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What Sort of Questions are Asked in the 11 Plus?

There are four categories of questions in the eleven plus exam: English, maths, verbal reasoning, and non-verbal reasoning. The latter two are tests of intelligence rather than of academic ability.

Logic The eleven plus (also known as the 11-plus or the 11+) is the test taken by children in their final year of primary school. Its purpose is to find the most gifted pupils so that they can be selected for a place in grammar school. Eleven plus questions are designed to test children’s intelligence rather than their academic ability.

The test is split into four sections: maths, English, verbal reasoning, and non-verbal reasoning. As I said, these are to test for intelligence so what exactly are 11-plus questions like? What form do they take and how are they different from more academic types of question? Below we will show you some examples of 11 plus questions, looking at each section in turn.

Maths

Not every part of the country will have a maths section in their eleven plus test. All sections are optional. Nevertheless, having a good grasp of maths will help in other 11+ questions, in the verbal and non-verbal reasoning sections.

In essence, the maths questions will be of the standard expected by the most gifted pupils in the final year of KS2. There will not be any topics which have not been covered in maths lessons at school. Children who are good at maths should have no problem in this section.

To help them practise, and to find out which areas they are weak in, you could have your child play our 11+ maths quizzes. As you will see, there are a multitude of topics in this section, from simple addition and subtraction, up to properties of numbers, such as squares and primes.

The best way to prepare for the 11+ maths section is to try your hand at sample questions, like the ones on our site. But here are a couple of examples of the harder questions you may come across:

What is the place value of 5 in 7,754.909?

The 5 is in the “tens” column. Gifted 10-year-olds should have no problem with this.

Here’s another example:

Which of the following numbers is a factor of 279?
5, 7, 9, 11

Not so simple this one. A candidate must know what a factor is and how to work out whether a number is one or not. In our example the correct answer is 9, as it is the only option which has 279 in its times table (9 x 31 = 279)

The questions can be quite varied so the only way to guarantee a good performance is to familiarise your child with every topic taught in KS2 maths.

English

Just like the maths section, English may or may not be found in the 11+ exam. But it is still worthwhile practising these types of question. A good grasp of English will be a godsend in the verbal reasoning part of the test.

Also, like the maths section, there will be nothing included in the English section of the 11+ exam which has not been taught at school. Bright children should have no problem with the questions but a little bit of practise never goes amiss.

As you would expect, a variety of topics have been taught by the end of KS2 so we cannot illustrate all of them here. To find out all the topics your child needs to understand have a look at our 11+ English quizzes.

As always, the best way to prepare for the test is to familiarise yourself with the types of question you may face. But, for convenience, here are a couple of examples:

Which one of the following has been punctuated correctly?

Whose this book?
Whoses this book?
Who's is this book?
Whose is this book?

A simple one this – IF you understand punctuation. Of course the correct answer is the final option.

Here’s another example:

What is the antonym of the word below?
Interior (noun)

Centre
Core
Heart
Exterior

Of course, “exterior” means the opposite to “interior” so is the correct answer. Another easy one, IF you know what an antonym is.

So, as long as your child understands all the topics included in our suite of 11+ English quizzes (linked to earlier) then they should find this part of the test easy. If not, then they will struggle.

Comprehension

Not a separate part of the test, but worth a mention here, is reading comprehension. This is a part of English, and a very important one. In order to understand the non-verbal reasoning 11+ questions candidates must be able to read and comprehend blocks of text.

I won’t show you an example question this time as there is insufficient space. The form these questions take though is what you would expect from reading comprehension. Candidates are shown a few paragraphs of text and then asked questions about it. These questions are designed to find out how well a child can find the meaning of the words.

It is a hard one to practise, reading comprehension. The best way would be to encourage your child to read. The more they read, the better they become at understanding meanings. You could try asking your child some similar questions after they have read some text. For examples of the types of question have a look at our 11+ English section. It contains three quizzes on reading comprehension.

Verbal reasoning

Now we come to the core parts of the 11+ exam. Those subjects not taught at school and designed purely to test intelligence. However, no matter how clever your child is, if they are not up to speed with their maths and English then they will struggle with these questions, so make sure they practise those with the links included earlier in this article.

There are many different styles of question which could be included in the exam. The only way to make sure that your child understands them all is to expose them to as many 11+ questions as you can. Here’s a link to our 11+ verbal reasoning section which will help with that.

We cannot show you all the types of question here for lack of space, but here a couple to give you some idea:

Pick the three-letter creature that would most sensibly complete the word in capitals in the sentence.
... And when his mother asked him the question, he went as red as a TROOT.

