As a student, you will undergo many examinations at all stages of your education, from primary school to secondary school and right up to higher education. Each set of examinations from SATs in Year 6, GCSEs in Year 11 and A-Levels in Year 13 act as milestones, symbolising your cognitive development and academic progression. The 11 Plus examination is perhaps less commonly heard of compared to SATs or GCSEs however, it is still held it quite a high regard for some students preparing for secondary school. It offers an alternative route enabling some high achieving students access to grammar or independent schools.
The 11 Plus examination is completed by students aged 10 and 11 years old, who are in primary school. These students will be in Year 6 and therefore, will be preparing for secondary school. Students taking the 11 Plus examination will be preparing to go to a grammar or independent secondary school. It may be possible for older students to complete an exam similar to the 11 Plus.
It is important to complete the 11 Plus examination if you want to attend a grammar or independent school. To find out more, including whether the exam is compulsory and how it compared to SATs, continue to read through this article.
What age do you take the 11 Plus exam?
The 11 Plus exam is taken by students aged 10 and 11 years old. This may seem like a very young age for students to take an exam, but it is not compulsory. Therefore, you and your parents can decide for yourselves whether or not the exam is something you want to sit.
If you are an older student aged between 12 and 14 years old and want to attend a grammar school, some select grammar schools have spaces available for Year 8 and Year 9 students. If this is the case, you will sit a 12 Plus or 13 Plus examination.
It is very unlikely for students older than 11 years old to sit an 11 Plus exam, as this would put younger students at a disadvantage.
The age at which you will begin preparing for the 11 Plus examination will vary. Generally, students will begin to prepare a year before the exam, when they are 9 and 10 years old. Preparation mainly depends on parental support or private tutoring, as the 11 Plus exam is not part of the national curriculum in the UK so schools have little involvement.
Who takes the 11 Plus exam?
Students at primary school in Year 6 take the 11 Plus exam. These students are about to transition from primary to secondary school. If you are in Year 8 or 9, it is possible to take a 12 Plus or 13 Plus examination in order to enter some grammar schools.
If you are unable to sit the 11 Plus exam at the beginning of Year 6 due to mitigating circumstances, it may be possible to sit it later in the year. Additionally, students may be able to resit the 11 Plus examination, but this will be at the discretion of the grammar or independent school and exam board.
Students in Year 6 usually take the 11 Plus exam at the beginning of the academic year in the September. This is when they first return to primary school following the transition period from Year 5 to Year 6. According to The Guardian, between 2016 and 2021 there was an increase of 2.4% in the number of students taking the 11 Plus exam.
Is the 11 Plus exam compulsory?
The 11 Plus exam is not a compulsory examination for year 6 students. Similarly, the 12 Plus and 13 Plus examinations are not compulsory for Year 8 or 9 students. According to this link, from explorelearning, the 11 Plus exam was mandatory for all students up until the early 1970s, following which this was changed.
It is now an optional entrance exam to allow some students access to grammar schools. If you are happy to go to a state secondary school, there is no need to complete the 11 Plus exam. The exam is organised by and accessed through grammar and independent schools directly. In this respect, the 11 Plus exam is different to SATs, which are mandatory for all Year 6 students.
If you are a student unsure of whether to take the exam, or a parent unsure of whether to encourage your child to take it, one factor you should consider is academic achievement. If you are a high achieving student, you should consider taking the exam.
Likewise, if you are unsure, it may be beneficial to sit the exam. This will give you the opportunity to access a grammar school if you decide you would like to, as without having sat the exam you would not be accepted. Read this Think Student article to learn more about grammar schools.
What is the 11 Plus exam?
The 11 Plus exam is a selective examination taken by Year 6 students and used by grammar and independent schools as a means of entry.
The exam focuses on 4 key subject areas – English, maths, verbal reasoning and non-verbal reasoning – one or all of which could come up on the test. The English and maths sections are under the national curriculum, whereas the verbal reasoning and non-verbal reasoning are not. Therefore, you may need to do more preparation for these questions.
The 11 Plus exam has lost some of its influence since the decline of grammar schools. Despite this, the main benefits of completing the 11 Plus exam are the increased opportunities through access to grammar and independent schools, as well as the experience gained from completing an examination.
However, a disadvantage is that even if a student passes the 11 Plus exam, this does not guarantee that they will secure a place at a grammar or independent school. The opportunity for Year 8 and 9 students to sit a 12 Plus or 13 Plus exam later as an alternative may benefit Year 6 students who decide not to complete the 11 Plus exam, perhaps due to a lack of confidence.
For a more in-depth analysis about what the 11 Plus exam is, check out this helpful Think Student article.
Why do you take the 11 Plus exam?
The main reason students take the 11 Plus exam is to gain entry into grammar and independent schools. This is considered a good option for students who are higher achievers and students at grammar schools will be at the same ability.
Grammar and independent schools use the 11 Plus as a selective exam, meaning they select high achieving students after their completion of the exam. Therefore, there is no guarantee you will get a place at a grammar or independent school despite completing the 11 Plus exam, although many will.
Taking the 11 Plus exam can be beneficial in giving younger students an insight into what examinations are like. The exam also allows you to gain a grade for English and Maths, which may
help to indicate your academic abilities in these subjects ahead of SATs at the end of year 6.
Completing the exam at the beginning of Year 6 may also help you to feel more confident in completing examinations generally, preparing you for your SATs.
For more information about grammar schools, have a look at this useful Think Student article.
How is the 11 Plus exam different to SATs?
SATs stand for ‘standard assessment tests’. They are exams on the national curriculum in the UK and are completed by students aged 10 and 11 at the end of Year 6. They focus on key subjects including Maths, English and Science with each test lasting one hour each. There are some key differences between SATs and the 11 Plus examination.
Check out this Think Student article to learn more about SATs.
The 11 Plus exam focuses on a mix of subjects on the national curriculum as well as verbal and non-verbal reasoning which are not, whereas SATs focus on subjects purely off the national curriculum. The 11 Plus exam takes place in September at the beginning of the academic year. In contrast, SATs take place at the end of the academic year, usually in May.
Are the 11 Plus and SATs exams compulsory?
As previously discussed, the 11 plus exam is not compulsory, and often it is only students who wish to attend grammar or independent schools that choose to take it. Whereas SATs are compulsory for all students as part of the national curriculum and are important as they are used by secondary schools.
In terms of acceptance, the 11 Plus exam and SATs are similar. Without having completed the 11 Plus examination, students cannot attend grammar and independent schools. Likewise, students have to complete SATs in order to attend state secondary schools, as these grades are used to generate GCSE target grades.
Is the 11 Plus part of the national curriculum?
The 11 Plus exam is not part of the national curriculum and is organised and completed separately from primary schools. In contrast, SATs are part of the national curriculum and therefore, primary schools are heavily involved with revision, support for students and the actual completion and marking of exams.
What age do you take the 11 Plus and SATs exams?
The 11 Plus exam and SATs are both completed by Year 6 students aged 10 and 11 years old. However, the 11 Plus exam as previously mentioned can be completed through some grammar schools by older students in Years 8 and 9 in the form of a 12 Plus or 13 Plus exam. SATs can only be completed by Year 6 students and there are no equivalent alternatives for older students.
Having to complete the 11 Plus exam may feel intimidating. At such a young age you may feel nervous to sit a proper examination. However, if you would like to attend a grammar or independent school, completing the 11 Plus exam is the main route available. The decision must be your own and is a prospect to feel excited about. However, if you are nervous or decide this route is not for you, remember you can complete the 12 Plus or 13 Plus exam when you are older.