Passing the 11 plus is just like any other test where a structured approach can increase your child’s chances. Using an 11 plus mock test is an essential strategy parents need to consider when supporting their child. The 11 plus is one of the most difficult tests a year 5/6 child can face and without support and a planned approach it will almost be impossible to pass.

Grammar school areas and groups in England (Ref: Wikipedia)

Here is 6-step approach tailored for passing the 11 plus test:

  1. Find online or paper based 11plus mock tests
  2. Do one 11plus mock test
  3. Mark the test or if online submit it for automatic marking
  4. Review the feedback / test results and identify improvement areas
  5. Find exercises / worksheets to practice these areas
  6. Repeat from 2 above until an 80% score is consistently being achieved

Marking these tests is challenging for parents due to the style of questions – some questions measure academic ability and others measure aptitude (intelligence). It’s much easier to either let a tutor do this or use an online 11plus mock test which automatically marks the test and provides a summary identifying areas that require improvement. This saves a lot of time and can be repeated again and again without extra effort.

What is the pass mark for the 11 plus?

The pass mark for the 11 plus is approximately 80% but fluctuates yearly and can be as high as 90% in some schools. There are a limited number of seats so in reality the children with the highest marks are the ones who get offered a place. The test is very challenging and most simply won’t pass. Using a structured approach and revising intelligently, doing practice questions and complete 11plus mock tests will help increase your child’s chances. Understanding the weaknesses of your child and then addressing them systematically ensures you don’t waste time on areas which your child is already comfortable with.

How many children fail the 11 plus?

The 11 plus is designed to select the most able pupils and it does this by failing approximately 85% of pupils and selecting approximately the top 15% of pupils. It seems like a failure but rather it’s more a case of not able to do as well as their peers. Unlike other exams which have a predetermined pass or failure mark, the 11+ tests pass mark is relative to the scores of other students. It is all about “making the cut” – coming in within the top 10 or 15% of students.

How are 11+ test results calculated?

Raw marks go through a standardisation process to allow children to be fairly compared. This standardised score is then used to determine the rank order and what the pass mark is for that particular school and year. 11 plus tests normally consist of a number of tests each with a different number of questions – these marks will then go through a weighting process, and along with the candidate’s age (and possibly postcode, ethnicity and faith), a final standardized score will then be calculated. If the 11plus test being used by the school is from an organization, such as GL Assessment or CEM, the standardisation process will also take into consideration previous years’ 11+ test results and also the different versions of the test and their difficulty. The whole process is quite involved and aiming for more than 85% in any given 11plus mock tests will provide you with high level of confidence that your child passes the real thing.

Does my child need to prepare for the 11 plus tests?

‘Tutor-proof’ 11-plus professor admits grammar school test doesn’t work (Ref: Guardian)

The reasons for children not making “the cut” and coming in the top 15% is many fold and any distraction, domestic problems, or illness should be evidenced and the test postponed. If the pupil is not 100% focused its highly unlikely, he or she will meet the pass rate.

Absolutely, every child sitting the 11 plus will need to prepare, but prepare at the right level and start at the right time. Too much preparation can be just as bad as too little and leave the child overworked and unable to stay motivated leading to underperformance on the day of the exam. Timing is critical and just like an elite athlete a child needs to reach their peak on the day of the exam.

Factors which can effect your child’s score

Some children who naturally have a higher aptitude and academic ability sometimes lose out to other children who may be less able but have had the support required to prepare and practice. The school curriculum does not cover the material required for the 11plus tests particularly the verbal reasoning and non-verbal reasoning questions are not covered at all in school.

For these questions the right type of preparation is required and its going vary from child to child since reasoning skills may be more or less developed and require nurturing over a period of time. So the fact a child doesn’t pass is not necessarily how difficult he or she found the questions but rather an indication of the lack of preparation and support received.

Right or wrong the 11 plus is not just a test of academic ability but also an indicator of the stability of the environment in which the child lives and how much support a child receives. This could be seen as unfair but it could be justified due to the fact that the same levels of support, or lack of, will continue into later years and leave the child underachieving in a highly competitive environment.


Passing the 11plus test is very possible and does not require spending 100s of pounds (parents are spending on average 1800 pounds on 11+ tutors) rather it requires a simple, straightforward 6-step approach to determine what your child needs to learn and how much progress he or she has made. Take leave your child disadvantaged. If you need any help or advice on what the best approach simply contact me in the comments below or send me a message on the contact page by clicking here. I’ll get back to you as soon as I can.

Try a 11 Plus Practice Test

The practice tests on this site are not official tests but use a similar format that can be used to help identify gaps in knowledge and exam taking technique. To try an example of the format and types of questions that may come up click below.


2 thoughts on “How to pass and smash the 11 plus exam?

  1. Hi,

    Do you help with 12+ and 13+ exams?
    my son just failed his CEM exam by 2 marks and wants to give the exams. I don’t know where to start

    1. Sorry to hear your son missed by such a small margin.

      If you do a search for 12+ practice exams you get a few paid services – pretty expensive. You may be able to find some others you can download.

      Its worth trying the 11+ free test on my site but I believe 12+ introduces some other subjects also – e.g. humanities.

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