How To Navigate The 11+ Exam & Admissions Process

Read the recent article by Headteacher, Arabella Northey published on the London Mummy blog as she seeks to answer and demistify the key questions about the 11+ exam since its current inception, 70 years ago. Visit the Meta Prep website for more information and free 11+ resources which are available to download.

Read the blog here:

How To Navigate The 11+ Exam & Admissions Process

For over 70 years, the 11+ exam has been a key staging post in many children’s lives. We all understand the pressure that children are under these days and so it’s important to prepare them properly for the 11+ exam without causing any unnecessary stress. I asked Arabella Northey, Headteacher at Meta Prep, to put together a piece about the 11+ and how to best navigate the school admissions process.

What is the 11+ exam?

The 11+ is an intelligence test taken during the last year of primary school (Year 6 in the UK). Since 1944, the exam for selective schools has tested the ability of a 10-year-old to solve a range of problems. The best way to fully prepare is to develop their thinking and learning using a metacognitive toolkit.

What are the different types of 11+ exams?

There are three 11+ exam boards and exam your child takes will depend on the region of the school. The exams your child may take are CEM, GL, ISEB Pre-test, ISEB 11+ and London Consortium.

  • CEM (Centre for Evaluation & Monitoring) – creates papers for some Grammar schools and the London Consortium schools
  • GL Assessment – creates papers for the Grammar schools and writes the Cognitive Ability Tests (CAT4) used by many schools
  • ISEB (Independent Schools Examination Board) – offers the online ISEB Common Pre-test and ISEB 11+, a long-form written test.

What is in the 11+ exam?

The exams involve the four different “disciplines” used for the 11+ tests – Maths, English, Verbal Reasoning and Non-Verbal Reasoning.

The ISEB 11+ papers are an exception and cover a more traditional written exam: English comprehension; a creative writing task; a Maths paper without the use of a calculator and a Science paper.

What are the key dates for the 11+ exams?

Grammar school exams take place early in September.

The online ISEB Common Pre-Test is more flexible, most schools give a month’s window, closing in early December. The benefit of this exam is children applying to multiple schools which use the Common Pre-Test will only take one test in the academic year and their results shared with all participating schools.

The ISEB 11+ examination and the London Consortium paper are sat at the beginning of January.

How do I start selecting schools for my child?

For many parents, it can feel like the ‘chicken or the egg’ scenario. Should you start with your child’s current academic potential or look at the schools you like and have a good reputation?

Schools start registrations for applications when children are in Year 5, so it’s good to have a list of potential schools together by this point. Each school has its own DNA and needs to match your values and academic goals, so this will help you to decide what is right for you and your child.

Meta Prep can be alongside you in this process. As your partner for selective senior school entry, Meta Prep identifies your child’s motivators and the environment that enables them to flourish and thrive.

Each child starts by completing a ‘Youth Motivation Map’. This provides an insight into their motivational drivers and the ways in which they learn best and are most engaged. This is combined with a baseline diagnostic assessment to pinpoint their academic strengths and weaknesses.

With this information, we are able to start considering options and advise parents accordingly. We continue to provide advice throughout and create an individual road map for each child.

The next step is school admissions. Each school admissions system is different, so once you have a list of potential schools, you need to check their website carefully. Meta Prep is further able to help with this.

How can I prepare my child for the 11+ exam?

The 11+ process can be complex for parents and competitive for children. In most schools, 11+ topics are covered by the end of Year 5. Unfortunately, this means that you have no time to patch gaps in knowledge or misunderstandings. No one wants to put undue pressure on their child.

Research shows that we learn best when we are able to break information down into small manageable chunks; space it over time and learn to retrieve that information from our memory.

At Meta Prep we start very gently:

  • In Year 4, there is one lesson a week teaching children how to learn and use metacognitive tools; sharpen their thinking skills, and build their confidence.
  • In Year 5, we double the number of sessions. This year covers the 11+ topics in sequence, breaking them down and getting them fully set before they even start Year 6.

The curriculum is targeted and coherent and taught by subject specialist teachers. 

Regular access to our Digital Intelligence Platform provides familiarity with exam technique reducing anxiety and enhancing performance.   

Meta Prep’s Partners:

Meta Prep draws on the expertise of both Moxams and My Learning Accelerator.

Moxams is an 11+ focused provider of exam and interview familiarisation materials and experiences. Its large bank of 11+ questions ‘mimics’ the questions which schools use to assess pupils, regardless of the major examination boards (CEM, ISEB, GL, CAT4) they base their assessments on.

With access to those questions, Meta Prep also has access to the ‘intelligent’ learning platform developed by Moxams. The algorithms identify which specific topics pupils need to focus on.

My Learning Accelerator provides one-to-one 11+ tutors who are trained as cognitive coaches. We often recommend My Learning Accelerator tutors, if we feel there is a specific requirement for one-to-one provision.

Can Meta Prep help me and my children?

Meta Prep provides an affordable alternative through the 11+ maze. It partners with parents and children in years 4 and 5 to provide them with advice, baseline assessments, outstanding teachers, 11+ focused curriculum up to date technology under one roof.

With small groups and direct access to a headteacher, Meta Prep helps to take the stress out of selective senior school entry by weaving fun, instilling key skills and learning behaviours to lift exam scores. It prepares children for entrance exam success and enhances their love of learning in weekly small classes, after school, with subject specialist teachers.

Meta Prep provides the best offered by prep schools, primary schools, tutoring and technology platforms under one, affordable roof.