What’s in the 11 Plus Tests?

A Beginner’s Guide To The 11 Plus – Kent, Medway and Gravesend Edition


Chapter 2: What’s in the 11 Plus Tests?

The 11 plus tests vary from region to region, with different combinations of papers being taken. There are four types of test that can be combined into the 11 plus: non-verbal reasoning, verbal reasoning, maths and English.

For the 11 plus, there are two main test providers – GL Assessment and CEM (Durham University). Some schools, or consortiums of schools, however, set their own tests. GL Assessment exams are generally mixed papers – with two papers covering the four test areas. CEM tests are mixed papers that cover verbal reasoning, non-verbal reasoning and maths.

In Kent, all four test types are used and papers are set by GL Assessment. In Medway, English, verbal reasoning and maths are tested, with papers being set by CEM.


Non-Verbal Reasoning

The purpose of the non-verbal reasoning test (NVR) is to examine the child’s ability to problem solve using pictures and symbols. NVR is not dependent on knowledge of English, since the questions in the NVR test focus on abstract figures. For example, a child may be asked to identify similarities in a sequence of shapes.

Examples of Non Verbal Reasoning questions in the 11 plus testsThere are some key skills involved in answering non-verbal reasoning questions. These include:

  • Shapes – recognising different shapes, the importance of the number of sides, and shape symmetry
  • Counting – when and what to count, using maths skills
  • Shading – knowing the different types of shading a shape can have
  • Positioning – recognising positions of shapes in figures
  • Reflection – how and when a mirror image can be made
  • Rotation – how shapes etc look when they are rotated by a certain angle or direction

Types of non-verbal reasoning questions can include:

  • Similarities and differences: find the figure that’s most like or most unlike other figures. This can include:
    • Odd one out
    • Find the figure like the first two
    • Find the figure like the first three
  • Pairs, series and grids: find the figure that completes a diagram. These can include:
    • Complete the pair
    • Complete the series
    • Complete the grid
  • Rotation and reflection: how will a shape or figure look when you rotate or reflect it?
  • 3D shapes and folding: work out how 2D and 3D shapes are related. These can include:
    • 3D rotation
    • 3D building blocks
    • 2D views of 3D shapes
    • Cubes and nets
    • Fold along the line
    • Fold and punch
  • Codes (GL Assessment): match letters to the figures they stand for. Questions can be either:
    • Horizontal code
    • Vertical code
  • Spatial Reasoning: similar to 3D shapes and folding. These include:
    • Hidden shape
    • Connecting shape

Non-verbal reasoning isn’t necessarily something your child will be familiar with, so it’s a good idea to get plenty of practice in with these types of questions.


Verbal Reasoning

In verbal reasoning tests, your child will be asked questions about words (CEM) or words and numbers (GL Assessment). Verbal reasoning tests a child’s vocabulary, word knowledge and logic.

Example of Verbal Reasoning questions in the 11 plusThere are a variety of different types of verbal reasoning questions that may be asked. These are:

  • Spelling and grammar: recognise errors in spelling, punctuation and grammar in passages of text
  • Word meanings: compare words and understand their meanings. Types of word meanings questions can include:
    • Odd one out
    • Multiple meanings
    • Closest meaning
    • Opposite meaning
    • Reorder words to make a sentence
    • Word connections (GL Assessments only)
  • Completing passages (CEM only): complete a short passage by filling in the most sensible word or the missing letters
  • Comprehension (CEM only): answer questions about a passage of text to test the child’s comprehension. Question types include:
    • Standard comprehension
    • Language and word meanings
    • Logic
  • Making words (GL Assessment only): change words to make new words. Question types include:
    • Missing letters
    • Move a letter
    • Hidden words
    • Find the missing word
    • Use a rule to make a word
    • Compound words
    • Complete a word pair
  • Maths and sequences (GL Assessment only): basic maths skills and accurate counting. Question types include:
    • Complete the sum
    • Letter sequences
    • Number sequences
    • Related numbers
    • Letter-coded sums
  • Logic and coding (GL Assessment only): reading and interpreting information. Question types include:
    • Letter connections
    • Letter-word codes
    • Number-word codes
    • Explore the facts
    • Solve the riddle



The maths questions in the 11 plus are closely related to the topics that are studied in the Key Stage 2 curriculum. However, some question types in the 11plus maths test may be unfamiliar to your child – these include algebra questions and mixed topic problems. Maths questions in the 11 plus also tend to be more difficult than usual Key Stage 2 maths problems as they link multiple topics/skills together and are largely based on problem solving (reasoning).

Examples of Maths questions in the 11 plus

Topics tested in the 11+ vary, but may include:

  • Number knowledge: questions may test a child’s understanding of prime numbers, ratios, fractions, decimals and percentages
  • Working with numbers: addition, subtraction, multiplication and division – or a mixture of all of these – will be tested, along with place value and rounding up or down
  • Number problems: patterns and rules within sequences, algebraic expressions and equations, and interpreting written information to solve number problems
  • Data handling: interpret information from a table or chart, calculate the mean
  • Shape and space: questions involving area, perimeter, volume, symmetry, and coordinates
  • Units and measures: reading scales and converting units, understanding digital and analogue clocks.



Like the maths part of the 11+, the English tests (only from GL Assessment) are based on what your child has learned in the Key Stage 2 curriculum. However, the 11+ assumes a greater level of vocabulary, understanding and comprehension skills than standard Key Stage 2 assessments. It should also be noted that many of the comprehension questions will focus on inference which is the ability to work out answers based on clues from the text. This is sometimes called ‘reading between the lines.’

Examples of English questions in the 11 plusThree main types of questions are found in the English test:

  • Comprehension: To test comprehension, your child will be presented with one or two passages to read, and asked to answer questions about their understanding of the text. Both fiction and non-fiction texts can be used. Question types may include:
    • Standard comprehension – e.g. what happens, what a character is like, how a character is feeling
    • Meanings of words
    • Word types and techniques – e.g. parts of speech and literary techniques
  • Spelling, Punctuation and Grammar: Your child will be given a passage and asked to identify all errors. Multiple choice questions are used as well as questions where the correct sentence will need to be written.
  • Writing: Not all LAs include the writing part of the English test. If your child is in a LA that does use the writing test, they’ll have between 20 minutes and an hour to write an extended piece – which may include an essay or a short story. Your child will usually be able to choose from a range of options.

You can see a summary of the typical subjects within 11 plus tests in the image below.

Summary of typical subjects tested within the the 11 plus