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The 11 Plus Exam Boards | What You Need To Know

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When preparing your child for the 11 Plus exam, the first thing you need to know is what exam board will administer the test. There are two main 11 Plus exam boards and although their exam formats are similar, there are differences that will affect how your child prepares for the test.


In this post, we look at each exam board in more detail and explore the Differences Between CEM and GL tests.


The 11 Plus GL Exam Board


GL stands for Granada Learning, the body that administers the test for most 11 Plus exams. Previously known as the National Education Foundation for Education Research (NFER), the exam board was bought by Granada Learning in 2001. NFER still exists as a research company today.


Subjects Covered


As of 2016, the GL exam board can cover up to five subjects at 11 Plus level: English, Maths, Spatial reasoning, Verbal Reasoning and Non-Verbal Reasoning. Grammar schools can choose which combination of these subjects will be tested for entry.


The Exam Format


Most GL exams last around 45 minutes and questions are normally in multiple choice format though some authorities use a written answer format for verbal and maths tests. Questions are drawn from a large question bank but there are a set number of question types and styles.


The 11 Plus CEM Exam Board


CEM Format details


The CEM exam by the Cambridge Assessment Centre for Evaluation & Monitoring was introduced in 1999 in response to concerns over coaching for the GL Assessment. The new exam board was developed with the aim of reducing the transparency of 11 Plus questions and creating a fairer assessment. The CEM website states:


‘Children can best prepare for our 11+ selection assessments by learning to work quietly on their own, completing homework set by their school, and by reading and trying to understand all the words in any books they read.’


Subjects Covered


The CEM test covers numerical reasoning, verbal and non-verbal reasoning. They claim that the types of questions asked in the exam have more in common with the National Curriculum at KS2 level. The CEM definition of verbal reasoning is broader than that of GL and incorporates things like Comprehension.


The Exam Format


CEM tests could incorporate standard or multiple-choice formats, or both. There are usually two test papers consisting of shorter timed sections that integrate the different subjects in a mixed order.

The exact weighting of subjects isn’t known beforehand but there is a strong emphasis on vocabulary, problem solving and speed.


11 Plus Exam Board Regions


Whether a pupil will sit the GL Assessment or the CEM depends on the region of the grammar school. As of 2016, the following regions use the GL Assessment:


  • Dorset
  • Kent
  • Lancashire & Cumbria
  • Lincolnshire
  • Northern Ireland
  • Wiltshire
  • Buckinghamshire
  • Plymouth


And the following regions use the CEM:


  • Berkshire
  • Bexley
  • Birmingham
  • Gloucestershire
  • Shropshire
  • Walsall
  • Warwickshire
  • Wirral
  • Wolverhampton
  • Medway


And these regions use a combination of the GL Assessment and the CEM:


  • Devon
  • Essex
  • Hertfordshire
  • Trafford
  • Yorkshire


Currently, grammar schools in Surrey write their own test papers, using the Selective Eligibility Test (SET).


As a side note, you may also be interested in our List of 11 Plus Grammar Schools in London and our 13 Plus Late Transfer Exam Guide.


We hope this post helps explain the difference between the GL and CEM 11 Plus exam boards. If you found this article useful, please share it on social media using the buttons below:


You might also want to check out our post on helping your child revise and how to pass the 11 Plus exam.


We produce specialist practice papers that will help your child prepare for both the CEM and GL exams. You can see our full 11+ range here.



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