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What Is the 11 Plus?

Get an overview of the 11 Plus and its role in the education system. Find answers to the questions most frequently asked by parents


Let's face it – the 11 Plus is a very complicated subject! Some people love it and others hate it. Some regions of the country use it and some don't. Some schools never come across it and others live by it.

There is little consistency between individual regions and individual schools and therefore it can be a minefield for parents to negotiate.

Our series of 11 Plus articles aim to answer the questions that parents most frequently ask. Our approach is the same as with our quizzes – we break down the subjects into bite-sized chunks (questions) that avoid inordinately long sentences and paragraphs.

You can navigate the subjects using the clickable links in each article. Don't feel obliged to read each composition in the order they appear – in fact, don't even try! It might be a good idea to bookmark this page (it contains links to all the articles) and then dive in to find out what you want, when you want it.

Here we go…

How Do I Say and Write '11 Plus'?

There is only one way to say it and that is 'eleven plus'!

There are many ways to write it, including the following:

  • *Eleven Plus'
  • '11 Plus'
  • '11-Plus'
  • '11+'

The most popular written form is '11 Plus', and here at Education Quizzes, we use it. However, all forms are equally correct, and many articles use them interchangeably.

What is the Purpose of the 11 Plus?

Over the years, the most significant objective of the 11 Plus has been to determine the suitability of students for admission to grammar schools. The exam aims to identify students who are good at problem-solving, reasoning, and critical thinking.

What is the Grammar School Test?

The 11 Plus is the main way of choosing students for grammar schools and therefore the exam is often referred to as 'The Grammar School Test'.

You might also hear the exam referred to as the 'Transfer Test' because it is part of the process of 'transferring' from primary school education to secondary school education.

Has the 11 Plus Been Abandoned in the UK?

If you live in an area where the exam is not used, you could be forgiven for thinking that it has been abandoned but it hasn't. Long ago, the exam was taken by almost all children in the UK and it played a pivotal role in their primary school lives but nowadays it is important in only a few regions.

From its inception, 80 years ago, the 11 Plus has divided public and political opinions. For a deep dive into the controversies surrounding selective education see 11 Plus Politics and History

Which Countries Use the 11 Plus?

Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland no longer use the 11 Plus but a form of 'Selection by ability' is still used in Northern Ireland. In England, the exam is used in some areas but not others.

Which Regions Use the 11 Plus?

Nothing in the 11 Plus is ever straightforward! You will find that the exam is used in SOME schools in the following areas but not all:

  • Berkshire
  • Buckinghamshire
  • Cumbria
  • Devon
  • Dorset
  • Essex
  • Gloucestershire
  • Greater London
  • Greater Manchester
  • Kent
  • Lincolnshire
  • Merseyside
  • North Yorkshire
  • Shropshire
  • Staffordshire
  • Surrey
  • Warwickshire
  • West Midlands
  • Wiltshire

Our Grammar School Regions Table gives an alphabetical list of counties, towns, and school names. This will make a good starting point for you to research whether the 11 plus is applicable in your area.

In Which Month is the 11 Plus Taken?

Usually, this occurs in September during a child's last year at primary school.

Why Do Children Usually Take the 11 Plus When they are Only 10 Years Old?

Batten down the hatches for a detailed explanation…

Everything depends on the year group to which a child is assigned, which in turn is determined by the child's exact date of birth.

Firstly, it's necessary to understand that there is a specific cutoff date for school entry – parents cannot choose which year group to place their child in. The cutoff date is the 31st of August each year. Armed with this information, we can construct the following table:

  • Children who turn 6 between the 1st of September and the 31st of August will be placed in Year 1.
  • Children who turn 7 between the 1st of September and the 31st of August will be placed in Year 2.
  • Children who turn 8 between the 1st of September and the 31st of August will be placed in Year 3.
  • Children who turn 9 between the 1st of September and the 31st of August will be placed in Year 4.
  • Children who turn 10 between the 1st of September and the 31st of August will be placed in Year 5.
  • Children who turn 11 between the 1st of September and the 31st of August will be placed in Year 6.

During the year in which a child turns 11, all the children in the same year group will celebrate their 11th birthday sometime between the 1st of September and the 31st of August. If a child turns 11 before the 11 Plus Exam (usually at the end of September), then he or she will be 11 when taking the exam.

Another way to understand this is that if a child is born on the 1st of September, they will almost certainly be the oldest in their year group. However, if a child is born on the 31st of August, they will almost certainly be the youngest in their year group.

What are the 10 Plus, 12 Plus, and 13 Plus?

The 11 Plus is sometimes mistakenly referred to as the 10 Plus. The 11 Plus is usually taken at 10 years old and this probably causes the confusion.

Both the 12 Plus and the 13 Plus are used by a few private and independent schools to determine the suitability of students for their establishments. The exams are sometimes referred to as 'Common Entrance Exams'. If you have ambitions for your child to go to Eton, Harrow, or a few other prestigious organizations then you'll need to become familiar with these. As with the 11 Plus, there is no uniformity so it's best to contact the specific organizations for details.

Is it Compulsory for My Child to Take the 11 Plus?

The 11 Plus is always optional, never obligatory. Some parents object to selective education and it is always their choice whether or not to enter their children for the test. However, entrance to most grammar schools is almost impossible without sitting the 11 Plus.

What Subjects Are Involved in the 11 Plus?

A good understanding of maths and English is essential but beyond that, the exams are designed to assess students' cognitive abilities, including their problem-solving skills, critical thinking, and reasoning abilities.

When you have identified your target school(s) from the table mentioned above you can refer to our 11 Plus Subjects Table to see which subjects are relevant.

What Is the Role of the Local Education Authority (LEA) in the 11 Plus Process?

There are around 150 Local Education Authorities in the UK and they work with schools to determine local policies and procedures.

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