Four commonly held misconceptions about the 11 Plus Exam (U.K.)

The 11 Plus is an examination administered to some students in the U.K. in their last year of Primary Education and is taken in order to gain entrance to a grammar school of their choosing. The ’11 Plus’ aspect to it actually refers to the age of the target school’s entry point i.e. that children will start at that school when they are aged 11 and over. In fact most children who sit the 11 Plus will be aged 10.

The focus of the 11 Plus test, brought into being by the 1944 Butler Education Act, was to test and subsequently tier students by ability. The prevailing educational thought at the time being that testing was the most appropriate way in which to discover which strand or tier a child might be suited to. There has since been a number of changes of direction in common held thought but with 164 grammar schools remaining in the U.K., some of which being vastly oversubscribed, and the recent Conservative Governmental shift in policy, under Teresa May to reinstate the Grammar School, the 11 Plus still holds a prominent position in any child’s early education.

Subsequently the 11 Plus has often been regarded as the first major examination hurdle in a students’ education and as such it is often the cause of some considerable debate, hyperbole and, perhaps more pertinently, stress. A lot of this, being a very busy private tuition business in Central London, we often find ourselves at the forefront of. Hence here, at Bright Young Things Tuition, we thought it meet to shed some light from our end of things.

  1. ‘Success at the 11 Plus is only really achievable if you spend a lot of money on tutoring.’ —This is not really true. We’d always say that the best course of action is to engage directly with your child’s school and make active contact with their teachers. You can use a tutor strategically to offer precise support in the build up to the exam. Another adult presence; neither parent nor school teacher, can be an incredibly useful channel to help consolidate key skills, underpin exam technique and bring out confidence in interview practice.

  2. ‘The 11 Plus is about more than Maths and English’ —At Bright Young Things we don’t agree. Our years of experience at the forefront of preparing pupils for The 11 Plus tells us that it is, and indeed always has been, a test of key numeracy and literary skills. Verbal Reasoning and Non Verbal Reasoning components of the 11 Plus are designed entirely to test those areas. Numerous exam boards such as CEM, ISEB, GL can make the experience of applying to grammar schools feel a heady one. This needn’t be the case. Yes there will be minor variations and each board is worth a little due diligence but essentially a good foundation in Maths and English is at the heart of it 11 Plus success.

  3. ‘If my child doesn’t get into St Paul’s, Westminster or City of London then all is lost’Quite a London-centric fear but a perhaps a valid one to tackle. There’s rather a two tier answer to this. The top U.K day schools are no doubt superb establishments that will offer you child an inestimably high quality education and a grounding for success at higher education and beyond. It is most important however to focus on finding the kind of school that will be right for your child. Students can often flourish at different times and having a gentler educational environment might build academic confidence in a way that allows them to really perform further on.

  4. ‘Isn’t 11 years old too early to make a student sit a test and really have any idea of their academic potential from the result’Quite possibly. Yet we think this really varies from child to child. Furthermore with sensitive administering, good teaching and able support, the 11+ needn’t be sold as a daunting pressurised classical exam model, rather instead more as an exciting challenge or a bold undertaking. Numeracy, literacy and inference are all key skills and the 11 Plus is as good an arena as any for simply charting progress.