11+ Tips for Parents - Preparing for the 11 Plus

About the 11 Plus

The 11 Plus is an entrance exam that is mainly used in parts of the UK that have state-funded grammar schools. It is also used by some selective private schools. The exam is usually taken towards the end of primary school when children are in Year 6.

The 11 Plus exam generally focuses on four key subjects:
  • English
  • Maths
  • Verbal reasoning
  • Non-verbal reasoning
The exams in the UK are mainly administered by two exam providers:
  • GL Assessment – the most popular 11 Plus exam provider. GL create and administer the exam for most grammar schools in the UK.
  • CEM – developed by the Centre for Evaluation & Monitoring at Durham University, the CEM 11 Plus exam was created in response to feedback that the exam had become too predictable. The CEM team aimed to create an exam that would be ‘tutor-proof’ to provide a balanced assessment process for all children. The CEM exam is also more closely aligned with the National Curriculum. This is to help children to draw upon the knowledge and skills they have developed throughout primary school.

The 11 Plus in your area

Where is the CEM 11 Plus taken?

  • Berkshire, Bexley, Birmingham, Gloucestershire, Walsall, Warwickshire, Wiltshire, Wolverhampton & Wrekin

Where is the GL 11 Plus taken?

  • Bromley, Buckinghamshire, Dorset, Kent, Lancashire & Cumbria, Lincolnshire, Medway, Northern Ireland

Combined CEM and GL regions

  • Devon, Essex, Hertfordshire, Trafford, Wirral, Yorkshire

Some regions use a combination of CEM and GL Assessment, or set their own bespoke assessments. It’s important that you get in touch with your child’s school to confirm which exam board is administering the 11 Plus in your local area.

Preparing for the CEM exam


Encouraging your child to read for pleasure is an ideal way to support them in the lead up to their CEM 11 Plus exam. Reading helps children to expand their vocabulary and broaden their interests. Reading widely can help children become familiar with some of the trickier words that feature in the 11 Plus exam.


The CEM exam places a big emphasis on English comprehension skills. Questions are likely to be based on a mix of fiction and non-fiction passages to assess children’s inference and deduction skills.

Verbal Reasoning

Verbal reasoning assesses children’s problem solving skills. You can support your child with lots of practice of questions covering cloze, spelling, vocabulary, synonyms and antonyms.

Non-verbal Reasoning

Non-verbal reasoning is used to determine children’s potential to think logically and recognise patterns. Non-verbal reasoning is not part of the National Curriculum which is why it’s important to practice these kinds of questions at home. Regular practice will help boost children’s familiarity and confidence ahead of the exam. Key non-verbal reasoning topics included in the CEM 11 Plus test include 3D and spatial reasoning.


The CEM 11 Plus exam is largely based on the National Curriculum, this should mean that children are familiar with the maths questions that will be included in the exam. You can support your child by making sure they are confident with the Key Stage 2 Maths curriculum. You can use Key Stage 2 revision resources to support your child with extra maths practice.

Maths questions in the CEM 11 Plus could cover the following subjects:
  • Time: analogue, digital, 12 hour, 24 hour
  • Decimals, fractions and percentages
  • Money
  • Measurement, metric units of length, mass and capacity
  • Area and perimeter
  • Averages: mean, median, mode and range
  • Ratio and probability
  • Angles, shapes and symmetry

CEM 11+ Practice Resouces

See more CEM 11+ Practice Resouces