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What do I need to know about the 11+ Exams?

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eleven-plus, 11+ exam, 11+ papers, 11+ prep, 11+ tests

The Eleven-plus is an examination that some students in England and Northern Ireland sit in their last year of primary education (usually from September – January of Year 6 depending on schools applied to). It is required for admission to Grammar schools, Private schools and other secondary schools which use academic selection

While the 11+ exams are not compulsory, many parents decide to enrol their children to sit theses exams. Around 6% of children attend Grammar schools, and a further 7% of children attend Private Schools in England

The 11+ exam is required to attend Grammar schools and Private schools.
These schools tend to provide better education than state (non-selective) schools, but your child must sit and pass their 11+ exams if they want to attend

You will need to enrol your child into a Grammar school or Private school when they are in Year 5. Applications for the 11+ Exams usually open from the  Summer term of Year 5 (April / May) and registrations usually close in (June / July) of the same year

Children typically sit the 11+ Exam in September – January of Year 6 depending on which schools they have applied to

This can all vary by school so make sure you check with our search tool above!

The 11+ application process involves two parts: applying directly to the Grammar Schools / Private schools of your choice, and informing your Local Authority of your choices

You must list your choices in order of preference to your Local Authority as they will determine which school your child goes to provided they have passed the relevant exams

We recommend selecting a shortlist of schools that you would like to apply to based on convenience, league table rankings, and your child’s personal preference

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

Detail on the Examination Boards, subjects, and how best to prepare

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The Eleven-plus exams usually test four subjects: Maths, English, Verbal Reasoning, and Non-Verbal reasoning. You can try our sample papers for free by clicking this link to familiarise yourself with the subjects and the questions

Some schools may even test for creative writing ability, or ask your child to attend an interview though this occurs more infrequently

The main Exam Boards are GL Assessment and CEM, which are used by the overwhelming majority of schools

Some schools will also use the ISEB or SET formats, and other schools (particularly Private Schools) will opt to write their own papers

SET is primarily used in Surrey, ISEB by a handful of Grammar Schools in South England and a number of Private schools, and GL Assessment & CEM almost everywhere else

Use our search tool at the top of this page to see which Exam Board your schools of choice use!

This depends on the schools that you will be applying for – search for your school in the search bar at the top of this page to check!

As a rough summary:

GL Assessment: Dorset, Kent, Lancashire & Cumbria, Lincolnshire, Medway, Northern Ireland, Wiltshire, Warwickshire, Birmingham

CEM: Berkshire, Bexley, , Buckinghamshire, Devon, Gloucestershire, Shropshire, Walsall, Wirral, Wolverhampton

GL and CEM: Devon, Essex, Hertfordshire, Trafford, Yorkshire

CSSE: Essex

SET: Surrey, and a handful of schools in South of England

ISEB or School written: A handful of schools in the South of England, and a number of Private Schools

Once you know which Schools, subjects and Exam Boards your child will be preparing for, start with tailored study books and 11+ Practice Papers. Many parents decide to pay for an Eleven-plus tutor to help their child study which may be a good idea if you are able to access a good quality, affordable tutor

Exam Happy provides GL Assessment and CEM 11+ Practice Papers and video solutions to help your child prepare. These resources would also be useful to SET and ISEB tests due to the transferable skills learnt

Try out our Free 11+ Sample Papers or sign up to one of our plans to prepare thoroughly and give your child the best chance of success

There was a time when getting a tutor was essential – nowadays, we don’t think so! You can prepare more effectively, flexibly, and save money by using providers such as Exam Happy

We believe that the cost of tutors can be a barrier to children getting the education that they deserve, and so we are committed to making high quality teaching accessible to all children at the fraction of the cost of traditional tutoring

Have a look at our pricing page linked here to see how you can help your child engage better with their learning and increase their chance of 11+ success – all whilst saving money on a tutor!

The 11+ Exams are competitive and so typically, the earlier you start preparing the better.  Most children begin their 11+ preparation in Year 4.

That being said, starting your preparation in Year 5 is more than enough time to pass the 11+ Exams

At Exam Happy we think it is important not to overwhelm your child or place too much pressure on them during the 11+ preparation process, as stressful as it can be! We’re here to help make this journey more streamlined, organised, and happier for you and your child

Some other helpful information

Some other useful information and frequently asked questions around the 11+ Exams

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The pass mark for the 11+ Exam varies from year to year for every school, depending on the difficulty of the paper that year

A harder paper will have a lower pass mark and an easier paper will have a higher pass mark, so remind your children not to worry if they come across a challenging paper, everyone else would find it challenging too!

Generally, to be selective,  your child must score in the top 30% of candidates

Grammar Schools and Private Schools will also standardise your child’s marks. This means that they will adjust up the scores of younger children in the interest of fairness (being two months older than the next child can be a large advantage when you are only 10 years old!)

Exam Happy automatically marks your child’s paper, standardises the scores, and provides anonymous rankings against 1000’s of children to give you an idea of where your child has placed

First of all – your child should be proud of their efforts no matter the outcomes of the tests. They will take the learnings, perseverance and determination from their 11+ preparation with them into other life endeavours. Thank you Mum and/or Dad for investing in them

You should expect to know the outcome of the tests as early as October, and as late as January / February depending on when your child had completed the 11+ tests

School allocations are then confirmed by your Local Authority in March of your child’s Year 6 year


Your Local Authority should confirm which school your child will be attending in March of the year your Child is in Year 6

Your child will attend their new Secondary School as a year 7 in September of the year after they sit their 11+ Exams. Congratulations!

We would suggest that you and your child take the remainder of the year off – you both deserve it!

Maximise your child’s chance of success and make your 11+ journey happy and stress-free with Exam Happy

Still have some unanswered questions? Get in touch and we’d be happy to help!

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