CEM 11 Plus Exam Content and Preparation

The CEM Eleven Plus Exam essentially tries to cover both core English and Maths skills and some cognitive testing elements.

While CEM do produce some sample questions they insist that none or only some of these questions may come up and that other types of question may also be used without notice. In other words they hope to ensure any preparation is broad and doesn’t involve individual swotting for specific question types.

Content of the 11 Plus CEM Exams.

The CEM 11 Plus exams consist of two 45 minute papers which can be either multiple choice or standard depending on the area concerned.

Each paper has a mix of topics including English (with some VR), Non-Verbal Reasoning and Numerical Reasoning (Maths).

Each paper has a number of timed sections in it, each section will vary between about six minutes to twelve minutes. Children have to complete and check each section and then only proceed when they are told to. CEM hope to eradicate some of the benefits of intensive tutoring by breaking papers up into smaller timed sections, children who have worked hard to develop their speed and timing will be less advantaged than they would otherwise have been.

CEM 11 Plus Exam –  English (called Verbal Reasoning by CEM)


Over the two papers students will typically find one longer and one shorter comprehension piece. These will be standard comprehension exercises designed to genuinely test understanding of the piece that is set. Children will be asked to infer why characters have taken actions or made statements and so will need well developed comprehension skills.

Verbal Reasoning

CEM do include some traditional Verbal Reasoning questions. They tend to focus on synonyms and opposites. Some of the exercises contained in standard verbal reasoning preparation will help with vocabulary development which is essential.

CLOZE tests

CLOZE tests seek to examine comprehension skills and test vocabulary and spelling. They come in various forms :

  • Most suitable word- choose one word from four which is most suitable to complete a sentence. These can test grammar e.g

The children wanted to see their/there/they’re/theirs grandmother

or they can test vocabulary.

  • Missing letters. In a comprehension exercise a word will have some letters removed and children should work out what the word is using their comprehension ability and their breadth of vocabulary e.g.

The ships tied up at the  _ U _ Y _ _ D E ( quayside).

Jumbled sentences

This comprehension test has long been used in schools. Basically children get a sentence such as :

rode my I hill steep down the bike.

They will be asked to sort out the words so they make sense.

I rode my bike down the steep hill.

Soemtimes they might throw in a unwanted word and ask pupils to just identify that, so using the above you could be given

rode my I hill pedal steep down the bike

and be asked to identify the unwanted word


Other English questions.

At any point CEM could decide to just do something different without warning. If they did so then it’s likely the test would either be cognitive (in other words your child would be as disadvantaged as any other) or the questions will focus on the core primary school syllabus.

So for instance it wouldn’t surprise us if out of the blue CEM decide to give pupils jumbled up stories (put the sentences in the right order) rather than jumbled up sentences or they could re-introduce spelling and punctuation work, or they could design a test on literary devices.

The point being students should be prepared for everything.

Go to our section on CEM 11 Plus English and see how we suggest you prepare. Remember that a wide vocabulary will be critical in these tests so children who read a great deal will be better off. If you are a family where English is not the first language then you will have to work really hard to make sure your vocabulary skills are very good. We believe children without a very wide vocabulary and excellent spelling skills will be most likely to struggle with tests of this type.


CEM 11 Plus Exam – Numerical Reasoning.

CEM have introduced the term Numerical Reasoning to the 11 Plus Exam topic. Parents shouldn’t be worried about this in any way. Numerical Reasoning is simply Maths and covers calculation questions (+, -, x , ÷) along with worded questions (maths problems using words instead of numbers presenting real life situations), and longer multi-part questions (could be four or five questions about a graph). Any child who is good at Maths and has learnt well during primary school should be able to do well.

CEM do frequently change the question types so it is worth doing broad based Maths skill preparation and tackling lots of different types of Maths questions so that children get used to using their skills flexibly.

See our section on Numerical Reasoning preparation for the CEM 11 Plus Exam to learn more about what might be suitable to use for preparation purposes.


CEM  11 Plus Exam- Non- Verbal Reasoning.

There is a limited amount of work children can do to prepare themselves for Non-Verbal Reasoning tests but obviously making sure children are familiar with the key concepts and have done a number of timed papers to up their speed will help a great deal.

The CEM Non-Verbal Reasoning test doesn’t differ much (if at all) from other Non-Verbal Reasoning tests for this age group. There will sometimes be some 3D shapes tests or other forms which might be new but as long as children are familiar with the core concepts (e.g. rotation, symmetry, mirror lines, spotting differences etc) then they should be able to apply themselves flexibly to the tests.

One mistake parents make with Non-Verbal Reasoning is to assume continual practice leads to continual improvement, it actually doesn’t. Doing a couple of weeks of familiarisation and 6-8 timed tests together with revisiting any troublesome questions will deliver 80%+ of any potential gain in performance.

See our section on preparing for the CEM 11 Plus Non-Verbal Reasoning exam to see what materials and preparation might be suitable for your situation.