The CEM 11 Plus Exam: A guide to exam content and preparation







The CEM 11 plus Exam may at first appear as a daunting set of dates within the exam schedule, after all it is these exams which cover a plethora of skills, subjects and question formats. What’s more however the structure of this exam encourages a particularly broad approach to preparation and revision, and without the right guidance this can seem too expansive and undefined to properly prepare for.

So with all of this in mind we wanted to provide an over view to the CEM 11 Plus Exam’s content and look at ways in which students may prepare for the exam most effectively.

The CEM 11 Plus Exam: Exam content

The CEM 11 plus Exam is made up from two separate 45 minute papers and either of these can be multiple choice or standard questions (which one will depend upon the subject in question).

Each of these approaches covers a wide range of topics which includes English (in which there will be Verbal Reasoning), Non-Verbal Reasoning and Numerical Reasoning (e.g. mathematics).

Each paper consists of numerous timed sections with each of these sections varying between a 6 minute and a 12 minute time allowance. Students will only move from one section to the next when instructed. CEM has specifically adopted this approach in the hope that this structure does not lend itself to those who may have been tutored intensively and moves away from speed being an overarching influencer upon how well a student may do at the exam.

Tips and tricks for effective CEM 11 plus Exam preparation

English (called Verbal Reasoning by CEM)


These two papers will generally include one longer and one shorter comprehension piece. Students will be asked to explain why certain characters may have taken partial actions or made spoken statements, and as such students will need to have a well formed set of comprehension skills.

Verbal Reasoning

The CEM 11 Plus Exam will cover the more traditional of Verbal Reasoning questions. These questions will focus upon synonyms and opposites. These exercises require that the student be well developed with their vocabulary.


CLOZE tests are specifically designed to test comprehension, vocabulary and spelling and will be in one of three forms:

– A choice of most suitable words: The student would be presented with a sentence with a missing word, as well a range of words to choose from. This question may test grammar.

– A range of missing letters: The student would be presented with a sentence that is mostly formed, but where one word may be missing various letters. This question tests the child’s breadth of vocabulary.

– Jumbled sentences: Jumbled sentence questions present a sentence that is mixed up, with the student required to arrange the words in an order that makes sense. This question tests a child’s comprehension.


Other English Questions

It’s worth bearing in mind that CEM are quite entitled to change their exam structures to something different at any given stage, and without any prior warning whatsoever. If they did decide to do this then you can be somewhat prepared by having revises for a cognitive test or for an exam paper that consists of questions focused upon the school syllabus.

This this end this really is an exam where a broad preparation approach is essential and most specifically children who have both well-honed vocabulary and an excellent spelling skillset are most likely to do well.


CEM 11 Plus Exam – Numerical Reasoning

A recent addition to CEM is the term ‘Numerical Reasoning’, however despite this impressive name this simply means mathematics and covers calculations (+, -, x , ÷) as well as sentence based maths questions and the longer of questions which may be multi-part (this may be five questions based upon a graph, for example). Generally speaking this section of the exam will be suited to those who have good maths skills, and who have learnt relatively consistently well throughout their primary school time.

However it’s advisable to note that CEM do change the question formats, so it’s worth preparing in a very board way with plenty of differing question types so that the student may become used to employing their skills in varying ways.


CEM 11 plus Exam- Non- Verbal Reasoning

Non-Verbal reasoning is an area where there may only be a limited amount of preparation that can be undertaken. However it is most important to ensure that children are familiar with all of the core concepts (ideally having practiced a number of papers to improve the speed with which they work).

The CEM 11 Plus Non-Verbal Reasoning section features little to no differences from other Non-Verbal Reasoning exams or sections for this age group. To this end you can assume that there may be various 3D shapes and other similar forms which, whilst new to the student, will be perfectly understandable with a grasp of the basic concepts (such as mirror lines, image differences, rotation and symmetry).

A word of warning: Many parents presume that Non-Verbal Reasoning benefits from continual practice and that frequently revising will achieve better results. However research has found this not to be the case and an idea revision plan of between 6 and 8 tests over two weeks provides an optimal 80%+ gain in performance.


Our top tip for the CEM 11 plus Exam

The importance of paper practice for the CEM 11 plus Exam is not to be underestimated. A good performance within such exams very much depends upon the student’s familiarity with the exam and variation of the question structures. You can purchase revision papers (as well as specifically designed guides) upon Amazon.


11 Plus Tutors in Essex provide customised tutorship on an unparalleled level; each and every one of our tutors takes the time to truly get to know their student and never stops adapting their approach, materials and teaching methods to harness the students strengths whilst working upon overcoming their weaknesses.