Miss Britton

The 11+ Explained

~ 29th September 2019 ~

Throughout my time as a teacher and private tutor, I have been asked about the 11+ more times than I can remember – both by parents of KS2 pupils thinking about secondary school applications and by fellow teachers who wanted to further support students applying to Grammar Schools. It is my aim with this journal entry to answer some of the questions you may have about the 11+ examination.

What is the 11+?

The 11+ is an exam designed to assess whether applicants are academically suited to attend a Grammar School.

Is it compulsory?

No. Only children applying to English Grammar Schools will be required to sit the 11+ examination.

Does the child need to be 11 years of age to take the exam?

No. Most pupils will be 10 years of age when taking the exam. The test is known as the 11+ due to the fact that children will not start secondary school until they are 11.

Do different schools have different exams?

Yes. The exact format and content of each test will vary depending on the individual school and/or region. Different regions have tests devised by different organisations. There is usually more information about this on the website of each Grammar School.

What disciplines are covered in the 11+ exam?

As mentioned above, the exact make up of each 11+ test can vary from school to school or region to region. Having said that, they usually consist of the following four disciplines:

  • maths
  • english
  • verbal reasoning
  • non-verbal reasoning

What are verbal reasoning and non-verbal reasoning?

Verbal and non-verbal reasoning exams are tests of skill rather than of knowledge. They help to build a picture of a child’s overall intelligence including critical thinking and problem-solving skills. Verbal reasoning exams involve a range of language-based problems whereas non-verbal reasoning exams are based around identifying patterns, similarities and differences in various shapes and symbols. The content of these exams is very similar to that found in aptitude tests such as the ones used by MENSA. It is important to note that verbal and non-verbal reasoning are not usually topics covered in school.

Where is the test held?

The test is usually held at the Grammar school to which your child is applying. However, I have occasionally known it be the case that children sit the exam in a classroom of their current primary school.

What is the pass mark?

The pass mark may vary depending on the region or school. The pass mark for the 11+ is standardised, meaning that your child’s age and the difficulty of the test is reflected in their score. Standardisation ensures that the process is fair otherwise older children would have an advantage.

If a child passes the exam, do they automatically get a place at the school?

No. Once you have received the results, you will then begin applying to secondary schools. Most schools will let you know whether your child’s application has been successful by March.

What is the best way to prepare for the exam?

Although many children pass with little to no preparation, you may want to give your child a little extra support to boost their confidence before the exam. The most important thing is to offer your child reassurance and encouragement without applying pressure and overloading them. Practice papers are available to purchase from places such as WHSmith and Amazon. You may also be able to find some to download online.


Another option to consider is hiring a private tutor. I would recommend looking for an experienced qualified teacher using a website such as Tutorful. Following this link will give you £5 off your first lesson should you find a suitable tutor.


Where can I find further information?

The following websites provide further information regarding the 11+ exam:

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About the Author

Julianne Britton

Julianne Britton is an experienced teacher and author. Having taught across KS1 and KS2 and after just 3 years, she was promoted into leadership and given the responsibility of 'Science and Computing Coordinator'.

Specialising in 11+ entrance exams and SATs preparation, she has also worked as a private tutor, successfully supporting the education of 50+ students and, in addition to writing for CGP Books and Teach Primary magazine, Julianne also publishes educational resources for teachers on TES.

Julianne is also a member of MENSA.

Get in touch via sales@missbritton.co.uk, Twitter or LinkedIn.

As Featured In

As Featured in The Guardian
Resource Author for TES
Author for CGP books
Regular contributor to Teach Primary magazine