Everything You Need To Know About The 11-plus Exams

What is the 11-plus?

The eleven-plus (11-plus) is an examination taken by students in England who wish to gain admission to grammar schools and other secondary schools that use academic selection. This exam is taken in their final year of secondary school (year six) and is usually free to complete. The examination tests the student’s ability to problem-solve this done through four main disciplines which are verbal reasoning, non-verbal reasoning, maths, and English. The intention of the eleven-plus is similar to an IQ test in that it tests general intelligence. There are three exams in total, exam one and two are 1 hour and the third is 40 minutes.

When should you start 11-plus preparations?

The time to start 11-plus preparation is entirely dependent on your child, as a rule of thumb though, the earlier you start preparing the better. The more time the child has to perfect the skills the better their performance will be in the exam. Regardless of how long it takes your child to prepare for the 11-plus examinations, it’s important that they are not stressed out so they can perform to the best of their ability.

The Exam: The Four Disciplines

1. Maths

Students will be tested on their ability to add, subtract, multiply and divide through a series of different questions. These four basic operations happen to be a major weakness for most children so it is paramount that these skills are developed. The maths section of the exam covers topics such as fractions, pie charts, algebra and many more. Students must have a solid understanding of all areas of mathematics in order to perform well, paying particular attention to learning their time tables as they are required for all multiplication and division questions. By the time they take the 11-plus they should be able to recall all 12 times tables at a quick-fire pace. There is a wide range of books in our 11+ Bookshop that will help you to check your children understands all of these concepts.

2. English

The format of the 11-plus English paper varies considerably around the country. A typical GL Assessment paper (NFER), with a time limit of 50 minutes, features: A comprehension exercise consisting of reading a story, followed by questions about the content, defining the meanings of words, identifying the grammatical type of words (e.g. nouns, verbs, prepositions, etc), storying writing, spelling, punctuation and placing words in alphabetical order. If a child has a good basic education in English and possesses an age-appropriate vocabulary they should perform well in the English section of the exam. The main challenges in 11-plus English are the comprehension exercise and the essay. In order to prepare your child for this, make sure to give them challenging novels to read and check their understanding of the characters, themes, and events in the novels. Also, ensure they are writing stories so they gain confidence in the exam.

3. Verbal reasoning

Without a thorough understanding of both Maths and English, it will be difficult to grasp the more advanced concepts of Verbal Reasoning. Verbal reasoning is, by definition, ‘understanding and reasoning using concepts framed in words – it aims at evaluating the ability to think constructively rather than just recognise vocabulary’. Verbal reasoning is a test of a skill rather than a test of learned knowledge. The test determines a child’s critical thinking ability and their ability to use their own knowledge to solve a problem. Verbal reasoning will likely not be taught in school. An example of some types of questions that are tested in a verbal reasoning exam could be:

·         spotting letter sequences

·         cracking codes based on letters and numbers

·         following written instructions

·         thinking about the text, spotting words within words  

·         finding a letter to complete two other words.

To perform well in a Verbal Reasoning exam, it is recommended that they have a good vocabulary. It is widely agreed that children who are widely read are more likely to do well in Verbal Reasoning this is because it exposes them to a vast range of vocabulary which gives them a good grasp of synonyms (words that mean the same thing or have similar definitions), antonyms (words that have opposite meaning). Encouraging your child to do activities such as puzzles, crosswords, word searches, word games, and Sudoku can support your child in their preparation for Verbal Reasoning exams.

4. What is Non-Verbal Reasoning?

Non-Verbal Reasoning is problem-solving using pictures and diagrams. It tests the ability to analyse visual information and solve problems based on visual reasoning. Often, children are asked to look at a sequence and find the odd one out. Pupils are expected to have a solid knowledge of shape and measure, especially in topics such as rotation and symmetry. The questions appear in diagrammatic and pictorial formats. Your child will need to be able to understand and analyse this information mentally and without limitations of language skills. The skills required for the Non-Verbal Reasoning exam are not as easy to acquire as simple literacy and numeracy, skills can be fostered through extensive exposure and practice.

Supporting Your Child:

The 11-plus exam tests students on a range of topics which means they have to develop a strong arsenal of different skills. Supporting your child in their acquisition of these skills is extremely important because it directly affects their performance in this exam. Getting your child a good tutor, completing mock exams, playing education games with them (e.g. jigsaws, word, and maths games) and remembering to give them verbal praise and encouragement will only benefit them and lead them to the desired success.                                                                     

 By Taiwo Bali