The beginner's guide to the 11+
What is the 11+?
The 11+ is a test taken by some Year 6 pupils in primary schools in England. It’s a way of selecting who’s academically suited to attend a grammar school or selective school for Year 7 onwards, and is sometimes also known as the ‘Transfer Test’.
As Wales and Scotland no longer have grammar schools, the 11+ is only taken in certain parts of England. The test has officially been phased out in Northern Ireland (although some schools still use the test in a different form, called the Northern Ireland Transfer Test, in order to select the most academically able children).
Where and when does the 11+ take place?
If your child goes to a local authority primary school, they’ll sit the 11+ in one of their classrooms. If they go to another type of school, they’ll be asked to take it at a central location like a local grammar school.
Testing day depends on where you live, although it’s often early on in the autumn term in September. There’s usually a chance to take a practice 11+ a few days before at school.
Do all children have to take the 11+?
If your child goes to a local authority primary school in a county or metropolitan borough that still has grammar schools, they’ll be automatically registered for the 11+. But it’s not compulsory for them to sit it. It’s up to you to decide if you want to apply to a grammar school for them and if you feel this would suit them academically.
The areas that still have grammar schools are: Berkshire; Bristol; Buckinghamshire; Cheshire; Cumbria; Devon; Dorset; Essex; Gloucestershire; Hertfordshire; Kent; Lancashire; Lincolnshire; London; Manchester; Middlesex; Shropshire; Surrey; Warwickshire; West Midlands; West Yorkshire and Wiltshire. For an area-by-area parents' guide to the test, look through our 11+ regional guides.
What is covered in the 11+ exam?
- Verbal reasoning: These questions are about solving problems and following sequences to do with words and text. Verbal reasoning tests your child’s English grammar and vocabulary.
- Non-verbal reasoning: During the non-verbal reasoning paper, your child will need to solve problems to do with diagrams and pictures. There’s also an element of maths.
- Maths: Your child will be tested on mental maths, maths concepts and skills and problems that have to be solved in multiple stages.
- English: The English paper puts your child’s creative writing skills to the test, as they have to plan, structure and write a piece of work.
How does the 11+ exam differ across the country?
Different education authorities choose which disciplines to include for their 11+, so the exact make-up of your child’s test will vary depending where you live. Children in Kent, for example, sit a test in all four disciplines (verbal reasoning, non-verbal reasoning, maths and English), whereas in Buckinghamshire the testing consists of just two papers, both in verbal reasoning. The best way to find out what happens in your area is to check with your child’s school or local authority’s website.
What happens after the exam?
You usually receive your child’s 11+ results in October in the form of a ‘standardised score’. This is thought to be the fairest way of presenting the results as it takes into account the fact that some children could be almost a year younger than others when they take the test.
For example, a child born on August 31st one year could be at a disadvantage to a child born on September 1st the year before. So if these two children get the same ‘raw score’ in their tests, the final score of the youngest child will be higher to make up for their age.
Once you get the results, you’ll usually have until the end of October to apply for secondary school places.
Most secondary school places are allocated in the beginning of March, usually on 1 March or the first working day afterwards.
Verbal and non-verbal reasoning information
If your child will be sitting the 11+ in the future you can find out more about verbal reasoning and non-verbal reasoning in our parents' guides. For a practical overview of the 11+ test, with lots of examples of test questions, see our subscriber learning pack, Verbal and non-verbal reasoning: an introduction.
TheSchoolRun's 11+ Learning Journey is a step-by-step, year-long preparation plan for the exam which covers English, maths, verbal reasoning and non-verbal reasoning.