What Percentage of Pupils Pass the 11 Plus Exam?

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Graded examinations play a key role in your acceptance to education institutions. Your A-Level grades will determine which university you will enter. Your GCSE grades will determine which Sixth Form College you can go to. It seems only natural that some secondary schools will also choose to be selective in terms of their pupils. Therefore, many secondary schools across the country place lots of emphasis on academic success and more specifically on entrance examinations. These schools are referred to as grammar schools and the test conducted is commonly known as the 11 Plus test.

The 11 Plus test is conducted by grammar schools nationwide and its purpose is to offer places to pupils who are expected to thrive academically in secondary school and further. Therefore, it is no surprise that this test is extremely competitive and usually has a very high pass rate of around 80%. There is no exact percentage of students who pass the 11 plus exam, but an estimated 1 in 6 students who take the test gain admission to their chosen school.

For a student aspiring to go to a grammar school it is natural to be nervous about the 11 Plus test and you may be wondering what sort of questions you will have to prepare for. Read on, to find out how you can do your best in the 11 Plus test.

How many students pass the 11 Plus exam?

There are only 163 grammar schools in England compared to the total 3458 secondary schools. Due to this only a small number of places can be offered every year. There are roughly 100,000 students who take the test every year but approximately 15,000 places are offered.

This means that there is only a 1 in 6 chance of a student gaining admission. This ratio can increase to a 1 in 10 chance in areas with fewer grammar schools.   

However, places at grammar schools are not only determined by the 11 Plus Test. A series of interviews may be conducted after the test. The final place may be offered to students based simply on factors like proximity to the school.

The low number of grammar schools in the UK means that there is only a small set of data to make valid comparisons. This means that it is difficult to determine the actual number of students who have passed the test, even if they did not get a place in a grammar school.

What is the 11 Plus pass mark?

The 11 Plus tests share many traits with other examinations, one of which is that it has a non-fixed pass mark.  It should be noted however that whilst there is a varied pass mark, many schools agree that an average of 80 percent is the standard. Pass rates can vary from school to school and county to county. This is mainly due to the abundance of grammar schools in an area. Check out this briefing from the House of Commons Library to find out the number of grammar schools in your local area.

The pass mark can be higher in areas with lower numbers of grammar schools as the pass mark will be much higher than counties with a higher number of grammar schools. Therefore, a lower pass mark is acceptable due to spaces being less competitive. Despite this, it is very unlikely for the pass mark in any location in the UK to exceed roughly 85 percent. Counties that typically have lower pass marks include Kent, with approximately 32 grammar schools.

Check out this article from the SchoolRun to find out more about the pass mark in Kent. In comparison to a city like London, with only 19 grammar schools, the pass mark will be much higher due to the smaller number of spaces.

Rather than focusing on the pass mark, it is important to focus your attention on the contents of the test.

What does the 11 Plus exam consist of?

Overall, the 11 Plus exam tests students on 4 main categories and these are: English, Maths, Verbal Reasoning and Non-Verbal Reasoning. You will be familiar with the English and Maths portion of the test. Verbal and Non-Verbal reasoning are not covered in school and might be unfamiliar terms to students.

Verbal Reasoning assesses the student’s critical thinking ability rather than their knowledge. Here is an outline of the type of questions that can come up in Verbal Reasoning:

  • Spotting letter sequences
  • Cracking codes based on letters and numbers
  • Understanding analogies
  • Spotting words within words
  • Text completion

The majority of students will struggle more with the Non-Verbal portion of the test which tests a student’s ability to understand and solve problems using visual aids and logic. It is similar in format to an IQ test. Here is an outline of the type of questions that can come up in Non-Verbal Reasoning:

  • Odd one out.
  • Geometry with a focus on 3D shape nets
  • Symmetry and reflections.
  • Sequences and working out which diagram comes next
  • Rotations

Check out this article  from Think Student for a more in- depth explanation of the contents of the test. 

How to pass the 11 Plus exam?

Passing the 11 Plus Test is not a simple task. The exam consists of question types and material that younger students may be unfamiliar with. Therefore, the most important factor in passing the test is to be fully prepared for what may come.

There are two main things to know to increase your chances of passing and these are: knowing what exam board your test will be and knowing your current academic level

There are two exam boards for the test and these are Centre for Evaluation and Monitoring (CEM) and Granada Learning (GL). The exam board for your test will be based on the school’s location. The differences in exam boards are noticeable in three main factors which include: the format of the papers, the style of questioning, and the time given to answer the questions. These differences may not seem significant at first but not acknowledging them could be the difference between a pass and fail as different material will be covered.

To know which exam board your test will be, make sure to contact the school and tailor your revision well in advance.

How to revise for the 11 Plus exam?

The 11 Plus exam is frequently referred to as a test unable to revise for due to its subject components and style of questioning. However, like all tests, the key to passing is to familiarise yourself with the structure. The format will consist of multiple choice and written elements

One way to prepare is to complete practice papers in timed conditions. This can also be an extremely long process, but it is an effective technique as it allows you to understand which areas you need to improve in and which you are good at. This method works best for Verbal and Non-Verbal Reasoning because they are not knowledge-based questions and similar questions are repeated in the test every year.

If you want to practise the English part of the test, flashcards may be helpful. These allow you to focus on the vocabulary and sentence structures you need to know.

Check out this article from Think Student to learn more about revision methods that could suit you.

There are many efficient ways of revising and each is different from person to person. This will also help you in the long term as you will feel prepared for major exams like SATs and GCSEs if you know which revision technique works best for you.

Hopefully, this article has helped you understand what factors go into passing the 11 Plus Test. However, it is important to remember that passing the test does not guarantee acceptance to a grammar school.

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