What is The 13 Plus Exam?

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Grammar schools have always been incredibly selective. Only the most academically gifted students have had the highest chances of getting admission to grammar school. The 11 Plus test, the test used by grammar schools, assesses a student’s ability to achieve academic success before they even reach secondary school. Many people criticise this and view it as a poor way to determine a student’s abilities, especially considering the low pass rate. Despite this, many parents are determined for their children to attend grammar school. This is why many students may take the 13 Plus exam.

Sitting the 13 Plus exam is generally seen as a second chance at gaining entry to a grammar school. The exam is only offered in certain areas of the UK and can be taken by students in Year 7 or Year 8. As the exam is taken after the 11 Plus exam, students will have more time to revise and go over the topics they were struggling with. The 13 Plus test is not as popular as the 11 Plus exam and is not accepted by all grammar schools.

It is natural for you to be nervous about the 13 Plus test just like you would have been nervous about the 11 Plus exam. You may be wondering if this test could put you at a disadvantage. Read on, to find out more about what the 13 Plus test entails.

Who takes the 13 Plus exam?

As the name suggests, the 13 Plus exam is usually taken at the age of 13 when you are in year 8. The test is often referred to as a late transfer test and its purpose is to determine whether you should gain entry into Year 9 at the school. 

Unlike the 11 Plus exam, to take the 13 Plus exam you must be registered for testing with the destination school of choice. You can find out more about this from your council website.

For example Buckingham Council offers a detailed explanation of the process.

Many students who take the 13 Plus exam are students who have already taken the 11 Plus exam but did not pass. The competitiveness of the 11 Plus exam means that roughly 1 in 6 students gains admission.

Many students will find they just narrowly missed out on gaining admission. Check out this article from Think Student to find out more about the 11 Plus pass mark.

It should be noted that the 13 Plus exam is structured very differently from the 11 Plus exam and has much more complexity. Students taking it must be prepared to revise a lot for this test.

When is the 13 Plus exam?

Testing dates are heavily dependent on the school you wish to attend. However, just like the 11 Plus exam, the exam will take place a year before you plan on entering the school.

The majority of 13 Plus examinations are provided by the Independent Schools Examinations Board (ISEB) via the Common Entrance exam. Check out this list provided by ISEB to find out if your destination school uses this examination.

There are three examination sessions and these are in the months: November, January and May/June. However the majority of schools will begin examinations in June whilst the November exams are used as mock exam practice.

Different parts of the exam will be taking place at different times, so it can be confusing to keep track of it all. It is common for the admission test dates to be selected well in advance, sometimes years ahead.

Check out this document for the list of exact examination dates from the years 2022 to 2025.

When was the 13 Plus exam introduced?

Selectively allocating students to schools is and was frequently looked down upon. However this was the standard between 1945 and the 1970s as part of the Tripartite System.

This separated secondary school education into three categories. These categories were: secondary modern school; secondary technical school; and grammar schools.

This is when the use of exams like the 11 Plus exam and 13 Plus exam became popular as a way to determine which students should enter which school. However, this system was formally abolished in 1976.

Of course many grammar schools still do exist and there are currently 163 grammar schools in the UK. The appeal of grammar schools have not faded and the use of the 11 Plus exam and 13 Plus exam are not going away any time soon.

Check out this article on Think Student to discover whether you would enjoy attending a grammar school.

How much is the 13 Plus exam?

It will probably come to no surprise to you that the exam is not free. For candidates taking the exam in the UK, you will be required to pay £140.

However, if you are only taking one subject examination, you will pay £30. The purpose of this fee is to cover the costs of printing and dispatching the exams.

However, there are a number of administrative fees you may need to pay. If you submit an entry after the closing date you will have to pay an additional £50.

If you need to have the candidate details changed, this will cost an additional £5. These details can include subject details or addresses etc.

Before submitting an application, make sure all the details are correct so you don’t end up paying more than you need to.

How different is the 13 Plus exam from the 11 Plus exam?

Other than the age at which the test is taken, the largest difference is the contents of the test. The 11 Plus tests only cover 4 topics which include verbal reasoning and non-verbal reasoning as well as the standard maths and English.

For more information about what the 11 Plus exam entails, check out this article from Think Student.

However, the 13 Plus exam will assess much more due to the student being much older. Each subject will also have different difficulty levels depending on the school. Schools may decide they want the student to complete exams in additional subjects.

English, maths and science are the three compulsory exams. Similarly to SATs, the English exam will consist of two exams with written and reading components.

The maths exam has three papers and these include a calculator paper, a non-calculator paper and a mental arithmetic paper. You will then be introduced to a science paper which can be either one paper or three and will assess your knowledge on biology, chemistry and physics.

Most schools will also include examinations in humanities or modern foreign languages, which also include a speaking exam.

This all may seem incredibly overwhelming. Make sure you contact your destination school and find out exactly what exams you will have to take. You can find the specification and specimen papers for all the subjects here on the ISEB website.

Taking exams are very stressful. Check out this article from Think Student to discover whether grammar schools are actually better.

Hopefully, this article has given you a better understanding of what you should expect to see and prepare for in the 13 Plus exam. Taking part in these types of exams at such a young age can be daunting and will require a lot of work.

Start preparing for those admission tests early and remember to always try your best. Good Luck!

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