What do I need to know about the 11+ exams?
Entrance into the UK’s most prestigious and elite schools is highly selective and based on merit but note some selective schools also add catchment into the criteria. Typically, only those with the highest grades are admitted. It is no surprise then, that children from these schools tend to go on to the world’s most renowned universities and leave the education system with the best knowledge and network of contacts any of us can hope for.
What is the 11+ exam?
The 11+ is an exam taken by many children in their final year of primary school to gain entry into grammar and independent schools. The 11+ exam was once used throughout the United Kingdom, but since the 1970s most areas replaced the 11+ exam with the non-selective comprehensive education system. However, some local authorities have retained some or all of their grammar schools and today, in England, there are still over 160 grammar schools.
There is no standard national 11+ exam, and each school, whether grammar or independent, will set its own exam, and each will vary in style and content. The tests will examine the child’s ability in 4 key areas: Maths, English, Verbal and Non-Verbal Reasoning. At Examflicks, our tuition covers all of these areas in depth with regular testing and is reinforced by our mock exam program.
It is important to note that the 11+ entrance exam is different from what is known as the “Common Entrance Exam” which is usually taken at the age of 13 for independent schools.
It is also important to note that, the 11+ exams can only be taken once. There is no provision for resitting tests if the results are disappointing. It is truly a ‘once only’ opportunity
Who can apply?
Anyone can apply no matter where they live and a fee is charged to sit the exam . However, most grammar schools require applicants to live within a certain catchment area which is usually an area within a specific radius of the school. Often, this is determined by your home postcode. If you live within this area you can apply to sit the exam free of charge. London grammar schools tend to be the most oversubscribed with more than 2500 children competing for less than 200 places.
Grammar school vs Independent school explained
These schools are funded by fee-paying students and typically cost upwards of £20,000 per year. They often refer to the 11+ simply as their entrance exam. While these schools are funded independently of the government, they must still teach the national curriculum which is the same for every school in the UK. However, they can afford to have smaller classes than government funded schools.
Despite the high price tag these schools are not easier to get into than grammar schools and do not look favourably on candidates hoping to offer the school money in exchange for bypassing the exam system.
These schools are very oversubscribed. Academic excellence is a given, but as many of these schools are relatively wealthy, they tend to boast a wide range of extracurricular pursuits such as fencing, rowing and rugby, as well as on site swimming pools, gyms and professional level music facilities and theatres. For the top independent schools expect to see around 2000 students vying for less than 200 places. Successful candidates are notified by post or email.
What’s in the 11+ exam?
In every 11+ exam there will be an element of English language, maths and a few verbal and non- verbal reasoning questions. These are word and shape puzzles designed to test cognitive ability. Schools often change their exact exam format to keep everyone on their toes but below is what’s typical.
Again, the kind of Maths required to do well in the 11+ bears no resemblance to the Maths a child in Year 6 has seen. Typically, they will need to be very comfortable with topics such as algebra, geometry, ratios, possibility and be able to use their knowledge of these to solve complex questions requiring the use of several topics together.
Many schools will throw some non-verbal reasoning questions in their maths paper just for fun!
Non-Verbal Reasoning questions are symbol and picture-based. They test a child’s ability to understand and remember a visual sequence, interpret the meaning of the visual presentation, find the ‘odd one out’, solve codes and missing sequence patterns. At Primary School, your child will have been taught how to deal with words and numbers but dealing with pictures is very different and your child will need to develop a new set of skills. Rather like musical ability, you may find your child is very good at ‘academic’ subjects but struggles initially with visual skills. Our teaching encourages these skills to develop but, just as with musical skills, you cannot expect these abilities to develop overnight – they grow over time. Practice and perseverance are needed to succeed and at Examflicks we support your child during this journey.
Verbal Reasoning is largely language-based problem-solving and your child will need a broad vocabulary and good grasp of English grammar to be successful in these ultra-competitive exams. Although our tuition covers this area it is very important that your child is reading a wide variety of books at home. We do provide a reading list but the most important thing is simply to read and read and read!
Although a verbal test would logically be entirely about words you will find that the 11+ Verbal Reasoning test also includes questions requiring basic numeracy skills. It is therefore important that your child is comfortable with simple mental arithmetic – knows the ‘times tables’ and can add, subtract, multiply and divide in their head quickly and easily. The test itself often includes questions involving simple algebra and number sequences. Our teaching covers these specific areas but, as with vocabulary, the importance of your contribution, as parents, cannot be over-emphasised
What does a grammar school 11+ exam look like?
Typically, grammar schools will have a two-part test. The first-round test will include an English comprehension and maybe some creative writing as well as Maths.
Once those papers are marked, the children with the best marks are invited to the second-round tests. The number of children invited back varies from school to school but if there are, for instance, 160 places up for grabs, they might invite the top 400 scoring children back for round two a few weeks later. The second-round test will also involve a more nuanced and difficult English comprehension and creative writing as well as a tougher maths test.
Based on those results, selections will be made, and students are informed by post if they have won a place.
What does an independent school 11+ exam look like?
Independent schools tend to have one exam of English and Maths. The top scorers are invited back for a face-to-face interview.
The English exam involves a comprehension and creative writing exercise similar to an English language GCSE. The Maths exam involves many areas of Maths you might expect to see in a Maths GCSE.
Students invited to interview can expect to be given English or Maths questions to do ‘live’ in front of an examiner or may be asked to discuss current affairs or world issues. They want to know a student is aware and knowledgeable of the world around them and is an eloquent and articulate speaker.
My child is top of their class, do I need to do anything to prepare them for this exam?
Unfortunately, yes! As stated above these exams have become so competitive that they require knowledge and abilities way beyond anything your child will encounter in primary school. Also, schools like to change things up to keep everyone on their toes. A tutor will know exactly what your chosen school requires and when things are changing, they’ll also be able to give you realistic feedback on your child’s progress.
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When should my child start the course?
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