Browsed by
Category: 11+

The new 11+ test – what you need to know

The new 11+ test – what you need to know


G L Assessment

Details about the new 11+ test have now been published.

As most of you will know, the test provider for 2018 has changed from CEM, who had run the Bucks 11+ test for several years, back to GL Assessment, who had run the test previously.

GL Assessment has now released details of the new test. Here’s what you need to know:

 The Test

  • The test will continue to be two papers, each 45 minutes long.
  • The 1st paper – Verbal Skills – will cover comprehension, technical English, and verbal reasoning.
  • The 2nd paper – Maths and non-verbal skills – will cover non-verbal reasoning, spatial reasoning, and maths.
  • All the questions will be multiple-choice, read from a question booklet and answered on a separate answer paper. They take place on the same day at your child’s school with a short gap in between.
  • Special arrangements for children with special educational needs can be made in advance in agreement with the school.
  • GL Assessment produces the new tests, while Buckinghamshire County Council administers the testing process

How it’s marked

  • Children are awarded marks for correct answers. They are not marked down for wrong answers. Answers are marked by a machine.
  • All the test questions will be equally rated (i.e. every correct answer will gain one raw mark).
  • However, the sections each have their own weighting.
    • Verbal skills: 50%
    • Maths: 25%
    • Non-verbal: 25%
  • The “qualifying score”, i.e. the score that a child needs in order to be eligible for Bucks grammar schools, is still 121.
  • The three sections are scored separately and are “age-standardised”. This means that a special formula is applied according to your child’s age. This is designed so that younger children in the year are not at a disadvantage.
  • The higher the score does not mean the higher the chance of getting into grammar school: “grammar schools do not use scores to rank order”.

Important dates

  • Practice date: Tuesday 11 September 2018, at school.
  • Test date: Thursday 13 September 2018, at school.
  • Sick on the day? Your child should be able to take the test at a later date.
  • Results: on 12 October 2018.
  • If you live in Bucks you don’t need to do anything about entering your child for the test, as it happens automatically – unless you ask your school not to.
  • If you are applying out of country, you can register from 1 May 2018 until 28 June. Have a look here to find out how to do it. Out of country children take the test at either one of the Buckinghamshire grammar schools or at another central location.​

Getting ready for the test

  • All children take two practice papers, which are about ten minutes shorter than the real one, a couple of days before the test. This shows them how the test will be administered so that they know what to expect. However, the practice test papers will not be marked or taken home from the school.
  • Before that, G L Assessment will make familiarisation materials available in the summer term of Year 5 on their website.
  • There are also free materials already available on the GL Assessment website.
  • GL Assessment gives the following advice on getting ready for the test:
    • ensure that they have experience of working quietly on their own, uninterrupted by noise or distractions;
    • ensure that they do any homework that is set;
    • help their children to read with understanding, for example by asking them what certain words mean and what is happening in the passage or book that they are reading;
    • encourage them to solve problems by themselves or to look up things for themselves.

So what’s different?

There are many similarities between the CEM test and the GL Assessment test. However, there are also some differences. Chiefly these are:

  • The first paper is entirely focussed on English and Verbal Reasoning, while the second paper is focussed on Maths and Non-Verbal reasoning and spatial skills. Previously, each paper was a mix of these
  • “Spatial skills” is now a separate category, but was likely to have been part of the non-verbal reasoning before.
  • The weightings have changed slightly. Maths used to weigh 30%, that has been reduced to 25%. Non-verbal skills has increased to 25% of the mark, previously it was 20%

I hope to have given a fairly comprehensive overview here, but head the Bucks website if you want to read more about the test and entry to grammar school, or feel free to call me on or email me at


Why you should start 11+ work in Year 4

Why you should start 11+ work in Year 4

To many parents in Buckinghamshire, the grammar school system represents the best chance of a great education for their children. Indeed, some even move to the county to take advantage of the few remaining areas that continue with the grammar school system.

Whilst there is much debate about whether the test should be tutored for (because it disadvantages lower income families), the fact is that the test is not tutor-proof. The other fact is that schools are not allowed to teach the 11+ directly. That leaves a yawning gap that needs to be filled.

The Transfer Test, otherwise known as the 11+ test, takes place early in September for the incoming Year 6. That means that much of Year 5 is spent preparing for the test.

However, a lot of parents choose to start tuition even earlier than that, in year 4, and here’s why.

Why start tuition in year 4?

Eighty per cent of the 11+ is supposed to be based on the national curriculum, in other words, taught at school. However, this doesn’t allow for those that fail to grasp certain topics comprehensively and the 20% of the test that isn’t part of the curriculum.

The Year 5 11+ revision is spent honing in on the three aspects of the test: Verbal reasoning, Non-verbal reasoning and Maths.

Year 4 is a great time to start laying the foundations for this work. These are the areas that we cover in Year 4.

