Grammar School Test – Complete Parents’ Guide on the 11+ Exam for Grammar School Entry

If you are a parent of a child that is going to sit the 11+ Exam in September 2021 and you need guidance on how to prepare, you can find all the required information in this article. We also include the timeline of the most important dates so that your child does not miss anything important.

11+ Exam Timeline

Firstly, the parents have to decide which grammar schools they consider suitable for their children. Visiting each school is also a good idea as it will help your child see the environment and fit more quickly once the school year starts. Every school organizes virtual tours and virtual open days for the upcoming year, so make sure you know the dates to sign up.

April 2021

Grammar schools open their registration process in April or May, while the deadline for signing up for the 11+ exam ends around June or July. So, by then, all of the parents would have registered their children for the exam.

As these dates may vary depending on the school, it is best to check with the staff not to miss the registration.

Buckinghamshire school, for instance, automatically registers all children eligible for the 11+ exam, and they run an opt-out program for parents that would like to withdraw their child from the process.

September 2021

When the time for the 11+ exam comes, most schools will organize it in the first two weeks of the month. Again, we advise parents to check with their selected school on the exact dates.

October 2021

By the end of October, most grammar schools will have published the 11+ results.

March 2022

On the 1st of March, the school allocations are announced for all children.

September 2022

For Year 7, the new intake begins for the 164 grammar schools with the 11+ exam.

What are Grammar Schools?

A grammar school is a state-funded secondary school that primarily focuses on academic achievement for its pupils. Their origins date back to when schools were connected to monasteries, and their main focus was teaching Latin grammar, the language of academia. Those were called scolae grammaticales, hence their current name.

Each grammar school accepts pupils into Year 7 based on the 11+ or “11 plus” exam results. Some of the grammar schools also take pupils into Year 8 or Year 9. However, to attend, children must sit through 12+ or 13+ exams, respectively. Parents should know that grammar schools are very selective, and competition is high because they do not charge fees. This is why children need to prepare well for the 11+ exam to be admitted.

Grammar Schools Count

At the present moment, there are approximately 3000 state-funded secondary schools in the UK. Out of these, only 164 are state grammar schools for 167,000 pupils. Some grammar schools accept both boys and girls, and some are only single-sex schools.

The 164 grammar schools are distributed between 36 local English authorities. There are other 69 grammar schools in Northern Ireland, while there are none in Wales or Scotland. However, even if you do not live near a grammar school, your child can still be eligible to attend.

Many grammar schools recruit from outside their catchment area. Some of them even offer boarding facilities. Research if your selected grammar school accepts children who do not live nearby since the majority of them give advantage to pupils within their domain.

Private and State-funded Grammar Schools

Apart from the 164 state-funded grammar schools, other schools may charge tuition to attend. These are also called independent schools or private grammar schools. They select their pupils based on a Year 7 grammar school entrance exam constructed similarly to the 11+ exam, which takes place in January of Year 6.

Not all state-funded grammar schools have ‘grammar’ in their name, but they offer the same services. An example of this is Dr Challoner’s High School. On the other hand, some independent schools have ‘grammar’ in their name and charge tuition for attending.

The Benefits of Attending a Grammar School


Grammar schools are more selective than the other schools regarding their places. They give entry to pupils with advanced knowledge and interest. With such classes, teachers can work on a more advanced level and challenge their pupils further. For this, grammar schools have a track record of being the highest performing schools listed in national league tables.

Additionally, pupils who attend grammar schools end up developing themselves to have very successful careers and take on better-paying jobs.

Why the 11+?

The 11+ exam or “11-plus” is a test around which grammar schools centre their selection process. It is taken early in Year 6, mainly in September. Not all 11+ papers are the same, and each grammar school may have a different. However, they all assess in the following domains:

– English language

– Mathematics

– Verbal reasoning

– Non-verbal reasoning

The types of exams and how they are formed will depend on the grammar school. A single 11+ exam may require that the students take two or even three different examinations. Some may have non-verbal reasoning and a verbal reasoning exam, while in other schools, they may examine with the same exams, such as two verbal reasoning papers.

Of course, this information will be revealed by the schools beforehand.

11+ Boards

There are two main boards for the 11+ exam.

GL Assessment (or NFER)

This board runs the 11+ exams for the grammar schools in:

– Berkshire

– Bexley

– Buckinghamshire

– Devon

– Gloucestershire

– Kent

– Shropshire

– Walsall

– Warwickshire

– Wirral

– Wolverhampton

The GL 11 plus exam tests English, mathematics, verbal reasoning, and non-verbal reasoning (spatial awareness). Schools under the GL assessment board have the right to choose any combination of these four areas of knowledge and implement them in their tests. What they select will depend on what fits best in their selection criteria.

CEM Exam Board

The Centre for Evaluation and Monitoring at Durham University is in charge of running the 11+ examination at the following grammar schools:

– Birmingham

– Cumbria

– Dorset

– Lancashire

– Medway

– Northern Ireland

– Wiltshire

The CEM 11+ exam tests verbal reasoning, non-verbal reasoning, and numerical reasoning. Here in the verbal reasoning exam, there are many similarities to the GL English exam, while the numerical reasoning exam has many similarities with the GL maths exam.

Many grammar schools in Yorkshire, Essex, Hertfordshire, Trafford, and Devon use a mixture of GL and CEM methods for their 11+ examinations.

What to Expect from 11+ Examinations

Regardless of which grammar school is taken, the 11+ focuses on testing the primary skills in English and mathematics. Your child can expect spelling, punctuation, grammar, comprehension, and vocabulary from the English or verbal reasoning test.

In numerical reasoning or mathematics, the child’s arithmetic skills, problem-solving ability, and data manipulation are assessed.

Non-verbal reasoning tests spatial awareness, pattern-spotting ability, and logical skills.

How to Prepare for the 11+ Exam?

11 plus

The best way for parents to support their children in preparing for the 11+ exam is to assess their strong and weaker points and work on those intensively. The type of support and the best time to start preparing will largely depend on your child’s current skills and attainment level at school.

They may need only a few weeks of special classes to prepare for all testing areas that the 11+ exam includes, but they also may need even longer, up to a few months. Working with the parents at home is equally essential after these tuition classes.

If your child is taking private lessons, their tutor will be practising types of questions as found in the 11+ papers. This way, they can best prepare your child in developing the technique and confidence to sit through a few hours of the actual 11+ exam.

Getting support from a professional tutor can be highly beneficial as they can best assess their current knowledge and know what areas of their skills need further work. A tutor, especially in one-to-one tuition, will polish your child’s existing knowledge and challenge them to create interest to attain more knowledge from the classes. The 11+ tuition classes will not necessarily help only for the 11+ exam but will also offer broader and more significant benefits of your child’s general knowledge and school work.

What if Your Child Fails the 11+ Exam?

There are two options if your child does not pass the 11+ as expected. Namely, the parents can submit an appeal at the grammar school and have the decision revalued, or they can register their child for a later selection, at 12+ or 13+.

11+ Exam Preparations Final Word

11+ are structured to get the most out of a child’s knowledge level and give them a solid base to do their best later on at higher levels of education. When preparing with one-to-one tuition classes, children can do exceptionally well and boost self-belief and skills in a few weeks.