The 11 Plus Exam (also called the 11+ Exam) is a test taken by children to gain entrance to one of the 160+ grammar schools in England.

In the past all children sat the 11+, but now it is used only in areas with grammar schools, mainly: Buckinghamshire, Essex, Kent, Lincolnshire and North Yorkshire. Other areas with grammar schools include Birmingham, Hertfordshire, Surrey, London, Liverpool, Trafford, Berkshire, Bexley, Gloucestershire, Warwickshire, Wolverhampton, Reading and Devon.

The level of competition for places can be very high.

The 11+ Exam itself is written to be like an intelligence or aptitude test. The types of question found in it will often use the Key Stage 2 syllabus as a basis for knowledge but they test this knowledge in problematic ways.

Examining Bodies

There are two eximining bodies that write 11+ tests: GL Assessment and CEM. As a guide here is a list of the areas covered by each (to make certain, as some areas vary from school to school, you should contact the school you are applying for):

GL Assessment:

Dorset, Kent, Lancashire & Cumbria, Lincolnshire, Medway, Northern Ireland, Wiltshire.


Berkshire, Bexley, Birmingham, Buckinghamshire, Devon, Gloucestershire, Shropshire, Walsall, Warwickshire, Wirral, Wolverhampton.

Devon, Essex, Hertfordshire, Trafford, Yorkshire use both test formats.

Exam Content

The four main areas tested in the 11+ exam are Maths, English, Verbal Reasoning and Non-Verbal Reasoning. However the two different exams do vary in terms of content.

GL Assessment tests cover: English, Maths, Verbal Reasoning and Non-verbal Reasoning. However different schools choose which of these they will test.

CEM has made attempts to change the examination format and make it less possible for children to be tutored to success – and they produce no practice papers. Their tests cover Numerical Reasoning, Verbal Reasoning and Non-Verbal Reasoning. Numerical Reasoning involves much Key Stage 2 level Maths. The Verbal Reasoning found on these tests includes much of the content from 11+ English such as testing vocabulary and comprehensions – a wide-ranging vocabulary is very important for this verbal reasoning test.


Children are sometimes privately tutored to increase there ability to answer the types of question found in the exam. Many parents face the question as to whether sending their child for private tuition is necessary or financial viable. It is important to remember though that a good chance of success in the 11+ rests in a strong knowledge of the underlying syllabus and a certain amount of practice at the type of questions in the 11 Plus tests. It is not necessary for every child to be privately tutored, however we do believe that practicing the type of question found in the exam is of benefit to all children who want to suceed. Preparation can begin in year 4 but for most children year 5 is the right time to begin.

Where Open School courses fit in

The Open School fits in at year 5 for most children. Whilst it is possible for younger children to attempt our papers, we must stress that the level is quite difficult and children who are too young may become frustrated.

For more information see our 11+ Exam FAQs.