11 Plus English Exam

An 11 Plus English exam for a Grammar or Independent School can come in a variety of formats but will normally contain a variety of different topics.

We’ll look at the make-up of the major types of test individually (GL/CEM/Grammar School Written/ Independent School written) but below you’ll find a breakdown of the types of topics covered.

A typical paper would last 50 minutes and contain some or all of the following:

11 Plus English Exam – Comprehension test

Students would be given a text of around 500/750 words. These texts can vary between a classic text (Charles Dickens) or a more factual text such as a newspaper report. Children will be asked questions on the text.

11 Plus English Exam – Vocabulary testing

Children may be asked what various words in the text mean. They may be given a synonyms/opposites task. They may have CLOZE exercise to do (words with missing letters).

11 Plus English Exam – Spelling/Punctuation/Grammar

Children will often find a section of different questions on these topics which can take a number of different forms, an example would be correcting mistakes in a given passage.

11 Plus English Exam – Literary Devices

Some tests may examine a child’s knowledge of literary devices and ask them to identify devices such as Similes or Personification or Onomatopoeia.

11 Plus English Exam – Literacy reasoning

Some 11 Plus tests do not have specific Verbal Reasoning sections and so instead include some literacy reasoning questions in their English papers. These can cover rhyming words, anagrams, crosswords, odd words out, putting jumbled words into sentences, putting jumbled sentences or paragraphs into the correct order.

11 Plus English Exam – Creative writing

Often for Grammar School 11 Plus tests questions will be in multiple choice format because it makes it quick and easy for schools to mark. Some schools/areas do include Creative Writing to a degree but often this is only actually marked where two children are close in marks and going for the final place. Please check your 11 Plus area to see if Creative Writing is included.

In Independent School 11 Plus tests Creative Writing is nearly always included and will be marked in every case.


Children who read a variety of books and read every day will have a distinct advantage over those children who do not. No amount of preparation papers can make up for a lack of reading.

The most common aspect which marks out children who are successful at 11 Plus is their breadth of vocabulary. This comes mostly from reading but can also be specifically developed through learning activities. Those children who deliberately set out to develop a wide vocabulary through reading, having discussions and carrying out a vocabulary development learning programme will do much better than those that do not.

Families where English is not the first language are at a distinct disadvantage in 11 Plus tests as all are heavily slanted towards literacy skills. Some families make the mistake of overweighting preparation on Maths and NVR to make up for it but this never really works.