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The Birmingham 11+ test

Birmingham 11+ parents' guide
If your child will be applying to grammar schools in Birmingham, knowing what to expect from the 11+ test is essential. We have all the details about applying for and sitting the exam.

Which schools require an 11+ pass?

Eight schools make up the Consortium of Grammar Schools in Birmingham, which admit children who have achieved the required score in the 11+ entrance test.

What do the tests involve?

There is one version of the 11+ test in Birmingham, and children who attain the required mark can apply to any of the grammar schools in the area.

You'll receive your child's results before you have to apply for school places, so you can make the most informed choice.

Children take two separate papers on the same day, each of which takes around 45 minutes and is divided into sections including:

Verbal reasoning / literacy skills
Non-verbal reasoning
• Reading comprehension
• Mathematics

Children will write their answers in the booklets provided, and most questions are multiple choice. The marks are standardised to take children’s difference in age into account. Once you have registered your child to take the test, you will receive examples of questions to help familiarise your child.

What version of the test is used?

Children in the Birmingham area take the CEM 11+. The University of Durham, which prepares the tests, are constantly revising their testing procedures and never give prior notice of the tests' contents, in an attempt to level the playing field between tutored and non-tutored children.

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If you're looking for practice papers for your child's 11+, our partners at Exam Papers Plus have papers for specific schools, as well as courses and mock exams for each area. 

And their Pretest Plus offers online tests and video courses to help your child succeed at CAT, ISEB PRETEST, CEM SELECT and UKISET examinations.

How do you arrange for your child to take the test?

The Grammar Schools in Birmingham website contains all the information you need to register your child for the test. Typically, registration opens in May and closes in July, with testing in early September. You can obtain registration forms and an explanatory brochure from this website, by phoning 0121 415 6004 or from each of the grammar schools. Alternatively, visit and download the Secondary Education booklet.

Where are the tests held?

The tests take place at an allocated test centre.

What is the pass mark?

There is no set pass mark for the 11+ in Birmingham. Places are offered to the children with the highest qualifying scores, which will vary from year to year and between the eight schools. When you receive your child's results, you'll also be told the lowest qualifying scores for each grammar school over the past three years, which might affect your decision about where to apply: for instance, in 2014, the lowest mark to obtain a place at Handsworth Grammar School was 203, while for King Edward VI Camp Hill it was 235. Where several children score the same mark, priority is given firstly to children in care and then to those who live closest to the school. Five of the eight schools also prioritise a number of places for children who achieve the qualifying score and have received pupil premium (free school meals) at any point in the past six years.

How can I help prepare my child?

The CEM 11+ by the University of Durham is said to be ‘tutor proof,’ and Birmingham Local Authority’s policy is that no teaching or coaching for selective tests should take place in any of the city’s primary schools. CEM advises that the best ways to prepare your child for the test are to encourage them to:

  • Work quietly on their own
  • Complete their homework
  • Read widely and try to understand all the words in the books they read
  • Try to solve problems by themselves

CEM doesn't release any past papers or produce any commercially available materials themselves. However, you can download a Familiarisation Sheet from the Consortium of Grammar Schools in Birmingham to help your child get to grips with the format of the test and the types of questions they might have to answer.

Every effort has been made to ensure the information we provide about individual schools is accurate, however admissions arrangements for Year 7 entry change regularly and it is essential to check for the most up-to-date advice on schools' own websites.

NB: TheSchoolRun receives a small commission from sales made through Exam Paper Plus. 

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