Exams can be an important part of our education as they can demonstrate what we know, what we don’t and what we need to work on. Sometimes, exams can mean something else. They can be a lot more serious when it comes to pass or fail or getting the grade you want. At times, an exam can mean whether or not you’re able to get into a specific school. This can be true for getting into secondary school- either a grammar or private school. The exam you need to pass in order to get into these schools is typically the 11 Plus exam, but what even is it?
In short, the 11 Plus exam is a type of selective entrance exam. It is used by grammar schools and private schools to select the students with the highest academic ability. As it is an entrance exam for secondary school, the exam will normally be taken by a Year 6 student. There are 4 main subjects that typically feature on the 11 Plus exam. These include ones that you would expect, English and maths. But also, slightly more obscure ones, verbal reasoning and non-verbal reasoning.
Continue reading for more information about what the 11 Plus is and what is involved in it. If you’re wondering what the terms verbal reasoning and non-verbal reasoning are, then you should definitely read on for more information about them and other aspects of the 11 Plus exam.
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What is the 11 Plus exam?
If you’ve been to primary school in the UK, then it is quite likely that you’ve at least heard of the 11 Plus exam. You may have some ideas about what this means. Or maybe, you’ve done or are planning to do the 11 Plus exam yourself. But what it actually is sometimes needs a little more clarification.
The 11 Plus exam is a type of entrance exam in the UK. More specifically, it is a type of selective entrance exam used for secondary school. The 11 Plus exam is used by grammar school to select the best academically performing students. Private schools may also use these exams, despite also being fee-paying. For more information about what the 11 Plus is, check out this guide by Oxford Owl.
In case you didn’t know, grammar schools are government-funded secondary schools that are allowed to select pupils based on academic ability. The idea of this is to give more academic students a slightly more advanced education than they would get at a normal state school. For more information about grammar schools, check out this article from Relocate Magazine.
What does the 11 Plus exam consist of?
While you now know what it is, the 11 Plus exam is still quite a vague term. This can make it quite difficult to know what is actually involved in it and near impossible to guess.
There are 4 main subjects that are tested on the 11 Plus exam. This is probably so that schools can get a better scope of their potential students’ academic ability. These four main subjects are: English, maths, verbal reasoning and non-verbal reasoning.
You may be tested on all of these subjects in your 11 Plus exam or maybe just a combination of a few. What is included in the exact exam(s) depends on several factors. These include both the grammar school you’re applying for and the exam board that makes the exam.
The layout of the paper and the length of the exam will also vary based on what exam board your prospective grammar school or private school has chosen.
For more information about what is involved in an 11 Plus exam, please look at this article from Explore Learning.
What is verbal reasoning?
While also featuring on Year 7 CATs, verbal reasoning is an important part of the 11 Plus exams. But as it’s typically not something studied at school, trying to figure out what this actually is can be a pain. This can make facing them on the 11 Plus exam just that little bit harder.
Simply put, verbal reasoning is a form of word-based problem solving. This pretty much means that anything word-related or language-related can come up. Due to this, there are a wide range of verbal reasoning question types. The ones you get on your 11 Plus exam may want you to solve a word problem, spot a letter sequence, respond to written instructions, or even figure out codes. The extent of what could be covered in a verbal reasoning question is truly vast!
The purpose of verbal reasoning exams is just like the name suggests. They are supposed to test the child’s ability to understand words and use them to reason. As these aren’t something that can properly be taught, the child is ultimately also being tested on their critical thinking skills and problem-solving skills, too. For more information about verbal reasoning, check out this article from TheSchoolRun.com.
What is non-verbal reasoning?
Non-verbal reasoning is once again an important feature in 11 Plus exams as well as CAT exams that are taken in Year 7. While its name can seem quite self-explanatory, it is also incredibly vague. This is especially as it shows that it’s not verbal reasoning, which as mentioned above is to do with words and language. However, it doesn’t describe what it actually is.
To sum it up, non-verbal reasoning is just like verbal reasoning. The difference being that verbal reasoning is problem solving based around words and language. Instead, non-verbal reasoning is based around pictures, diagrams and shapes. It’s lack of words or numbers can make it take a little longer to get your hand around.
Students are expected to answer questions that use drawings, shapes and codes. In these questions, they may need to work out sequences, similarities, or differences in the sets of images. In this way, non-verbal reasoning is somewhat based around maths. Especially topics such as geometry and sequences.
These non-verbal reasoning exams are testing students on their critical thinking skills as well as their understanding and application of mathematical concepts outside of the traditional format. For more information about non-verbal reasoning, check out this guide from TheSchoolRun.com.
Who takes the 11 Plus exam?
The 11 Plus exam is a type of selective entrance exam used for secondary school. Due to this, it is taken by Year 6 pupils. These Year 6 students will be looking to attend either a grammar school or a private school.
The name of the exam, 11 Plus, refers to the students starting secondary school at 11. It also is partially due to the students likely being aged 11 in Year 6, when this exam is taken. However, most students will still be 10 years old when taking the exam. For more information about this, look at this guide from ElevenPlusExams.co.uk.
Due to grammar schools having been mostly phased out in the 1970s, grammar school aren’t as common as they used to be, and new ones can’t be made. However, the main counties that still have them are Berkshire, Bexley, Birmingham, Buckinghamshire, Cumbria, Devon, Dorset, Essex, Gloucestershire, Hertfordshire, Kent, Lancashire, Lincolnshire, Medway, Shropshire, Trafford, Wiltshire, Walsall, Warwickshire, Wirral, Wolverhampton and Yorkshire.
Students who take the 11 Plus exam to go to grammar school are more like to be from these regions. For more information about where grammar schools still are in the UK, check out this guide from Oxford Owl.
Until the 1970s, all students in England and Wales had to take the 11 Plus exam, whether they wanted to or not. The 11 Plus exam was compulsory to decide what secondary school you could go to. This would either be a grammar school or an ordinary secondary school.
This changed with the decline of grammar schools. This continued until 2022, where there were very few grammar schools and only a small proportion of students take the 11 Plus exam. For more information about this, look at this article by Relocate Magazine.
When is the 11 Plus exam taken?
Students normally take the 11 Plus exam at the start of the academic year. This will be in the first term of the year in Autumn. The exact testing day will depend on where you live and what school you’re applying for. Normally, the testing day is in September. For more information about this, check out this article by TheSchoolRun.com.
Doing it this early on, means that examiners have more time to mark the exams and that students can be quickly selected afterwards. In some areas, grammar schools may send out the results as early as mid-October. Students (or more their parents) and then expected to properly apply to the school by the end of the month.
This leaves enough time for there to be another testing day later on in the school year in about February, where students may be accepted into the school or put on the waiting list. Due to all of this being so early on in the year, there is still enough time for appeals at the end of the year.
For more information about this timeline of the 11 Plus exam and grammar school admissions, check out this guide from Gloucestershire County Council.