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Caroline Dennigan

Caroline Dennigan Blog Posts
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All you need to know about the 11-plus exam


Have you ever wondered why despite many areas of the UK not using the eleven plus since the early 1970s there are still local authorities and private schools admitting pupils based on selection?

It might surprise you to learn, there are even now, 165 remaining grammar schools in various parts of England and 70 in Northern Ireland (and many more independent schools), and so the eleven-plus examination continues to thrive.

These days, the 11 Plus examination is taken by some pupils in their final year of primary school in order to get into their first choice grammar school. Private schools also use versions of it to 'screen' their intake of pupils, predominantly to ensure they only take on the highest-achieving pupils.

Amongst other areas, the examination predominantly assesses the child's capability to solve problems using verbal and nonverbal reasoning, writing and mental arithmetic. However, it should be pointed out that the sort of examination will vary from local authority to local authority or within the actual school itself. 

So if your child is about to take 11 plus exams, here's all you need to know...

Verbal and non-verbal Reasoning...

Some children just seem to have the knack when it comes to verbal reasoning and these children tend to be good at puzzles and activities like Sudoku and word searches.

The verbal reasoning part of the eleven-plus tests the child on words, text, solving problems and sequences as well as an understanding of English grammar and vocabulary.

The majority of schools set at least one verbal reasoning test. 

A large percentage of schools also use non-verbal reasoning tests and this part of the eleven-plus has shapes and codes which require the child to apply logical deduction skills. There is less demand for the written language and more on mathematical skills such as rotation and symmetry. 

Maths and written tests...

These tests are not as widely used as verbal and non-verbal reasoning tests. Schools want their selection to be 'tutor-proof', and the advantage of the verbal and non-verbal reasoning tests are that they aren't used in mainstream schools. If the school does implement them into the eleven-plus then you can expect the standards to be pretty high.

How do I prepare my child?

The first thing to do, is to find out which of the tests they'll be taking. There are two main exam boards you'll hear of: GL and CEM. Both are providers of exams and resource materials for 11 plus exams.

It's important to find out as much as you can about which elements of the test the school will be using. Most schools pick and choose - they're totally at liberty to do this.

Most schools will also be open and honest about what their entrance exams will consist of, and even supply you with past or example papers, so do your legwork first.

You can purchase resources and past papers online directly from the exam board websites, where you'll also find free samples.

Will a private tutor help?

YES, yes and yes! Everything can be taught and improved upon with practice. We find many parents looking for a tutor with specific experience of teaching to private school entrance exams, however, ANY teacher can teach what's required, providing they have access to the exam board's past papers.

At Ash Tutors we have successfully guided pupils through this exam many times.

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