Eleven plus, Common Entrance and other exams in primary school

 11+, 7+ , 8+, ISEB Common Pre-test, Common Entrance

The British system of education is different from many other countries where often children study at the same school for the whole duration of school education. In the UK in 95% cases children start one school (primary) and then have to transfer to a secondary schools. In primary school children stay from 4 to 11 years old and in secondary – from 11 to 18 years old. 

Secondary schools mainly divided into grammar (selective) schools and comprehenisve (non-selective schools). In order to get into selective schools it is neccesary to sit the exams that are called eleven plus or 11+. Admission into a non-selective school is defined by proximity of the home to school (catchment area), which in practice means the closer a child lives to a school the higher his or her chances of getting there.

11+ or eleven plus exams

Eleven plus or 11+ are the exams sat in England, Wales and Northern Ireland on the last year of the primary school. Their results determine if a child is successful in getting to a selective school both state or private. The name Eleven plus is derived from the age group of the children sitting the exams, which is 10-11 years old. The exams are sat on the last year of primary school – Year 6. 11+ was first introduced in 1944 and once was used for getting admitted to all the schools of England and Wales. Nowadays, however, it is only applicable for those areas in the UK where there are selective schools.

The 11+ exams is designed to appraise the ability of a child to cope with the demanding nature of the national curriculum for the academic disciplines such as maths, English, verbal reasoning and non-verbal reasoning. Initially, it was going to be used as a sort of IQ test but with the additional idea of checking the existing knowledge of the school curriculum and studies aptitude.

11+ in state schools

There are now more than 164 grammar schools in different parts of England and 69 grammar schools in Northern Ireland. Majority of selective state schools hold the 11+ exams in September and announce results in October. In each county there are different requirements to the exams and results. For example, in Lincolnshire children only have exams for Verbal Reasoning and Non-Verbal Reasoning, but in Buckinghamshire the maths is tested in addition to those two.

11+ in private schools

In the private sector requirements to the eleven plus depend on a school. For example, in order to get admitted to St Paul’s Girls’ School girls sit three exams (maths, English and an exam that the school calles Comprehension but it is a mix of different sciences as well as an exam testing logical thinking and abilities to approach a task in hand in a creative way. For majority of other girls-only school in London girls only sit two exams – maths and English.  

Boys-only schools often in addition to English language and maths exams test Verbal Reasoning or Non-Verbal Reasoning or both.

 7+ and 8+ exams

Some private schools in England admit children from the age of 7 or 8. It is necessary to successfully pass an exam in order to get into one of those schools. Using the same logic behind as with 11+ (the age groups), the exams are called 7+ и 8+. Seven plus is sat for boys-only, girls-only and mixed schools. Eight plus is mainly sat for boys-only schools.

ISEB Common Pre-test

Common Pre-Tests is a standartised test for children of certain age group used for assessing levels of academic abilities and potential. The pre-test is sat when children are in Year 6 or Year 7 and before entering secondary school. If a child gets a place in school based on the pre-test results it is a usual practice to have Common Entrance exam (see below) some time in Year 8.

The pre-test is an online assessment, normally sat in the current school. It usually inludes questions for maths, English, Verbal Reasoning and Non-Verbal Reasoning. Test is computerised and often a child has an option to choose a right answer from several displayed. 

Usually, secondary schools inform parents about a need to have Common Pre-Tests and register candidates themselves.  

Children, who applied to several schools have only one Common Pre-Test in one academic year. Its results are then automatically sent to schools, that registered children for the exam. 

The pre-test takes about 2.5 hours to complete with 25 minutes allocated to English language part, 50 min – to Maths, 32 min – to non-verbal reasoning and 26 min – to verbal reasoning.

International candidates may use the special centres in order to sit the exam providing the future schools permit this.  

Schools often point out, there is no need to prepare for the test and that is why the centre doesn’t give any pass papers to practice on. Examples of questions are given during the test to give an idea of what is expected from a child.  The answer is chosen from a number of potential answers but only one of which is correct (or more if specified so). It is important to aim to give an answer to each question and worth keeping in mind that going back and changing an answer or attempting to do an unanswered question is usually not possible. The goal of the test is to give right answers to as many questions as possible. 


Common Entrance 

CE Examinations (also know as Common Entrance) is an exam for private schools in the UK as a part of entering a secondary school at the age of 13. The exams were designed and introduced by Independent Schools Examinations Board. Schools, which often have to prepare children for Common Entrance, are called preparatory schools. CE was initially introduced in 1904.

Common Entrance is made of several exams. Maths is devided into mental mathematics and a written part. They are sat separately. Also, CE includes English language, Latin, Geography, Religious Studies, Physics, Biology, Chemistry and one Modern language out of choice of French, German, Spanish or Mandarin. 

Some candidates are to pass СE on an advanced level. This exam is often called Common Academic Scholarship and needed to be passed for getting an academic scholarship.

Common Entrance might be sat three times a year – in January, June (most common) and November. Although the exam itself is sat in the current school, the results are marked by the secondary schools where a child applied to enter to.