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Advice for the 11+ Examination

11+ exams usually consist of :-

For English, the students are required to take an exam in both comprehension and creative writing. For maths there will be papers following the 11+ syllabus.

Reasoning - usually non-verbal, verbal and quantitive.

There may also be a ‘general paper’.

The consortium schools introduced a new format in 2018.  This consists of English multiple choice comprehension, maths with some multiple choice, English grammar and verbal reasoning and Non verbal reasoning.  The format is similar to the published papers by CEM.  There is no element of creative writing. 

If in doubt ask the school for more information


English- the requirements for the comprehension are generally well understood by the girls although there is a tendency these days for a slavish adherence to a ‘formula’ for answering questions the dreaded PEE-point, evidence, explain — which sometimes causes the answers to sound stilted and repetitive. We encourage students to remember that english is a creative subject and should be approached accordingly. In the consortium exams the skills necessary are timing as there is very limited time to answer some of the sections.  A good vocabulary seems to be significant in the verbal reasoning sections.  


Writing needs to demonstrate a knowledge of different styles, from the formal to informal, descriptive to tense. Writing is not helped by the insertion of pointless figurative language in the hope that some similes will transform it from the mediocre. We work to encourage full knowledge of different genres but reading decent novels will really help the girls to absorb subconsciously what good writing sounds like, which they then start to replicate in their work. One of the best preparations really is wide reading. I have noticed that very few girls seem to read grown up novels — they should. Most reasonable books are far less explicit about unsuitable material than anything they might watch on the television or internet. They should read historical novels (Philippa Gregory) romance, crime novels (Ie Agatha Christie and PD James) etc.


Maths- Most schools have prepared the girls for the 11+ syllabus but what sometimes surprises candidates is the extent to which they have to put their knowledge into action by working out word problems and applied maths. They need to be aware that they will not necessarily get pages of formal arithmetic and must be ready to ‘have a go’ at questions to which there does not appear to be an obvious answer. Girls must also show their workings as it is quite possible to get at least 50% by demonstrating how you approached the problem even if the actual answer is incorrect.



Some of the schools now set computerised reasoning tests.  The best preparation is to subscribe to an online service Bofa11+ is helpful and Lumosity is interesting.  Practicing steadily for a few months is the best thing to do as familiarity with the general format really helps.



Most schools will require the candidate to attend an interview. I believe that it is worth preparing for some of the more obvious questions and brushing up on a certain amount of general knowledge but I do not agree with drama coaching or indeed any kind of rehearsed scripts. Good manners and a natural demeanour are more engaging than any sort of over preparation.


Overall there are plenty of schools taking girls at 11+ both day and boarding and there are schools to suit all abilities and dispositions. There are schools which are more academic than others but that does not necessarily make them the ‘best’ school for your daughter. It is really important to visit the schools, talk to the Head and the pupils and decide where your daughter will thrive, rather than worrying about any kind of perceived prestige by attending one or other school.


Final word of warning - Please do not over work or over tutor your daughter. The exams go on for what seems like several weeks and the girls get very tired and emotional. They need a lot of support and encouragement at this stage.


11+ Pre tests /11+ boys

For boys who are at prep schools, they take Common Entrance exams in Year 8 and move to upper or “public’schools in Year 9 when they are 13/14 but many schools these days require the boys to take a ‘pre test’ to determine whether they will be able to put that school down as their choice for Common Entrance (for which you can only nominate one school) These pre tests take place usually in Year 6. Our 11+ classes benefit boys who are taking the actual 11+ exams or those taking pre-tests. The comments about the work required applies to both girls and boys.


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