Kent and Medway schools: What is covered in the 11 plus test?

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To be eligible for application to a grammar school in Kent or Medway authorities, all pupils need to pass the relevant test. These tests are taken during September in the year before entry, so during year 6. Registration for the tests takes place before year 6, so decisions about whether to apply for a grammar schools place have to be made well in advance of the transfer period.

Assuming that you’ve considered this and made the decision to register your child for the test in September 2015, you have time now to prepare your child so that they stand the best chance of passing and becoming eligible for a place. A necessary part of this preparation is familiarising yourself with the test format and understanding what it is that your child will be expected to do. Only then can you be sure that your preparation is appropriate to help them in the test.

Kent and Medway schools: What format do the tests take?

Each authority has its own test but some schools conduct their own test or allow pass in either of the tests. If you’re not sure whether the schools you are considering use the selection tests then see our post on School Places: How are they allocated?<link to previous post>

This information focuses on the Kent and Medway tests and gives information about both as the format of each test is slightly different. For other tests, we recommend contacting the individual schools for more information.

The Kent test

The Kent test contains two separate papers of 1 hour each. The first paper focuses on reasoning and includes verbal, spatial and non-verbal reasoning. The second paper has questions on English and maths. All questions are of the multiple-choice style. In addition, there is a short writing task which will not be marked but may be used in borderline cases.

Marks for each paper are standardised to take account the age of the child. This then creates a mark out of 140 for English, maths and reasoning. These scores are added together to produce a total out of 420.

Pass rates vary from year to year. In 2014 a child passed the test if they achieved a combined score of 320 and a score of 106 in each part.

The Medway test

The test is in three parts, containing two test papers and a piece of extended writing. The test papers are on verbal reasoning and mathematics and are in the multiple-choice style. The extended writing task requires a poster, story, newspaper article or something similar to be written which will showcase grammar, vocabulary and spelling along with their ability to craft a piece of writing for a particular purpose.

Marks for each paper are standardised to take age into account creating a mark out of 140 for each part. Then the scores for the extended writing and the maths paper are doubled and added to the verbal reasoning score. This creates a maximum total score of 700.

Pass rates vary and aren’t decided until the test is complete. In 2014, a combined score of 528 was needed to pass. There was no minimum score needed on each paper.

What is assessed in each section of the 11 plus tests?

Each part of the Kent and Medway tests assess different skills.

Verbal reasoning

This assesses how someone can think and reason when given selected words. The questions can cover many aspects and problems. The most common types of questions include, but are not limited to:

  • Inserting a letter to make new words

  • Looking for related words

  • Working out a word using a letter code

  • Looking for the closest meaning

  • Finding a hidden word in a sentence

  • Working out a missing word

  • Using a letters for numbers code

  • Moving a letter from one word to another to make two new words

  • Making a new word from two shorter words

  • Finding word pairs

  • Vocabulary comprehension

Given the specific and unusual nature of these questions, children are very unlikely to have come across anything like them before. Therefore, it is important to specifically introduce them to these types of questions prior to the tests.

Non-verbal reasoning (Kent only)

This assesses how someone can think and reason when given selected shapes and patterns. In these questions you may be asked to work out, amongst other things:

  • The next pattern in a sequence

  • The missing picture from a diagram

  • Similarities or similar shapes

  • Picking the odd one out from some shapes

  • Using a code that links to shapes

  • Understanding how shapes have been changed and using this to find the next or missing shape

  • Using a 2D image or net to determine a 3D shape

Again, these types of questions are not normally covered in school so some input would be helpful to familiarise your child with the question type.

Spatial reasoning (Kent only)

This is similar to the non-verbal reasoning but also includes thinking about how shapes move, and requires the ability to imagine how a shape looks in reflection or from a different perspective. To be successful in this skill, a good understanding of symmetry and rotation is critical.


This test is multiple-choice and covers a range of topics that would be studied up to the end of year 5. They may also have to prove they can apply this knowledge to more challenging problems or questions.

Revision of topics would be helpful, along with working on the most common style of question used in the tests.

English (Kent only)

The English section will have some questions based on comprehension so your child will need to read and interpret a paragraph or short passage and then answer questions about what they have understood. In addition, there are also questions that test a range of skills. These may include but not limited to:

  • Picking the best word to complete a sentence

  • Finding punctuation or spelling mistakes in a sentence

  • Understand the meaning of words

English: writing task

The Kent test includes a short written task where there is a choice of titles to write a short story about. This task is not marked but will be used in borderline cases. However as competition is fierce, there are a lot of borderline cases, so this test needs to be taken seriously. Spelling, punctuation and grammar need to be of a consistently high standard throughout, and an astute understanding of story structure and form is important to complete the task in the time allotted.

As the Medway test includes an extended piece of writing, this needs greater attention. There are many different ways to write creatively but it is likely that the task can be completed by:

  • Writing a short story

  • Creating a newspaper report

  • Writing a script for a play

  • Writing a letter

  • Designing a leaflet

  • Writing a diary

Detail needs to be paid to spelling, grammar use and punctuation. Writing is marked using a set criteria.

Once you have become familiar with the nature of the test your preparation can start. If you have a good understanding of mathematics, creative writing and reasoning skills then you can support your child using resources available online or in books. However, your child is likely to be most successful if supported by tutors with experience and knowledge of the tests that they will take.

Bright Young Things can provide this support at our centres in Rochester and Tunbridge Wells, where classes are taught by experienced and successful tutors with specialist knowledge. These classes will focus on the core skills and knowledge that will enable your child to be successful. Contact us for more information.