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The 11 Plus: A Simple Guide for Parents

By Atom | Jan 31, 2023, 1:20 PM

Mother helping daughter with homework


What is the 11 Plus?

The 11 Plus, also known as the Eleven Plus, 11+ or grammar school test, is a selective entrance examination taken by year 6 pupils (children usually aged between 11 and 12 when they take the exam). It is used for entry to selective independent schools and grammar schools in England. If you’re hoping to send your child to either of these types of schools, it is vital that you understand what these exams entail.

The exams differ with each school but traditionally they include two main 11+ exam boards. They are:

  • GL Assessment – covers English, Maths, Verbal Reasoning and Non-Verbal Reasoning.

  • CEM– covers verbal reasoning, non-verbal reasoning and numerical reasoning. Some schools are part of a consortium, meaning that your child will need to pass a certain set of exams to apply to a group of schools and the most selective schools may have several rounds of exams.


Why is the 11 Plus important?

Finding the right secondary school for your child will give them the opportunity to develop happily and confidently! The right school will both challenge and nurture your child’s academic and more general abilities.

The 11+ exams are used to help determine whether your child is a right fit for certain schools. To allow for these exams to be an accurate reflection of a child’s ability it is important that they are relaxed and confident when they sit the exams. It is most likely for this to be the case if your child has been steadily practicing with past papers under exam conditions and is very comfortable with the core KS2 Maths and English curriculum.

If your child does not get into their schools of choice, it is important to take a positive approach. It may not have been the right place for your child, or it simply wasn’t the right time. And there are opportunities for them to apply again for a later selection at 12+ or 13+. While a top secondary school may be desirable, the role of supportive parents in a child’s academic success and happiness cannot be understated!

How have the 11 Plus exams changed due to Covid-19?

From 2021, as a result of COVID-19, the 11+ exams have moved online, and children will sit them over online portals like Zoom. More weight will be placed on the interview than in previous years. However, this should not impact how much your child prepares.

Some schools might choose to scrap the exam entirely and focus on a single interview where your child is asked oral Maths and English questions. Equally, there are other schools that may choose to have a full online examination followed by an interview. As the exam format for each school differs, make sure you do your research!

Whichever of these exam formats are chosen, similar skills will be tested so preparations may only have to differ slightly.

How can I best support my child preparing for the 11 Plus?

Have a look at the table below for some ways to help your child prepare for their 11+ entrance exams!

Practicing Online Questions

Due to the online dimension of this year’s exams, it is key that your child is confident using a computer and typing for long periods of time.

Now more than ever, online educational platforms like Atom Learning could be pivotal for your child’s exam success, as they not only target the specific skill set required to complete the exams but they also allow your child to become comfortable answering questions on a computer.

Practicing Oral Questions

If you know that your child will be asked to attend an interview, it is a good idea to have them practice answering oral questions.

You could find some 11+ mock questions and read out individual questions for your child to work out on a piece of paper.

11 Plus Past/Mock Papers

Despite things being online, past papers should still make up the bulk of your child’s preparation. You can find many GL and CEM papers online for free!

KS2 Learning Apps

Learning apps are a fantastic way to get your child excited and engaged while polishing their core KS2 skills. There are so many to choose from and they won’t feel like much work!

Problem Solving Games

Problem-solving games are great for exercising the brain to help improve general problem-solving abilities. You could choose any board game that requires a bit of thinking and logic. There are also many online games targeted towards KS2 problem-solving.

Atom Nucleus

For unlimited online 11+ mock tests, sign up to Atom Nucleus. Your child will benefit from a tailored learning pathway that will help them master the skills required for any entrance examination. The mock tests provided with this premium subscription have been made to closely mirror the specific exams they will be taking.

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