How Hard is the 11 Plus Exam?

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If you’ve done exams or tests before, you’re probably familiar with the feelings of either relief or utter dread after finishing them. You may have felt the exam was hard while someone else who took the same test may say that it was easy. This can make judging whether or not a test is hard a difficult thing to consider. The same applies to tests such as the 11 Plus exam, that are taken during primary education.

In short, the 11 Plus exam is fairly difficult, especially as it features verbal reasoning and non-verbal reasoning that students aren’t normally taught at school. These subjects test critical thinking, which is a skill lots of children aged 10 and 11 have not yet developed. On top of that, only the top 15% of the exam takers are accepted into grammar and private schools which rely on the 11 Plus exam.

Continue reading for more information about how difficult the 11 Plus exam is when looking at content, pass rate and pass mark, and how difficult it is in comparison with SATs.

How hard is the 11 Plus exam?

Judging the difficulty of an exam is incredibly subjective as entirely opposite results can be gained by people of different learning styles. This is especially true for a test such as the 11 Plus exam as the exam takers are only in Year 6 and may have different levels of preparation.

How hard is the 11 Plus content?

There are 4 main subjects that are tested on the 11 Plus exam. These are English, maths, verbal reasoning and non-verbal reasoning. You may be tested on all these subjects in your 11 Plus exam or just a combination of a few.

What is included in your actual exam depends on several factors, including the area where you live. For more information about the variation of exam content with area, check out this guide from Warwickshire County Council.

Subjects like English and maths are likely to be familiar to students already as they’re taught these subjects in school. However, it gets quite tricky with subjects like verbal and non-verbal reasoning.

Non-verbal reasoning is a problem-solving subject that involves pictures, shapes and diagrams instead of words. As it is not taught in schools and children are unlikely to have come across it before, non-verbal reasoning is quite difficult. This can make it quite stressful, adding to the difficulty of the 11 Plus exam. For more help with non-verbal reasoning, look at these practice papers from the 11 plus guide.

Verbal reasoning is quite similar in that it is a form of problem solving, as with non-verbal, but is word-based. This pretty much means that anything word or language-related can come up on the exam. Once again, it is often not taught directly in schools and can be a lot harder than normal subjects without enough practice

For more information about non-verbal and verbal reasoning and more about the 11 Plus exam, check out this Think Student article to learn more.

Due to the nature of verbal and non-verbal reasoning being about problem solving, they both test critical thinking and logic skills. As these aren’t skills that a child will directly learn, they are incredibly difficult subjects, especially at this age.

What is the 11 Plus exam pass rate?

The point of the 11 Plus exam is to allow grammar, private and independent schools to select the most academically gifted students. One of the best ways to find out how many students pass the 11 Plus exam is to look at how many get into schools that use the 11 Plus exam.

A grammar school is a state-funded school that offers places to the most academic students. For more information about what a grammar school is, check out this article. Also, if you would like to learn more about private or independent schools, check out this article.

According to an estimate, about 100,000 students take the 11 Plus exam each year. These students have a chance to gain one place out of an estimated 15,000. If you would like to learn more about these estimates, check out this article from ‘The 11 Plus Website’.

This means that students have a 15% chance at gaining a place and being successful with their 11 Plus exam result. This percentage is quite small, which suggests that the 11 Plus exam is incredibly difficult as students. There is an 85% chance of failing at getting into your chosen school, even if you technically pass the exam.

What is the 11 Plus exam pass mark?

As the 11 Plus exam results are calculated through standardisation, it can be quite difficult to understand how the pass mark is generated. When calculating the 11 Plus exam results, several things are taken into account to come up with the results.

For starters, the students take multiple papers. Instead of the average being simply calculated from these papers, each paper carries a different weight and then the score is taken considering this. To make the results fairer, the student’s age comes into account, as well as how difficult the exact test is. For more information about the standardisation methods used on the 11 Plus exam, check out this guide by Explore Learning.

The pass mark for the 11 Plus exam will change each year and may also depend on location. The average pass mark is generally between 80% and 85%. For the exact pass mark in your county, you may want to refer to your local council’s website or information provided by the school you’re interested in. For more information about the 11 Plus exam pass mark, check out this article by Go Grammar School.

The pass mark being so high further indicates the difficulty of this test. For reference, an A-Level student would normally be awarded an A* if they got 80% or more. This is representative of how passing the 11 Plus exam is a commendable achievement and is fairly hard to do.

Is the 11 Plus exam harder than SATs?

In the UK, SATs are tests that primary school students do as a way of checking on their academic progress. These tests, taken in Year 2 and Year 6, are a way of checking the quality of education that a child is receiving in state-funded education.

This is used by the government but can also be used by parents to decide what school they want their child to attend. For more information about what SATs are in the UK, check out this article from Third Space Learning.

Is the 11 Plus content harder than SATs?

In reference to the SATs that students do in Year 6, students are likely to be a similar age when doing SATs as they are if they do the 11 Plus exam. This makes it a lot more comparable when considering if one is harder than the other.

The Key Stage 2 (KS2) SATs for Year 6 students test them on 3 subjects. These are English reading, English grammar, punctuation and spelling and mathematics. For more information about the SATs exams and what is involved in them, check out this article from the government’s blog.

It is safe to consider these subjects as very similar to the 11 Plus exams, especially as English and maths are the core subjects for education in the UK. However, with the 11 Plus exam there are more unfamiliar subjects, which are arguably a bit harder.

On top of that, the very purpose of SATs is to simply check if a child’s academic ability is where it should be. On the other hand, the 11 Plus exam is used to select the most academically gifted students, which is why it will naturally be more difficult than SATs.

What is the SATs exam pass rate?

In 2019, 65% of students reached the expected standard in their SATs. As this figure was at 64% in 2018, it is clear that this is a rather typical figure for the number of students passing SATs. This is much higher than the 15% of successful applicants from the 11 Plus exam. This figure further suggests that the 11 Plus is harder. If you would like to know more about the SATs statistics, then check out this governmental guide.

Due to the function of SATs being to check on a child’s ability, using the terms pass and fail aren’t quite right. However, the student is considered to be working at the expected level if they have a scaled score of 100 or more. The lowest scaled score is 80 and the highest is 120.

As this is very much in the middle of the possible scaled scores, it suggests that “passing” the SAT exams is easier than passing the 11 Plus. This is especially as the 11 Plus pass mark is so high. For more information about the SATs pass mark, check out this governmental guide.

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