The Ultimate Guide to 11+ | Sherpa Online

Posted on the 4th February

Ahhhh the eleven plus exam, a tale as old as 1944, when the school system was rearranged. It entitled all children in the UK to free education between the ages of 5 and 15 where they would attend primary schools up to the age of 11 before moving on to continue education at secondary schools.


At this time, there were 3 types of secondary school: Grammar, secondary modern, and technical.


Nowadays, with the likes of academies, state boarding, and faith schools all being added to the roster, it can be difficult to know the best pathway for your child.


As such, we have compiled the ultimate guide for you on the 11+ exam, the opportunities it presents, and the best way to approach it to ensure that your child passes and is accepted into the right secondary school.


So let's get started, shall we...



What is the 11+?


The 11+ is in essence an entrance exam for particular secondary schools, used by grammar schools and private schools alike to identify the most academically-able children.

The exam is taken in primary school by students either near the end of Year 5 or at the beginning of their time in Year 6.


What counties use the 11+?


Not every county across the UK runs the 11+ for entrance into grammar schools, so first off, you need to make sure you are in a location that does use it before even contemplating it. The full list of counties that use the 11+ still can be found below:


  • Berkshire
  • Bexley
  • Birmingham
  • Buckinghamshire
  • Cumbria
  • Devon
  • Dorset
  • Essex
  • Gloucestershire
  • Hertfordshire
  • Kent
  • Lancashire
  • Lincolnshire
  • Medway
  • Shropshire
  • Trafford
  • Wiltshire
  • Walsall
  • Warwickshire
  • Wirral
  • Wolverhampton
  • Yorkshire


Is there just a generic 11+ exam that everyone sits?


The simple answer is no. There are 2 main exam boards for the 11+, each with their unique exam questions, tests, and mark scheme so it is vital you know which one your child is likely to do to help prepare them best.


The 2 boards are CEM (Durham University) and GL Assessment.


Whilst it is not a perfect science, the exam you sit is dependent on the area you are in. Below you can see a list of which counties run each exam board.


CEM


  • Berkshire
  • Birmingham
  • Buckinghamshire
  • Devon
  • Gloucestershire
  • Shropshire
  • Walsall
  • Warwickshire
  • Wirral
  • Wolverhampton


GL Assessment


  • Dorset
  • Kent
  • Lancashire
  • Cumbria
  • Lincolnshire
  • Medway
  • Northern Ireland
  • Wiltshire


Both


  • Devon
  • Essex
  • Hertfordshire
  • Trafford
  • Yorkshire


What does the 11+ test?


While the content and structure of the exam depend on the exam board being used, it will typically focus on a combination of:


  • English
  • Maths
  • Verbal reasoning
  • Non-verbal reasoning


As you would expect, the content of subjects like Maths and English in the exams naturally follows the national curriculum but reasoning exams are unique and not part of the UK curriculum, so it is important to know exactly what they involve.



Is the 11+ compulsory?


Nope. Taking the 11+ is at the discretion of both the students and parents if they want to attend a grammar school in the UK. So if you are happy with your child attending a comprehensive or state school then the 11+ will skate on by.


It is important to know, if you live in an area like Buckinghamshire, children are automatically registered for the 11+ and it will require opting out.


Not sure about the registration process? Check out what it's like via your local authority website here.


Is the 11+ right for my child?


This comes down to the individual. While not every child is suited for a grammar school, it is important to remember that where they end up is not set in stone and what works for one student does not necessarily work 100% of the time.


So, if you think your child has potential and will do well in our entrance exams then give the 11+ a go, whilst keeping in mind the following questions:


  1. Is my child academically gifted?
  2. Are the school reports they receive above average?
  3. Did they receive above average results in their SATs/CATs/PIEs/PIMs?
  4. Does the teacher feel that your child can pass the 11+?


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


Find out more about the 11+ in your area


This should be the first step, before anything else, you need to know if it is even possible to take it where you live and how it works specifically in your area.


It is a regionalised exam, so the topics and subjects that your child will be tested on will vary greatly depending on the location of you and the school you are applying to.


The best course of action is to call the school you wish to gain entry to and ask them directly about the entrance process.


When to start preparing for the 11+


It is up to the individual, but the earlier preparation begins for children under 7/8 years old, the better.


There are plenty of resources available online that will aid in providing your child with a head start and give them an extra edge or input just enough knowledge into their brain that you need before they sit their test or looking into a private online 11+ tutor on Sherpa Online who can provide your child with the support they need during a timeframe that suits you.


How much does an 11 plus tutor cost?


Just like with any service, it is important to conduct some of your own research. There are hundreds of thousands of tutors out there all able to tutor the 11 plus but experience and value for money are incredibly skewed.


Most tuition agencies and sites out there promote university-level students as tutors and while they provide a good value they have very little experience when it comes to the practical application of 11 plus concepts and theories in a classroom environment. You may be able to find some for as little as £5 per hour but the quality of the lessons will leave little to be desired and you are running a risk that you just shouldn't have to.


Sherpa Online has qualified UK teachers and professional tutors in a whole host of subjects and levels, including 11+ with prices per hour starting at just £15.


Yearly 11 plus Timeline


  • April: Most grammar schools will open their registration in April or May and set a deadline around June or July for parents to register their child for the 11+ exam. There is some variability, so please check these dates with your individual schools. As previously stated, Buckinghamshire automatically enters all primary children for the 11+ exam and operates an opt-out system for parents who must actively choose to withdraw their child from the process.


  • September: For most grammar schools, the 11+ exam will occur during the first two weeks of September.


  • October: For most grammar schools, 11+ results will be posted in mid-October.


  • March: School allocations are confirmed in March each year.


  • September: New intake begins Year 7 at each grammar school.


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Exam Prep
Educational
11+ exam

James Gurnett

4th February

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