About Eleven Plus
Grammar schools are extremely popular in the UK and getting into a Grammar school is considered to be prestigious for both the students and parents. There are 164 grammar schools in England, which are government funded, and another 69 schools in Northern Ireland.
What is 11Plus?
Eleven-plus is a competitive examination taken by pupils at the age of 11 or in their last year of primary school (Year 6) to get into a grammar school (Year 7). Approximately 100,000 children sit the 11 Plus examination each year for around 15,000 – 20,000 places, giving each child a 1 in 6 chance of gaining a place.
There can be up to four different ‘disciplines’ used for the 11 Plus tests: (1) Verbal Reasoning, (2) Non-Verbal Reasoning, (3) Maths and (4) English. The combination of papers and the qualification rate of the test vary considerably around the country.
The four ‘Disciplines’
There are generally 4 disciplines in scope for 11Plus examination. These are Maths, English, Verbal Reasoning, and Non-Verbal Reasoning. The diversity of these and relevance from the 21st century skills pupils should develop make preparation for 11Plus exams significantly useful to them. Apart from laying a strong foundation for numerical and language literacy, 11 Plus preparation helps improve the skills of logical thinking and problem solving.
The 11+ Maths tests cover those topics that have been taught during Key Stage 2. The child needs to be familiar with topics and concepts from the below, usually appearing on eleven plus exam papers.
Space and shape
The child should be able to analyse questions from different angles, and apply the learning in one context to similar other situations.
There is not a single set question pattern accepted by all the schools. The pattern varies considerably around the country. Some schools set their own paper and change the style of the paper from year to year while others use a pre-set paper prepared by publishers like GL Assessment or CEM. Usually most of the questions are in multiple choice format.
Most of the papers include:
A comprehension passage followed by questions about the content.
Questions about the meaning of words used in the passage.
Questions to identify the grammatical type of words used – nouns, verbs, prepositions, etc.
Questions to identify spelling errors in sentences.
Questions to identify errors in the use of punctuation marks.
Questions to complete the sentence by choosing the best word from the given options.
Ordering words to make a sentence.
Finding out the Synonyms and Antonyms.
Cloze exercises to fill the gaps in a sentence to make it read correctly.
Creative Writing on a given prompt.
Verbal Reasoning is understanding and reasoning using concepts defined in words. This test assesses the students’ English grammar and vocabulary through solving problems and following sequences to do with words and measures their ability to ‘think and reason’. These skills help the child to develop qualities like perception, empathy, logical reasoning, vocabulary and skills in understanding and answering complicated questions.
A good performance in Verbal Reasoning exam requires a good vocabulary and also strong basic maths skills. Children having the habit of reading widely are more likely to do well in Verbal Reasoning.
Non-verbal reasoning solves problems with diagrams and pictures with an element of Maths. The questions use abstract figures which require the child to work out similarities in sequences of shapes or codes.
In order to crack the Non-verbal reasoning questions successfully, the child needs to be able to see how objects relate to each other, apply logical deduction skills, and understand maths concepts such as symmetry and rotation. Spatial intelligence also plays a role here.
There are different elements in the non-verbal reasoning questions such as the outline shape, the fill, the direction of the shape. The shape may rotate, be inverted, have different layers, increase or decrease in size. Some requires basic counting skills also.
Agencies administering 11 plus tests
CEM 11 Plus
CEM stands for the Centre for Evaluation and Monitoring, a research group based at the School for Education, University of Durham. CEM tests contain both standard and multiple-choice formats. Basically students are tested on their Maths, English, Verbal and Non-Verbal knowledge and skills.While the Maths test has the Non-Verbal Reasoning also included in it, the English has the Verbal Reasoning part as well. CEM focuses more on Vocabulary and Cloze exercises.
Granada Learning Assessment (GL-Assessment/GLA)
GLA is the other prominent test provider. Granada Learning (GL) tests present questions in multiple choice formats. The four parts are around Maths, English, Verbal and Non-Verbal reasoning.
CSSE (Consortium of Selective Schools in Essex)
There are ten grammar schools in the Consortium of Selective Schools in Essex (CSSE). All CSSE members use the same 11 Plus exam so that students only need to take part in one test. The exam consists of two test papers that cover English and Maths.
ISEB (Independent Schools Examination Board)
A child who seeks place at an independent senior school, takes tests provided by the ISEB as part of the admissions process. The ISEB sets a range of tests that are used by hundreds of independent prep schools and senior schools, including Common Entrance examinations at 11+ and 13+.
Some schools give their own tests papers with a format different from others. Additionally, there are other providers like Moray House (University of Edinburgh).