tailored to your target school. Atom's practice tests mirror the format and style of real 11+ tests, so your child will go into the exam knowing exactly what to expect.

GL Assessment 11 plus mock test on Atom Nucleus

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.

Progress tracking on Atom's parent dashboard

Get ready to shine in the 11+

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

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Ask us anything

We understand how important this next step is for them, and for you. Our Education Experts are on hand to support you over email or Live Chat.

Please don't hesitate to get in touch with any questions you may have about the 11+ or your target schools.

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