11+ glossary for parents

11+ explained for parents
Preparing for the 11+ grammar school entrance exam can be as steep a learning curve for you as it is for your child. Along the way, you’re likely to encounter terms that you’ve never seen before.

Our glossary explains the meaning behind the terminology that you’re likely to come across while helping your child get ready for the 11+.

Benchmark test

A test taken to establish whether your child is likely to pass the 11+. These may be provided by the schools that you’re hoping to apply for, or you can buy them from publishers like CGP. If your child has a trial session with a tutor, they may be willing to give them a benchmark test.

Bilateral schools

Schools that accept children of all abilities, but that also have a ‘grammar stream’ made up of pupils who have passed the 11+. These children are educated together in all core subjects, allowing them to work in greater depth than the non-selective students. For example, a school might have 240 places, and allocate 30 of them to children with an 11+ pass.

CEM

One of the two main providers of 11+ tests. Developed by experts at the University of Durham, CEM entrance exams are used by around one third of grammar schools.

CGP

The leading publisher of gold-standard practice materials for the 11+. CGP produces study guides, practice books with assessment tests, practice test papers and 10-minute tests. They also have a limited selection of free resources.

Cloze test

A question type that is commonly used in 11+ tests, where your child has to fill in the blanks in a passage of text. There are two types of cloze test: cloze paragraphs and cloze words.

GL Assessment

The other main provider of 11+ tests. GL Assessment provides entrance tests to around half of all selective schools in the UK. They're sometimes known as NFER tests, after the examining body that helps develop the tests.

Grammar school

Also known as a selective school: a grammar school selects pupils according to academic ability. There are currently 164 grammar schools in England and 69 in Northern Ireland.

Late transfer test (12+/13+)

A test that gives children the opportunity to be admitted to grammar school at the start of Year 8 or Year 9. If your child didn’t pass the 11+, this may provide a second chance, although not all schools offer a late transfer test and those that do typically have very few places up for grabs: often only two or three.

Mock tests

A practice 11+ test taken under exam conditions. Some grammar schools run mock exams to help children get used to what to expect on the day. There are also independent organisations such as Chuckra that hold mock exam days, and tutors will usually give children practice tests under exam conditions. Alternatively, you can give your child mock tests to complete under exam conditions at home.

Multiple choice format

A common question type where children have to select the correct answer from a list of several possibilities.

Non-verbal reasoning

Problem-solving based around pictures, patterns, diagrams and shapes, rather than words. Non-verbal reasoning tests are a key part of most 11+ exams as they test innate problem-solving ability rather than learned knowledge. They involve skills like code-breaking, sequences, mirroring and rotating shapes.

Partially selective schools

Schools that admit a certain number of their places to children who have passed the 11+, and the rest based on factors like distance to the school. For example, they might offer 25% of their places to pupils with an 11+ pass, with the rest going to mixed ability pupils. Unlike in bilateral schools, the children who have passed the 11+ don’t get put into a specific grammar stream; all children are put into sets based on the school’s own assessments in Year 7. 

Pass mark

The mark needed on the 11+ test to qualify for a grammar school place. This will differ between schools and areas, and even from year to year. You can usually find out past pass marks by looking at the Admissions section of your chosen school’s website.

Past papers

11+ papers that have been set in previous years. These may be available on your chosen school’s website so your child can familiarise themselves with the exam format and question types, although these will often change from year to year. Tutors also often have access to past papers.

Oversubscription criteria

The admissions criteria that are applied if there are more children who pass the 11+ than places available. For example, if there are 100 places available and 120 children reach the pass mark, the oversubscription criteria will be applied. It may be that the 100 children with the highest marks are admitted, or the 100 that live closest to the school; it’s important to check the admissions criteria for each grammar school you’re applying to.

Raw score

The number of marks a child achieves on an exam paper, such as 230 out of 250 marks. For the purposes of the 11+, raw scores are converted to standardised or scaled scores (see below).

Sample papers

Practise papers that have been put together to help children hone their exam skills ahead of the 11+. Because schools often change the format of their tests from year to year, it’s a good idea to test your child with a range of sample papers so they’re familiar with a range of question types.

Selective school

Also known as a grammar school: a school that selects pupils according to academic ability. Selective schools set a pass mark for their 11+ exam and aim to offer places to all children who achieve that mark.

Standard answer

A type of question that requires a written answer, rather than multiple choice. These are common in 11+ exams, particularly in English and maths papers.

Standardised/scaled scores

Your child’s 11+ raw score will be converted to a standardised or scaled score. This involves weighting their score according to their date of birth, so that children who are younger in their school year are not disadvantaged compared to older pupils.

Super-selective school

A super-selective school is a grammar school that doesn’t have an 11+ pass mark, but allocates places to the highest scoring children each year. If they have 120 places to fill, they will allocate them to the 120 children who scored highest on the test. You can find out the lowest score to be admitted in the past few years on the school’s website; this will help you work out whether your child has a realistic chance of getting a place.

Tutor-proof test

A test that has been developed so that children supposedly can’t be coached to pass it. The theory is that it tests innate cognitive ability, so that children who aren’t tutored have as much chance of passing as those who are. In reality, a truly tutor-proof test might be impossible to achieve, but schools and admission authorities do their best to make tests tutor-proof by changing the format and question types year on year. 

Verbal reasoning

A type of problem-solving based around words and language. Verbal reasoning questions are part of most 11+ tests, and involve thinking about text, solving word problems, following written instructions, breaking letter-based codes, and so on.

Vocabulary

The bank of words that children know, understand and are able to use. A wide vocabulary is important for succeeding in the 11+; download free 11+ vocabulary flashcards from TheSchoolRun to kick-start your child's practice.