11+ exams explained

This article has been put together with the aim of answering parents’ frequently ask questions around 11+ examinations and where they can find resources to aid their child’s learning and preparation.

11+ exams definition

The 11+ exams refer to a selective entrance examination for secondary schools. These are used by both state-funded grammar schools and many independent schools to identity academic and gifted children.

The exams take place during the academic year for Year 6 pupils, with many being carried out in January and February.

How can parents prepare their children for the 11+ exams?

Before you start preparing your child for the exams, be aware that they may feel daunted by the process. In the first instance, you should look for all available information about the 11+ exams in your area. Next consider how you will prepare – how often will your child need to commit to practicing? Do you have practice papers you can access and print? Will you require a tutor? Make a plan and stick to it.

How can one learn more about the 11+ exams?

Many schools choose not to publish the kind of questions they ask or have asked in previous years. However, many resources with practice papers are available online (some are free).

Essential Guides to the 11+ exams

If you have just started looking and researching your child’s options for secondary school, the following guides discuss what parents need to know in preparing their children for the 11+ exams:

1. Free Bond 11+ Starter Pack
If you are in doubt as to whether the 11+ exams are best for your child or you have not registered with your local grammar school, look for this pack online as it has many resources included.

2. Parents’ guide to the 11+ exams
This has the essentials for every parent to understand what their child will need during the 11+ process and is written by experienced 11+ exams tutors.
You can fully understand what the 11+ exams are all about using the information on covered subjects and tested skills too.
You can also assess your children using tests which will give you a good overview of where your child is at in terms of ability. Get prepared for the examination using step-by-step plans as strategies, plus many tips are included to help motivate your child.
You can also manage the post-exam process as what happens next is explained too.

3. Bond Placement Test
You could use this test to fully establish your child’s weaknesses and strengths in English, non-verbal reasoning, verbal reasoning, and mathematics.

4. Ten minutes tests
Using these allow you to develop and test your child’s skills all across four 11+ subjects in bitesize chunks.

Now you have a full guide and some resources on various ways you can prepare your child for the 11+ exams. Ensure you are well-equipped to navigate and support your child through the process to alleviate that sense of pressure. The exams can prove challenging but with the right amount of guidance and preparation, your child can thrive. This is why girls from Falcons Girls succeed year-on-year, with the right balance of academic rigour and co-curricular opportunities. Ensuring the children also have enough time to engage in creative and sporting endeavours is important to ensure our children are active, confident, and ready to pass these 11+ exams when they arrive.

How would I know if the 11+ exams are perfect for my children?

The 11+ exams are created and designed to get children that excel academically into a grammar or private school that will offer them a great next step in their education. Consider the below:

Do you have a child that has an academic gift?

Are their reports properly above average?

Are their results above average from their SATs/CATs/PIEs/PIMs or any other system which the primary school makes use of?

Speak to your child’s teacher – do they feel your child would achieve highly on 11+ exams?


Do I have a child that has to take the 11+ exams?

The 11+ exams are not compulsory. It entirely depends on you and if you decide for your child to apply to a state grammar or private school.

In some counties like Buckinghamshire, children are automatically registered for a Transfer Test (previously known as the 11+ exams) and this exam is to check whether they are of grammar school ability.

If you are not sure about the registration process is in your area, check your local authority website.


What do the 11+ exams test?

What children are tested on can vary in different parts of the country and even from school to school but many will have exams on the following:

Non-verbal reasoning

Verbal reasoning



While it is easy to coach for English and mathematics tests, it is important to be wary that this is trickier for non-verbal and verbal reasoning as these test a child’s ‘natural’ intelligence.

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