If you’re a parent trying to decide which secondary school to send your child to in the UK, you might have encountered the 11+. 

This exam used to be taken by all primary school children in the days when the UK still operated a selective system. Those whose passed the 11+ went to grammar schools, and those who failed went to secondary modern schools. In the 1970s, that system was phased out, and it now only exists in a handful of places in the country where grammar schools have survived, and for entry into some independent schools.

That means that outside of certain counties or primary and prep schools that have a close relationship with a grammar or independent school, your child won’t be entered into the 11+ automatically. Instead, you’ll have to arrange for your child to sit it. 

Though the exam may have the same name, there are significant differences between the 11+ sat by prospective grammar school pupils and prospective independent school pupils. For entry into state-run grammar schools, the exam takes place in September of your child’s final year at primary school, and you’ll receive the results in October. The exam consists of some combination of English, Mathematics, Verbal Reasoning and Non-Verbal Reasoning. The latter two are IQ test-style questions that are supposed to level the playing field as they depend less on the child’s previous education. Not all schools will use all components of the test, so make sure to find out which parts are used by your child’s prospective school.

For entry into independent schools, the 11+ is likely to consist of English, Maths and Science, and not include Verbal or Non-Verbal Reasoning questions. Instead, it’s the equivalent of the Common Entrance exam typically taken by students for entry at age 13. The exam can take place any time between November and January, and tests are marked by the schools in question, so the time taken to issue results can vary.

It’s important for your child to practise the test before they sit it for real. Familiarity with the types of questions asked makes a big difference, especially in Verbal and Non-Verbal Reasoning, and can boost your child’s confidence on the day of the exam. Practising will also help them develop better exam technique, as they’ll get used to structuring their time to maximise their marks. This means that for both types of test, there’s a great deal you can do as a parent to help your child succeed. 

How can The Education Hotel help?

If you need help choosing your child’s next secondary school or help with the 11+ exam – why not explore our education advice service…

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