Essay Writing 11 Plus Exams Birmingham

What You Need to Know About The Eleven Plus Exam In Birmingham

The eleven plus exams are particularly challenging as they push the boundaries of content taught within the national curriculum.

Second to this is the competitiveness of the exams with regards to available spaces within local grammar schools. The top 30% of students on average pass the eleven plus exam, opening the door to a place at grammar school.

The grammar schools in Birmingham utilise the Durham CEM format. They are going to include the following within the eleven plus exam:

  • English (Writing, Grammar, Comprehension)
  • Verbal Reasoning
  • Numerical Reasoning – Maths
  • Non-Verbal Reasoning

More information is available further down the page.

There are two test papers sat within the Durham CEM eleven plus exam, focusing on the areas noted above. The majority of answers will be in multiple choice format and the questions will be in timed sections each containing the different question types.

The eleven plus exam is taken in September of Year 6, with results released in October. This gives time to make the necessary applications to secondary schools. Allocations to grammar schools are released the following March.

Grammar Schools In The Birmingham Region

Interestingly enough, there is a Consortium of Grammar Schools in Birmingham which is comprised of 8 different schools.

Registration to take the eleven plus exam is completed on the consortium website. Click here.

The registration is open in the May of Year 4 and closes in the July.

An information brochure is available to view here.

Eleven Plus in Birmingham Exam Criteria

The eleven plus exam in Birmingham is sat at the beginning of September in Year 6 and follows the Durham CEM guidelines.

The first part of the exam will focus on English and Math in multiple-choice answer form. The entire first part of the test will take approximately one hour and each sub-test about twenty-five minutes.

The second part of the test is based on Verbal and Non-Verbal Reasoning which will also be in multiple-choice answer format and will last approximately one hour with practice tests in between.

What Kind Of Eleven Plus Tests Will My Child Take?

The eleven plus exam in Birmingham is tested using the Durham CEM format. There are four areas tested within this which include:

  • Verbal reasoning – Involves the candidate thinking about text and words, solving sequences and other problems. Candidates must have a broad vocabulary and a good understanding of English grammar to pass this.
  • Non-verbal reasoning – Involves the candidate thinking about diagrams and pictures as well as solving the problems related to these items. The exam also demands some mathematical reasoning, but it does not place too much emphasis on written language.
  • Mathematics and English – While not used by many local authorities as compared to verbal and non-verbal exams, expect their requirements to be quite high if used.

Getting Help With The Eleven Plus Exam in Birmingham

One of the main questions that many parents have is whether to get outside help when it comes to eleven plus exams.

We recommend using focused eleven plus tutoring materials to help prepare your child for the eleven plus exam even if this is not face to face tutoring. The materials now available are focused on the format of the exam question types, whilst also giving access to educational material that pushes what is learnt in the classroom.

Fraser Stevens Learning now offers home-based learning materials for the eleven plus exam in Birmingham. Our ‘11+ In A Box’ home based learning course is designed based on the face to face courses we also run. Over many years of leading these courses, we understand what structures work, what the optimal workloads are, and also, what areas we need to focus on at a particular time of the year.

Take our online vocab game, open to all our home based learning course attendees. This digital vocabulary game is played throughout the year with prizes available for the highest score. It has shown to greatly improve students learning of a variety of words applicable to the eleven plus exam, with many parents pulling this one aspect in feedback after the exam was taken.

All our home based learning products are created to develop your child’s enthusiasm and desire to learn. This helps to foster self-learning and ensures that your child is motivated to pass the test.

So What Next

Free Worksheets

To get started on your eleven plus journey, we have free worksheets available for your child whether they are in Year 4 or Year 5. Within our free worksheets, you can access various different work samples across the eleven plus exam range.

Click here to access our free eleven plus exam resources.

Free Assessment

Why not take our free assessment. We have given free access to both a Year 4 and Year 5 test paper so you can see for yourself your child’s current ability and how they might currently fair in the eleven plus exam. We’ll give you an assessment of the result highlighting strong and weak points, and help in setting a path to success in the eleven plus exam.

Click here to access our free assessment papers.


If you have any questions regarding the eleven plus exam in Birmingham, please do not hesitate to get in touch. We’ll help where we can.