  1. The importance of spelling and vocabulary.

50% of the 11+ test in Bucks is made up of what they call Verbal Reasoning. It’s crucial to get spelling, vocabulary – including synonyms and antonyms – and comprehension skills well under way.

We spend a lot of time in 11+ tuition learning new words and frankly, there is no end to the amount of words a child can add to their vocabulary. Therefore, the earlier they start, the better! Comprehension practice, understanding the meanings of different words in different contexts, all of this can begin to be built up gently from Year 4.

  1. The importance of maths

There are two other parts to the test, “non-verbal reasoning” and maths.

Non-verbal reasoning takes up around 20% of the test. Here examiners are looking at a child’s ability to pick up patterns and codes. What they want the children to do is to show that they can solve problems.

Skills such as maths, spatial awareness and the ability to spot patterns is crucial to these types of questions. While some children have a natural ability in this area, others need to be taught how to do it.

In addition, plugging any gaps in maths is very helpful – it allows them hit the Year 5 11+ tuition running.

Maths is 30% of the exam. First thing’s first, times tables are key. If a child knows the answer to a times table they can work out the answer to a maths problem that much more quickly. The 11+ test is very much about answering accurately – at speed!

Maths, in common with Verbal Reasoning, is a skill that can be built up gradually. It is not just about numbers. Shapes, time, angles and even coordinates come under the Maths umbrella. Then there are measures, fractions and place value.

Above all, tuition helps a child’s confidence in their ability. The more confident they are when they start 11+ tuition in Year 5, the better they will do!

Please contact me on 01494 773300 or email to discuss your child’s particular needs.





Everything you need to know about the Bucks 11+

Everything you need to know about the Bucks 11+


What is the 11+?

The 11+ is a test to decide which secondary school your child will go to. If they take the 11+ and pass, they have the option of applying to the county’s grammar schools.

What is the test like?

Up until 2017, the test was formulated by Centre for Evaluation and Monitoring. Their test comprises two papers, both multiple choice. Each paper is about 45 minutes long and is split into a number of separately timed sections.

From autumn 2018, the test will be provided by GL Assessment, who provided the test prior to 2013. Bucks county switched to CEM in the hope that the test would become “tutor-proof” but it proved a failed experiment. It’s too early to say what their test will look like, except to confirm that “they will continue to assess verbal, non-verbal and mathematical skills and that children will continue to sit a practice test and then two test papers.” Further details are meant to become available this November.

However, one headmaster of a grammar school has been quoted as saying that the new test will avoid the current situation, in which many pupils who won places at his school with the help of intensive tutoring struggle to keep up with lessons once they arrive.

Why is the 11+ controversial?

The controversial test has been criticised for allegedly giving unfair advantage to children from better-off homes, as they are able to afford tutoring.

Why tutor for the 11+?

Despite the assertion that the “new” Buckinghamshire Transfer Test was “tutor-proof” this simply wasn’t the case. The outgoing 11+, devised by the Centre for Evaluation and Monitoring (CEM) at Durham University, was supposed to be 80% comprised of what is being taught at school. However, this didn’t not allow for those who need extra help with the school curriculum, nor that elusive 20% that isn’t being taught!

It remains to be seen how the new test will differ.

What’s the process for applying for the 11+?

Depending on which school you are applying for, you will either need to apply directly to the grammar school or to the Admission & Transport team. If your child goes to a Buckinghamshire LA primary school, they will automatically be registered to take the Transfer Test. If your child goes to any other school you need to register them for Transfer Testing.

At present, the Schools’ admission rules are being considered by the Office of the School’s Adjudicator (OSA). Updates to the rules will be available on schools’ websites when available. The OSA ruling may also impact on the moving deadline of 1 October 2017 for most grammar schools

What’s the process for applying for the 11+ if I’m out of county?

The same process as above applies but there is no guarantee of a place, even if your child passes the test.

When is the 11+ exam this year?

12 September – Preparation Test

14 September – Secondary Transfer Test

When do the results come out this year?

13 October

What if my child doesn’t pass and I want to appeal?

If your child scores 121 or more on the Transfer Test they are automatically qualified for grammar school. If they do not score 121 parents can request a Selection Review and/or Independent Admission Appeal. Download the Transfer Testing Process on this page for more information.


What’s the best way to study for the 11+?

It will depend on your child, but we suggest a weekly lesson from us will build their confidence and enable them to progress at a steady pace. We do offer a last minute ‘crash course’ for those children who have not done any preparation before the summer holidays but most children learn better at a more sensible pace, with a mixture of different ways of learning; books, computer programmes, games etc.

What makes Pen and Ink Tuition different?

We strongly believe that all children need to enjoy their learning so we work hard to make the sessions fun and exciting. We want children to become happy and confident learners. Our small group sizes ensure that we can give children individual attention and they still benefit from the group sessions.

