The eleven plus, 11-plus and 11+ are often confused but they are in fact the same thing. That does not mean that all 11+ exams are the same. Their content varies between counties and even between schools
If you have a grammar school, or another type of selective school in your area, then no doubt you will have heard of the eleven plus exam. It is a test taken by pupils at the beginning of year 6 with the aim of finding the most intelligent and gifted of students.
You may have seen this written in a variety of ways: eleven plus, eleven+, 11 plus, or 11+. But what is the difference between these? Indeed, is there one? The answer is a simple “No.” These varying names are all just alternative ways to write the same thing.
The eleven plus exam does vary throughout the country. It even varies between schools within the same county. This is because it is not a part of the National Curriculum. Grammar schools are non-existent in some parts of the UK. They are most popular in the south-east of England and in Northern Ireland. So, how does it vary? Let’s find out?
The first thing to note is that there are two exam boards who mark the test results. The one employed by each school is generally the one closest to it, but not always. The exam boards are Granada Learning Assessment (GL Assessment for short) based in London, and the Centre for Evaluation & Monitoring (CEM) at the University of Durham.
As I said, for the most part the exam board used by each school will be the closest (CEM for the North and GL for the South). However, as selective schools have a lot of autonomy they are free to choose and some opt for the board which is further away. The only way to be sure is to check with the school you wish your child to be enrolled with.
Again, the only way to be sure you know the subjects covered in the eleven plus exam for each school is to ask them. What you can be certain of though is that the test will be some kind of mix of these four subjects:
Some schools will test pupils on all four topics, while others may just choose two. Maths and English are the ones most likely to be omitted form the test, so verbal and non-verbal reasoning may be considered the “core” subjects in the eleven plus. Still, most 11+ tests will contain sections on maths and English. Even if they do not, English and maths are both very useful when it comes to the other two parts of the test.
Verbal Reasoning questions present information to candidates in the form of text and then ask questions on it. Non-Verbal Reasoning questions take the form of patterns using shapes. Neither of these subjects are taught in schools so, to get a better idea of what they are about, pay a visit to our 11 Plus Verbal reasoning and 11 Plus Non-Verbal Reasoning suites of quizzes.
Most eleven plus exams are made up of more than one paper. These may be taken on the same day, with a break in between. Alternatively, some schools spread the tests out over two or more days so as not to overwhelm the candidates – they are only 10 years old after all.
If you are applying at more than one grammar school you may find that, even then, there is only one test to take. Many selective schools are aligned so that a “pass” will be enough to grant a place at any of them. If you apply for places in unaligned grammar schools though, I’m afraid that a separate test must be taken for each one.
There is no set pass rate for the eleven plus exam. Instead children are rated in comparison to one another. If 20 candidates compete for just one place then the highest scorer will get it. The second highest will not, no matter how good their score. Because of that only the very best performers stand a chance of making the grade.
Results from the test are “standardised”. That means that they are adjusted slightly for age (some children my be almost a year older than their rivals, which is a long time for ten-year-olds). The scores are then processed to give a final mark, with the lowest around 70, the average around 100, and the very best 140 or more.
The process is a complicated one, devised in such a way that only the top 15% of candidates will score more than 115. That score will usually be enough although, depending on the standard of competition, being in the top 3% may not be enough to guarantee a pass.
So, to sum up, the eleven plus, 11 plus, and 11+ are no different to one another. Although different schools may set different tests, they are all in essence the same thing.
Are there any other questions you have regarding grammar schools or anything else to do with education? If so you will probably find the answers in the Education Quizzes Knowledge Bank. Have a look around and see what you can discover.