What is the 11 Plus? A Comprehensive Guide for Parents


Are you a parent with a child approaching Year 5? If so, you’ve probably heard of the 11 Plus exam. Understanding this key educational milestone is crucial, as it can determine which secondary school your child will attend. In this comprehensive guide, we’ll break down everything you need to know about the 11 Plus, from its history to its importance and how to prepare effectively.

What is the 11 Plus?

The 11 Plus is an examination taken by children in the UK, typically in their last year of primary education (Year 6). Initially established to determine which type of secondary education would be most suitable for a child, the exam has become a pathway to securing a place in selective secondary schools called grammar schools. The examination is overseen by several governing bodies like GL Assessment. Over 100,000 students take the 11+ exams every year and only about 20-30% are accepted into grammar schools.

Why is the 11 Plus Important?

A good performance can help your child secure a spot in a prestigious grammar school or independent school, offering them a stimulating academic environment and setting them on a path to future success. Though, please note that grammar schools and independent schools are not the only way to achieve this – the 11 plus exams are tough, and lots of hardworking and bright children miss out on a place. That being said, let’s get you covered on what you need to know about the 11 plus exams.

Subjects Covered in the 11 Plus

The 11 Plus typically tests students across four main subjects:

  • Maths: Focuses on arithmetic, problem-solving, and basic geometry.
  • English: Includes comprehension; spelling, grammar, punctuation (SPaG); and essay writing.
  • Verbal Reasoning: Assesses logical thinking, understanding, and problem-solving.
  • Non-verbal Reasoning / Spatial Reasoning: Involves solving problems using shapes and patterns.

Exam Format

The exam format can vary depending on the governing body and the schools you are applying to. Generally, you can expect multiple-choice questions, written answers, or a mix of both. Each subject paper usually lasts between 45 to 60 minutes.

How is the 11 Plus Scored?

Scoring methods can differ but are often standardized to account for age. Pass marks can vary from one school to another. The weighting of subjects can also differ; however, a balanced strong performance across all subjects is generally desirable.

Preparation Tips

Starting preparation early is vital. Utilize various resources like textbooks, worksheets, and mock tests. With Exam Happy’s mobile app, parents can even take pictures of completed answer sheets to get instant scoring and feedback.

Common Challenges and How to Overcome Them

Here are some common challenges faced by students:

  • Stress and Anxiety: Ensure that your child practices “a little but often” approach to revision – ensure they are taking regular breaks.
  • Time Management: Create a study schedule well in advance and start practicing 11+ questions under timed conditions by Easter break on year 5
  • Complex Questions: Use Exam Happy’s integrated video solutions to understand the approach to solving challenging questions.


  • When should my child start preparing?
    It’s advisable to start at least a year in advance.
  • What if my child doesn’t pass?
    It is not the end of the world! Throughout the 11 plus process, you will be amazed at how much your child develops. There are numerous other secondary education options that offer quality education, and grammar schools are not the only option for a rich educational journey.
  • Do I need a tutor?
    About half of 11+ parents use a tutor to prepare their child for the 11+ exams. The other half self-prepare using books and apps like Exam Happy. Having a tutor can help as they can explain more complex 11+ technique (this is something at a fraction of the price with our video solutions)

Additional Resources

For additional help and practice, consider downloading the Exam Happy mobile app. We offer integrated video solutions for every question, live ranking, and focused development areas to make 11 Plus preparation more interactive and effective.

Ready to kickstart your child’s 11 Plus preparation? Download the Exam Happy app today or subscribe to weekly worksheets with our 11+ packages.

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