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An introduction to the 11 Plus

What is the 11+?

Most secondary schools in the UK are comprehensive — they're non-selective and accept children of all abilities. But in some areas, selective state secondary schools (grammar schools) still exist. These schools select their pupils based on academic ability.

The 11 Plus is a test that grammar schools (and some independent schools) often use to help them select their pupils — it's intended to be a good indicator of natural academic ability. In parts of the UK where the 11 Plus is set, it's usually taken in the first term of Year 6 of primary school.

The content of the test varies

The 11 Plus is not a compulsory test, and its exact content varies depending on the school or Local Authority (LA) you're applying to.

Important note: Some Local Authorities are changing their 11+ test provider from September 2013 onwards. In particular, the test set by CEM (Durham University) is becoming increasingly popular — our 11+ range now includes resources specifically written for CEM. You can download the most up-to-date information from our 11+ resources page.

Wherever you are, there are four main subjects that can be tested:

Verbal Reasoning — problem-solving and logic using words, letters and numbers.

See our complete 11+ Verbal Reasoning range


Non-Verbal Reasoning — problem-solving and logic using pictures and symbols.

See our complete 11+ Non-Verbal Reasoning range


Maths — often at the same level as the SATs, but it may be more challenging.

See our complete 11+ Maths range


English — reading comprehension, grammar and sometimes a writing task.

See our complete 11+ English range



The test can include any combination of these subjects, although the most common elements are Verbal Reasoning and Maths. The tests set by CEM include a mix of Verbal Reasoning, Non-Verbal Reasoning and Maths.

You'll find much more detail about each subject in our 11 Plus Study Books, which clearly explain everything children need to answer questions quickly and accurately. Each one also includes a pull-out booklet of in-depth 11 Plus information and advice for parents.

There are two possible formats for answering questions

The 11 Plus test can be set in two different formats: multiple choice (MC) or standard answer (SA). Both formats test the same skills, but the way children write their answers is different:

Multiple choice — children are given a separate sheet to write their answers on. The answers may be computer-marked.

Standard answer — there are spaces on the question paper itself for the answers.


Our 11 Plus Practice Test Papers are available in both of these formats. In our 11 Plus Practice Books, there's space for children to write their answers on the page (i.e. standard answer format), but free multiple choice answer sheets for each book are also available here.

The CEM (Durham University) tests contain a mixture of standard-answer and multiple-choice styles — our CEM mixed-subject practice papers also use this format.

Download free CGP 11+ practice tests

To give you a flavour of what to expect from the 11 Plus test, you can download a free practice test (including answers and multiple-choice answer sheets) for each subject from our 11+ resources page.