What do you need to know about the 11 plus exam?

If your child is reaching Year 5 and you are still pondering over whether to send them to a grammar school, you may have already started hearing references that relate to the 11+ exam. You may not exactly know what the 11 plus exam entails, what skills it examines or when or where it takes place. Welcome! That’s exactly what we are going to discuss on this blog.

What is the 11 plus exam?

The 11 plus exam is a selective examination taken by students in England and Northern Ireland in their final years of primary school (at the beginning of Year 6) to gain admission into grammar schools. It usually requires a year to several months of study, tuition and preparation. If you are reading this, you are most likely considering entering you child in for the test, so you may have many, many questions about the 11+ exam, its structure and content.

What does the 11 plus test consist of?

Understanding the 11 plus paper structure and content is necessary because it will help guide your preparation for the test. To be more efficient and pass the exam, you definitely need to know what to study. Besides, it can help your child become comfortable with the style of papers and how to answer questions in the correct manner. Even though the content and structure of the 11 + papers differ in each county, region and from school to school, it will generally focus on the following four subjects:

  1. English (Comprehension, grammar, writing): This will test your child’s ability to plan and structure written text.
  2. Numerical Reasoning (Maths): Your child will be asked to solve several problems which involve multiple stages to demonstrate their mathematical skills, understanding and problem solving.
  3. Verbal Reasoning (VR): This will test your child’s English grammar, vocabulary and maths through questions and sequences related to words, numbers and texts.
  4. Non-Verbal Reasoning (NVR): This will test your child’s ability to solve problems involving diagrams, pictures, sequences, patterns and some elements of maths as well.

All sections generally offer multiple choice answers except in English, which is normally a written piece of work which is assessed to evaluate your child’s writing skills.

Where and when does the 11 plus exam take place?

That will depend on which type of school your child goes to. In some regions, if a child goes to a local authority primary school, they will sit the 11+ exam in one of their classrooms, and if they go to a different kind of school, they will be asked to take it at a central location like a local grammar school. However, this changes according to the region you reside in. It is important that you check with your Local Education Authority (LEA) as to what procedure to follow. The date is another story. The exam often takes place during the autumn term in September, although schedules may differ depending on where you live. However, there are usually mock tests in different regions that occur for children to give them a feel of exam conditions and the format and pressure of the actual exam itself. You usually need to book in for these in advance as they are popular and can get fully booked out early on.

Do all children have to sit the 11 plus exam?

As you may be experiencing many references to it, you could be wondering if it is a compulsory paper for all children. If that is the case, then the answer is no. The 11 + exam has to be taken by only those who wish to apply for a place in grammar school. The decision is entirely in your hands.

How do I prepare my child for the 11+ exam?

Now, let’s say you have come to a decision and your child needs to take the 11+ paper to be able to attend the grammar school of your choice. What’s the next move? Preparing for it, naturally. For that reason, here are some tips that will help your child become prepared and exam ready:

  1. Find as much information about the test in your area – As you may know, the exams are regionalised and the content of the tests depend on where you live and what grammar school you are applying to. Hence, you should try to avoid rumours and contact the schools directly to get first-hand information. Nevertheless, in some areas the content of the exams remains a secret.

  1. Develop your child’s skills – Once you know what subjects will be examined, it’s important that you find practice materials to help your child develop their subject knowledge and skills and maybe consider hiring a tutor or tuition company who specialise in the 11+ field. This will not only help you evaluate your child’s strengths and weaknesses and work on them, but also develop extra techniques and skills such as working under timed conditions and efficient methods to solve problems.

  1. Make a schedule – As competition for grammar school places is very fierce, you need to work extremely hard if you want to get in, so it is recommended that you create a plan for your child to maximise their time and ensure they are prepared for the exam. Therefore, set a specific time of the week for their preparation sessions and stick to it as firmly as possible. But of course, being realistic about how much time your child can dedicate to it without burning and stressing themselves out.

What comes after the 11+ exam?

After your child has taken the 11 plus exam and all the pressure has evaporated, there is only one thing left: Awaiting the results. Yet, don’t worry! You won’t have to wait for too long. You usually receive the results in October in the form of a “standardised score”. This means that the score is mathematically adjusted to be on an understandable scale which takes into consideration the fact that some children could be younger than others when they take the test. Therefore, your child’s score may depend on how well they do in comparison to everyone else taking the test in the same year. On this scale, the lowest score is 69 or 70 and the highest score 140 or 141. Once you receive the results, you will have until the end of the month to apply for secondary school places.

So now that you know what the 11 plus exam is, what skills it examines, where and when it takes place and have all the tips and details to help your child through the process, you can stop wondering and finally come to a decision. May the odds be in your favour and let the examination period begin!

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