Warwickshire: Test Paper Content

Since 2010 the Warwickshire test has been set by the University of Durham CEM. The content of the test changes each year, and no past papers are published, which has led it to be described as “tutor proof”. Durham CEM tests have been used for several years now for 11+ entry to the Birmingham grammar schools, and more information about Birmingham past papers can be found there.

Many Birmingham parents have found that it is possible to prepare their child for the tests despite the secrecy and changing content, and there has been no obvious decline in the level of professional tutoring in the Birmingham area since the new test was introduced.

The descriptions of the tests below have been taken firstly from the Warwickshire County Council website, and secondly from the website of King Edward VI Grammar School in Stratford-upon-Avon.

They provide further insight into the method of administering the Durham CEM test and also the skills needed to succeed in the test. Note in particular the statement from Warwickshire CC that “Students are not necessarily expected to complete each section due to time constraints”.

Warwickshire sample question papers for the last two years’ tests can be downloaded. It is also worth mentioning that the sample papers are considered to be very much easier than the real test, and not particularly representative of the type of questions that appear in the real test.

Information on the Warwickshire Grammar School Selection Tests for Entry in September 2013 (Source: Warwickshire County Council)

The university of Durham centre for Evaluation and Monitoring (CEM) provides Warwickshire with specialist entrance tests. The aim is to provide selective tests which are resistant to tutoring and provide as standardised an environment as possible. The content assesses performance in verbal, numerical and non verbal reasoning.

  1. The verbal reasoning section includes comprehension and reading skills. A wide knowledge of vocabulary is an advantage.
  2. The numerical section will test mental arithmetic and recognition of mathematical patterns. It will explore problem solving with a greater reading element.
  3. The non verbal reasoning section eliminates cultural bias in testing and the possible bias against individuals who may have difficulty with verbal elements.

Reasoning tests are used for secondary selection because of their high reliability. All three components involve a speed element as the tests are administered by CD in timed sections. Students are not necessarily expected to complete each section due to time constraints. During each section they are allowed to check their answers within that section only. A sample sheet aims to provide candidates and parents with the layout and appearance of the actual tests, to introduce some of the symbols and phrases used in the tests and to highlight the range of answer formats, e.g. multiple choice, filling in answer boxes, etc.

Arrangements for the tests for 2013 entry (From King Edward VI Grammar School in Stratford-upon-Avon). (Tests have not changed from last year)

The tests will comprise two standard format papers (bespoke papers available only to Warwickshire County Council). Each test will be of 45 minutes duration.

Paper 1 will include:

  1. 20 minutes verbal reasoning
  2. 10 minutes short maths questions
  3. 15 minutes comprehension

Paper 2 will include:

  1. 15 minutes longer maths questions
  2. 10 minutes data processing questions
  3. 10 minutes non verbal reasoning
  4. 10 minutes missing words in paragraph test (‘cloze test’)

Verbal reasoning

It involves the manipulation of verbal representations and the solving of verbally presented problems. Orthographic, syntactic and semantic abilities, as well as logic and other problem solving skills are needed in verbal reasoning.

Comprehension tests

It tests the ability to make inferences as to meaning within and between phrases, sentences and paragraphs; to derive the ‘gist’ of the meaning from a text; understand the vocabulary, and extract accurate interpretations of the written language.

Non-Verbal Reasoning

These tests eliminate cultural bias in intelligence testing and the possible bias against individuals who lack experience of a particular language or have difficulties with verbal elements.

The ‘Cloze Test’

It consists of several short passages of prose. It needs an overall understanding of the passage, but it requires closer attention to the grammatical and syntactic elements of written language than in the comprehension test. The candidate selects the most appropriate word from a choice of three at various points in the passage so as to make sense of the phrase and/or sentence.

Mathematical Sections:

Short mathematical questions will test ability in mental arithmetic and recognition of mathematical patterns (as curriculum free as possible). A rigorous test of working memory skills with a speed element to this section. Not all the candidates will be expected to finish.

Longer mathematics problems explore numerical problem solving requiring more stages of processing with a greater verbal element involved than in the short maths questions.

One familiarisation paper will be issued to each candidate registered for the tests with the notice of allocation to a particular Test Centre.

A single testing session will include:

  • Test Paper 1 (45 minutes)
  • Short Break
  • Test paper 2 (45 minutes)


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