11+ Papers (inc. CEM)

What is the 11+?

The 11+ (pronounced "11 Plus") is an exam that was originally introduced in 1944 and whose result determined whether a child entered a grammar school, secondary technical college or secondary modern school after they left primary school. Although officially abolished in 1976 (replaced by a "comprehensive system") some areas of England have kept the system of running grammar schools alongside comprehensive schools.

So does the 11 Plus still exist?

Yes, although the "11 Plus" is now a collective term for the entrance exams that the remaining grammar schools offer.

Around 160 grammar schools remain in England and they each continue to offer an 11+ test to determine their intake. To confuse matters, the 11+ tests they administer can vary a great deal with some assessing pupils in Maths, English, Verbal Reasoning and Non-Verbal Reasoning whilst others only test a candidate's Reasoning ability. It's best to check with a particular school about their 11 Plus exam.

The 11+ test remains extremely popular with thousands of parents hoping to get their children into a well performing secondary school. Some schools have over 10 children applying for each place.

How can I enter my child for an 11 Plus exam?

In some areas of England the local LEA (Local Education Authority) enter every child to sit an 11 Plus test. However, in other areas the tests are organised by a consortium of schools or individual schools and you will need to formally apply for a place and enter your child for a separate test.

Don't rely on information you read on the internet, it may incorrect or out of date. Instead, contact the school you would like to apply your child for and ask about their examinations and admissions procedure. Ask for detailed information about when and where the test(s) will take place, what topics are included within the test(s) and what format the test(s) will take.

It's also important to ask whether there are any other admissions criteria such as a maximum distance from the school.

How can I prepare my child for their 11 Plus exam?

Once you know exactly what topics they will be assessed on (e.g. whether it will be just Maths, Maths and Verbal Reasoning or just Verbal Reasoning etc) and whether the tests will be written or multiple choice then you have several choices available to you.

Many parents appoint personal one-to-one tutors for their children to help boost their performance and confidence. However, this can be quite expensive and is by no means a requirement to pass an 11 Plus exam. Indeed many pupils obtain places in grammar schools without additional tutoring by simply practising the tests they will be assessed on.

The 11 Plus Reasoning assessments (Non-Verbal and Verbal) are both unique tests that aim to measure potential and aptitude rather than a child's education to date. Having said that, the unique nature of the tests means a child will benefit greatly from prior preparation.

The 11 Plus Maths and English assessments on the other hand will contain content that will seem more familiar to your child as they would have come across it in their previous studies. Again, practice makes perfect and the books below are fantastic for preparing them for what may come up.

The best publishers for 11+ practice papers are Bond, CGP and Letts. All offer a variety of workbooks, study books and practice papers that will help your child pass their 11 Plus exam.

Are sample 11 Plus papers available?

Some of the grammar schools publish sample 11 Plus papers and make them available for download.

Remember, some or all of these papers may not be relevant to your child's 11 Plus exam.

  • St. Olave's offers sample 11 Plus papers in English and Maths.
  • Haberdasher's Askes School offers several sample 11 Plus papers in English and Maths
  • Dulwich College offers sample 11 Plus papers for English and Maths.
  • Emmanuel School offers sample 11 Plus papers for English and Maths.
  • King's School offers sample 11 Plus papers in English and Maths.

CGP offer some fabulous 11 Plus practice papers to buy but they also very kindly offer some that are free to download:

Subject Question Paper Answer Paper Marking Scheme
Verbal Reasoning 11+ Paper 11+ Answer Sheet 11+ Answers
Non-Verbal Reasoning 11+ Paper 11+ Answer Sheet 11+ Answers
Maths 11+ Paper 11+ Answer Sheet 11+ Answers
English 11+ Paper 11+ Answer Sheet 11+ Answers

CEM? What is the CEM 11 Plus Exam?

CEM is a provider of 11 Plus entrance exams for several grammar schools including Bexley, Birmingham and Wolverhampton. CEM stands for Centre for Evaluation and Monitoring and it's part of the University of Durham. There are several other providers including NFER and GL Assessment.

What's in the CEM 11 Plus Exam?

If only everyone knew! The CEM 11 Plus is (in most cases) made up of two tests, each take 45 minutes to complete and both include English, Verbal Reasoning, Non-Verbal Reasoning and Numerical Reasoning.

The English sections of the test include reading comprehension exercises, cloze tests (a more concise, detailed and intense reading comprehension exercise that may include 'filling in the blanks') and more standard Verbal Reasoning questions.

Non-Verbal Reasoning questions are well known from other providers of 11 Plus tests and aim to assess pupils by removing as much of what they could have previously learned as possible. These are the questions that often include rotating patterns or shapes.

Numerical Reasoning questions test mental arithmetic, pattern recognition and problem solving. Calculators are not allowed.

Both tests are designed such that they are time pressured and many children don't finish all the questions before the end of the test.

Some areas will allocate a different weighting of marks towards different subject areas. For example, Birmingham awards half of the marks to Verbal Reasoning whilst Warwickshire awards marks equally among all three.

In some areas pupils may take practice 11 Plus CEM tests. These will take place before the real CEM 11 Plus exam (normally in June or July) and the marks will not be formally taken into consideration. They are a practice exercise that's marked internally and whose marks are not recorded externally from the school.

Are there past CEM 11 Plus papers?

No. Past CEM 11 Plus papers are not distributed after their respective assessment day. CEM insist that by restricting the amount of available preparation material to only what primary schools provide (familiarisation with the format and structure of the tests) it makes the test fairer for all.

CGP offer some fabulous 11 Plus practice papers to buy but they also very kindly offer some that are free to download:

Subject Question Paper Answer Paper Marking Scheme
Non-Verbal Reasoning 11+ CEM Paper 11+ Answer CEM Sheet 11+ CEM Answers
Maths 11+ CEM Paper 11+ Answer CEM Sheet 11+ CEM Answers
English 11+ CEM Paper 11+ Answer CEM Sheet 11+ CEM Answers

How can I prepare my child for the CEM 11 Plus?

CEM say that they devise their tests such that they "reduce any disadvantage between children who are tutored for tests and those who are not." They also state that they "do not believe that children should be tutored for [the CEM] selection assessments as they are designed to enable all children to demonstrate their natural ability and achievement without excessive preparation".

However, the unique nature of Verbal Reasoning questions means that provided it leads to greater confidence rather than attempting to memorise the questions, prior practice can be a great advantage. The important point here is that it does not lead to pupils attempting to guess answers based on prior experience.

CGP offer some very good resources for the CEM 11 Plus that provide a great deal of help. Bond also offer some more freely available.

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