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11 Plus (11+) exam types and formats: Complete Guide

Table of Contents

Table of Contents

About 11 Plus (11+) exam types and formats

There is not just one exam type or format for the 11+ and the entrance exam they undertake may depend on the location or type (grammar or independent) of the school they are applying to. This article will breakdown the different exam types and formats and explain how to determine which exam your child will sit.

GL Assessment

GL Assessment (Granada Learning, formerly the National Foundation for Education Research (NFER) is of the two main exam boards. Their exams, which are typically for grammar school entrance exams, are paper-based, multiple-choice (sometimes also with standard written answer format for maths and verbal-reasoning) papers usually lasting 45 minutes and are taken in exam halls. They can include a combination of the following five subjects: verbal-reasoning, non-verbal reasoning, spatial reasoning, English, and maths.

Regions with grammar schools that definitely use GL Assessment: Buckinghamshire, Dorset, Kent, Lancashire & Cumbria, Lincolnshire, Northern Ireland, Plymouth, Wiltshire

Regions with grammar schools that may use GL Assessment: Devon, Essex, Hertfordshire, Trafford, Yorkshire

GL Exam Content:

  • English: reading, comprehension, spelling, punctuation, grammar
  • Maths: statistics, measurements, algebra, numbers, geometry, ratio & proportion, logical questions, train time tables
  • Verbal Reasoning: letter & number code-cracking, letter sequences, finding words within words, selecting a letter to complete multiple words, following instructions
  • Non-Verbal Reasoning: code-cracking, spatial recognition, missing sequence, similar shapes identification, rotation, nets, most-like, missing square


CEM (Centre for Evaluation and Monitoring) was established in 1999 in Cambridge after GL Assessment, it is the other most commonly used exam board and their exams, which similarly are for grammar school entrance exams, are online and may use both multiple-choice and standard formats. Usually, the exam is made up of two 45 minute papers with shorter timed sections that combine various exam subjects including verbal reasoning, non-verbal reasoning, English, and maths. Paper 1 is usually a combination of English (comprehension) and verbal reasoning (numerical skills) whilst Paper 2 is usually a combination of non-verbal reasoning and maths; the key areas for revision are problem-solving and vocabulary.

Regions with grammar schools that definitely use CEM: Berkshire, Bexley, Birmingham, Gloucestershire, Medway, Shropshire, Walsall, Warwickshire, Wirral, Wolverhampton

Regions with grammar schools that may use CEM: Devon, Essex, Hertfordshire, Trafford, Yorkshire 

CEM Exam content: 

  • English: reading, spelling, word selection, close passages, comprehension
  • Verbal Reasoning: see GL Assessment ‘Verbal Reasoning’
  • Non-Verbal Reasoning: see GL Assessment ‘Non-Verbal Reasoning’
  • Numerical Reasoning: see GL Assessment ‘Maths’


ISEB (Independent Schools Examining Board) is currently used by over 70 independent schools and is formatted as a multiple-choice adaptive online exam. Their CE (Common Entrance) exam tests English, Maths, and Science. 

Regions with independent schools that use ISEB: Bedfordshire, Berkshire, Buckinghamshire, Cambridgeshire, Dorset, East Sussex, East Riding of Yorkshire, Essex, Hampshire, Kent, London, Oxfordshire, Monmouthshire, Somerset, South Yorkshire, Suffolk, Surrey, West Sussex, West Yorkshire, Wiltshire

ISEB Exam Content:

  • English: comprises two equally weighted (25 marks each) 45-minute sections testing Reading (Comprehension) and Writing (Composition). It tests skills such as syntax, punctuation, grammar, and book reviewing. 
  • Maths: consists of one 60-minute paper (100 marks) testing KS2 Maths including number & place value, addition, subtraction, multiplication, division, fractions (including decimals & percentages), ratio & proportion, algebra, measurement, geometry, and statistics. 
  • Science: consists of one combined science 60-minute paper  worth 80 marks that tests living processes, green plants, humans & other animals, rocks & soils, light, forces & magnets, living things in their environment/habitats, states of matter, sound, electricity, properties & changes of materials, earth & space, forces, evolution & inheritance, and light. 


CSSE (Consortium of Selective Schools in Essex) is an exam board that administers Essex and Southend grammar school admission with a single exam consisting of two 60-minute mixed multiple-choice and standard written format papers in English and Maths. 

Schools that use CSSE: Colchester County High School for Girls, Colchester Royal Grammar School, King Edward VI Grammar School, Shoeburyness High School, Southend High School for Girls, Southend High School for Boys, St. Thomas More High School, St. Bernards High School for Girls, Westcliff High School for Girls, Westcliff High School for Boys

CSSE Exam Content:

  • English: see GL Assessment ‘English’
  • Maths: see GL Assessment ‘Maths’


Entrance exam papers for grammar schools in Sutton which are written by the schools themselves, and comprise two 45 minute  multiple-choice papers testing KS2 (Key Stage 2) English and Maths, with a separate answer sheet; notably, there is no verbal or non-verbal reasoning. Creative writing may be included for some schools.

Schools that use SET: Greenshaw High School, Nonsuch High School for Girls, Sutton Grammar School, Wallington County Grammar School, Wallington High School for Girls, Wilson’s School

SET Exam Content:

  • English: see GL Assessment ‘English’
  • Maths: see GL Assessment ‘Maths’

How to prepare your child for the 11 Plus (11+) exam

The most useful way to prepare for the 11+ entrance exams is to use practice papers to familiarise your child with the exam content and format.


Our website offers a range of practice papers that focus on the essential skills your child needs to prepare for the 11+ entrance exam including English, maths, verbal reasoning, and non-verbal reasoning. Among our practice tests, which can help your child to build their confidence and improve their performance on the exam, are papers specifically designed to adhere to various exam types and formats including GL Assessment and CEM which are the most common paper types.


On our sister site, Examberry Tuition, you can also sign up for in-person and online 11+ tuition courses and 11+ mock exams to give your child the best chance of getting into the top school of their choice, no matter which examination format they use.

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