Read more about the 11+ here.

Why do we need to learn the times tables?

Why do we need to learn the times tables?

You wouldn’t dream of building a house without first digging the footings and putting the foundations in place.

Nor would you attempt to put a meal together without assembling the right ingredients in the correct proportions.

Everything starts with a solid foundation, and in maths, that’s where times tables comes in. Schools have to make sure that children learn the times tables as part of the national curriculum. There is no silver bullet to learning them; it is simply a case of going over and over it until it is solidified into memory.

When children (or parents!) complain about having to learn it, it’s because they haven’t understood why it’s important. A few years ago OFSTED did a study that said that, without a solid grasp of the times tables, children’s ability in maths suffered. If you can get children to understand this, they will more easily buy into the reason for learning.

It’s a short cut

For instance, another way of viewing a sound knowledge of times tables is taking a shortcut rather than going the long way round.

If you were presented with a maths equation such as (8 x 8) / 4

And if you just knew that 8 x 8 was 64, you would not lose valuable seconds working it out before getting on with the rest of the equation.

It also helps with division. Imagine having to answer 40 ÷ 8. If we knew our times tables we would come up with the answer in a nanosecond (it’s five). If we had to do 42 ÷ 8 ,we would instantly know the answer was 5 remainder 2.

In fact, the times tables is a key building block for the much harder multiplication and division that children need to learn later on. It’s also the foundation of fractions so it is vital know them to understand fractions.

And here’s the clincher.

It saves time – which really helps when it comes to the 11+

This is where it comes in really handy for the 11+ exam. The test doesn’t just want to test a child’s knowledge, it wants to see how quickly a child can access that knowledge.  How fast can they process the question and still get it right?  Maths comprises XX% of the test, if a child knows all the times tables, imagine how much faster and easier the whole thing will be?

It’s worth remembering, though, being able to remember the times tables isn’t the be all and end all, it won’t suddenly make you a maths genius. Rather, it’s a very useful building block along the way to building that magnificent house.


Here are some great resources for learning the times tables.

Hit the Button is available on Apple and Android is a fun way for kids to rapidly improve their times tables. The division tables are also very useful.

Times table practice books, like Carol Vorderman Times Table Made Easy, or Usborne Lift the Flap Times Tables for younger children. WHSmiths has a good collection.

How do you pass the 11+ ?

How do you pass the 11+ ?

Parents all come to Pen and Ink Tuition for the same reason – they want their child to have the best chance of passing the 11+ test.

For the uninitiated, this is the so-called Transfer Test that helps to decide whether a child can go to grammar school or not. There are two papers, each around 45 minutes’ long.

They are supposed to be tutor-proof, but research has shown that this simply isn’t the case. 

So tutoring is, rightly or wrongly, one of the best ways to help children have the best chance of passing.

But that’s just the beginning.

Perhaps one of the questions I get asked the most by parents is: What do we need to do now to have the best chance of passing?

Being clever is one thing, but not everything

How do you decide if your child is right for grammar school? Clearly, if they are already in top sets at school then that’s a good start, but even then, it all depends on what levels other children in the school are at. The top set in one school may not equal the top set in another.

It’s also well worth speaking to teachers around the end of year 4 or early in year 5. They will have a pretty good idea of whether your child could pass the exam by then. In addition, good tutors offer free assessments.

Even if your child is top of the class, there are not many very clever ones who will sail straight through the exam without even trying. It requires hard work.

But hard work isn’t everything either

But hard work alone won’t be enough to pass the test. Whilst its true that the more vocabulary a child can learn, the better they are at times tables and other maths basics, the quicker they will be able to answer questions, this alone will not be enough to see them through.

Attitude also plays a huge part. When children get to grammar school they will be expected to be self-motivated and self-starters. In secondary schools in general children are expected to take much more responsibility for themselves. In grammars the academic demands will be even more rigorous than what they have thus far been used to. Your child has to want to be in that kind of environment.

It’s the same with the test. Children have to have a certain determination to want to pass and be prepared to put in the necessary time to do so. Some are only doing it because they are being told to, and they will have less of a chance of passing.

Practice, practice, practice

Practising does always improve their chances. No time learning vocabulary, or practising papers, will ever be wasted. The trick is to find a balance between that and other schoolwork and extra curricular activity.

It’s a team effort

The best combination is a child’s determination to succeed, and parental support helping them to work.

A year spent preparing is much better than a solid month of cramming, at least for most children. That’s because it takes time to build up the vocabulary and maths knowledge needed. That said, I offer courses in August as both refreshers for, and preparation for, the looming test in September.

Starting early also pays dividends. I was delighted when one child, who came to me with weak maths skills, went on to pass the 11+ two years later. Their sheer determination and perseverance paid off.