Introduction to the 11 Plus

How does the Eleven Plus work?

Most selective schools (state or private) admitting pupils in Year 7 will use a competitive exam to select students. Although these exams are called the Eleven Plus, the tests are usually taken during the last year of primary school when the student may only be 10 years old.

What happens in an Eleven Plus exam?

Most schools expect candidates to be at working at around level 5 on the National Curriculum. However, the format and structure of these exams can vary enormously between private schools, with little common ground on what they are assessing in their exams or the expected performance on those exams. It can be very hard to find out concrete information about exactly how a school’s entrance procedure works, or what they are actually looking for. However, the Eleven Plus exam will usually consist of Maths, English as well as Verbal and/or Non Verbal Reasoning. There may also be an interview involved although this varies. Some schools may also use computer based software, such as InCAS for their selection process.

Computer based assessments are designed to provide a different approach to traditional assessment. Instead of the pre-set questions that all students answer as in a paper test, computer based assessments such as InCAS individualise tests by adapting the difficulty of each question based on the child’s previous answer to the last question. The first question will usually be ‘easy’, suitable for a child younger than the student’s actual age. The questions then increase in difficulty until the child can no longer provide any more accurate answers consistently. The answers are used in conjunction with the child’s age to provide age related information about her/her ability. For example, the results for a 10 year 3 month old boy who is particularly able in Maths may indicate that he is working at a level on par with a student aged 13 years 4 months, i.e. his Maths ability is 2 years and 1 month ahead what is expected of his chronological age. While computer based assessments generally focus on Reading, Spellings, Mental Arithmetic, Writing will still be assessed on paper. Do also be aware that there may also be an ‘Attitudes’ test to assess the child’s views on different aspects on his school life. This is a short questionnaire involving multiple choices to questions such as ‘ How happy do you feel on the playground’ or ‘ How confident do you feel about writing stories?’

How can I prepare my child for the Eleven Plus exam?

Many schools prepare their students for the Eleven Plus exams. However, if your child’s current school does not do this, try buying some of the past Eleven Plus ISEB papers from Galore Park and have your child sit an exam at home. As a rough benchmark, they need to be getting at least 65% on these papers to enter at Eleven Plus. Obviously they may not be able to achieve this on a first sitting but this will give you a rough idea of your child’s ability at this stage and what your child needs to work on in order to improve. Do visit your chosen school’s website as some of them will have sample papers for your child to try on their Admissions page. These sample papers will give you an idea of the level your child is expected to be working at to stand a good chance of successful entry. Some schools will also tell you whether they use ISEB papers and/or their own tests as part of their admissions procedure.

For computer based assessments, it’s important that your child’s IT skills are up to scratch. This means being able to operate a mouse to select multiple choice answers or highlighting parts of the text as well as typing words and number answers into the answer box. Do train your child to be familiar with both the number pad on the right of a keyboard as well as the number bar at the top.

Your child is going to have to perform in a series of competitive exams so making sure your child is feeling confident is also important. Always remember that the whole point of this process is to find a school where your child will thrive academically. School entrance is not a competitive sport. Whilst many children can do very well when under pressure to achieve at 11 plus, some won’t. From experience, this doesn’t make them more or less able, just not ready yet. A good many schools offer entrance at 13 plus for both boys and girls, and if you feel that your child simply won’t be ready at 11 plus then this represents a sensible option.

What else is there to know about the 11 Plus?

Once you understand the basic mechanics of the 11+ exam, it is important to get your head around both the Maths and English syllabus. You can do this by reading our relevant articles below:

11+ Maths guide

11+ English guide
If you are still deciding which school to put your child forward for at 11+, we recommend using our school admissions guide to better understand the admissions process for a number of schools offering 11+ entry.

Owl Tutors 11+ School Admissions Guide

Although we don’t provide sample papers for the ISEB pre-test, we do provide our own set of Eleven Plus exam papers. These are completely free to use, and cover the main subjects assessed at 11+. You can view these using the link below.

Owl Tutors 11+ Exam Papers

If you are looking for a tutor, we can certainly help. We offer home tutors in London, online tutors internationally, and both short- and long-term residential tuition placements. All of our tutors are qualified school teachers, with classroom teaching experience in the subjects they tutor.

11+ Tutors

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