ANT
BEE
PIG
COD

This one is quite simple. All you have to do is try each answer in turn to see which fits. “Anttroot, Pigtroot,” and “Codtroot” are not words. The correct answer has to be “Beetroot”.

OK, lets see a more difficult question:

Using the letters from the word LACQUER, make a 3-letter word meaning “a piece of grassy land”.

This one tests children’s abilities to make anagrams, and also their vocabulary. The correct answer is “Lea”.

With such a wide variety of questions it is tricky to revise for the verbal reasoning part of the test. There are many things which will help though. Reading a lot, doing crossword or anagram puzzles, playing word games. The more you and your child do brain-training games, the better prepared they will be for the test.

Non-verbal reasoning

This final section of the test is perhaps the most feared. When faced with some of the questions children may panic as they are unlike any they may have come across before. To avoid that happening to your child you need to show then as many non-verbal reasoning questions as you can. Here’s a link to our 11+ non-verbal reasoning section. In there you will find examples of every type of question. Unfortunately we have no room to show you here – if we did this article would take an hour to read! Instead we’ll show you a couple of examples, just to give you a bare idea of what awaits in the exam.

Pick one of the five boxes on the right to fit in the blank box and complete the series on the left.

11-plus-fill -in-the-blank-4

The correct answer in this case is “a”. Here’s the explanation why:

The line and the extra circle do not follow a set pattern based on moving clockwise or anticlockwise. Instead, the direction of the arrow seems to indicate the position of the circle in the next box. The position of the extra circle in the fifth box is determined by the direction of the line in box four, so it must be in the top left corner.

Next, look at what is different about the remaining three options. The only difference is the line; we have already seen that the line does not follow a regular pattern so it could surely point anywhere? This is where common sense clicks in and you find the most sensible answer rather than the absolute one.

Look at (d). It doesn’t point to a corner so is not in keeping with the others, so is to be discounted. Option (e) is not like the others as it has a line which does NOT have its origin in the centre of the box; it’s safe to assume this is not what the examiners are looking for either, which leaves us with... (a).

That example was from a type of question called “Progression”, in which candidates must work out how a pattern progresses. Here’s another example from a style of question known as “Fill in the Blank in a 3 x 3 Grid”.

Pick one of the five boxes on the right to fit in the blank box in the diagram on the left.

11-plus-fill-in-the-blank-in-a-3-x-3-grid-2

The answer to this one is also “a”, but can you see why? Let me explain…

The first thing to do in this type of question is to work out which of the column / row / diagonal combinations we can use.

Here it is clearly rows that give us the answer, as the middle and bottom rows are each composed of similar types of shapes but different to the top row. Therefore, we are looking for a shape similar to the top left and top right objects – not a lot of help, all of the options are!

So how are the answers different? Firstly, the direction of the arrow is important, secondly the position of the line and finally the direction of the shading.

Let’s look at the way that the symbols change as you move along the row. The same thing will happen in each row, so we need to examine our two sample rows.

The shading in the second row is angled top-left to bottom-right for the first symbol but then the opposite way for the other two.

The bottom row has identical ‘shading’ in the first and third and opposite for the middle one. This suggests a dead-end for our basic logic, so we need to look at something else.

The lines move from the left or right to the opposite side, but only in the third box, while in the first row that doesn’t happen.

If you (or your child) have not sussed it out yet, it’s time to head back to the original list and look for something else.

Imagine that you are using a mirror and reflecting the symbols in a horizontal or vertical axis; this is something which all children should have experience of by year 5 if not earlier. The first image can be treated as the basic shape. If you reflect that image in a horizontal axis (in other words flip it over, top to bottom) then the second image is created. The third image is the first image reflected in the vertical axis (in other words flip it across, from left to right).

So, the answer to this puzzle is ‘a’. The arrow flips to pointing upwards, the line flips to the bottom of the box and, importantly, the shading is flipped to face the opposite way. There are several tricky elements thrown into this question but it’s basically simple – reflect the objects.

As you can see, there are many different types of question asked in the 11+ tests, from the kind children are used to seeing at school in English and maths, to ones more likely to be found in an IQ test or a logic puzzles magazine. The only way to familiarise your child with the latter is to practise, practise, practise!

There are many other mysteries in the education system but you can enlighten yourself by reading the articles in our Knowledge Bank. They cover a variety of topics, from what is taught at school, how to home educate your child, and advice on raising happy children. It’s well worth a look.

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