11 Plus Subjects

The 11+ Subjects

This section is all about the subjects your child can be examined on in their 11+ test. First up is Verbal Reasoning, and there are a few important differences for this subject dependent on which test provider you have.

11+ Verbal Reasoning:

Many people might not have seen Verbal Reasoning questions before, so they can seem scary at first. The focus of these questions varies between the CEM test and GL Assessment, but one common feature is that they both comprise questions about words. The main difference between them is that GL Verbal Reasoning also includes questions about numbers. CEM also includes components of English (e.g. comprehension, spelling and grammar) in their Verbal Reasoning questions, while these components are examined separately in the GL English test.

The CEM Verbal Reasoning questions are formulated to test your child’s vocabulary, logic and comprehension skills, whereas the GL Verbal Reasoning questions test your child’s word knowledge, logic and basic maths skills.

The Verbal Reasoning test evaluates your child’s academic potential, rather than the superiority of their primary school education. While your child will have to exhibit skills that they have developed at school, the preparation they do at home is just as vital. Next we will break down the different Verbal Reasoning questions your child may come across.

CEM Verbal Reasoning:

The CEM Verbal Reasoning questions most commonly can be divided into four groups:

  • Spelling and Grammar
  • Word Meanings
  • Completing Passages
  • Comprehension

The question types that come up may vary from the examples given below but they are expected to test similar skills.

Spelling and Grammar:

Your child might be given a passage of text to read and find out mistakes in spelling, punctuation and grammar.

Spelling Question Example:

A good grasp of spelling and grammar is vital for many of the other question types, as is a familiarity of how sentences are formed.

Word Meanings:

This group of questions includes comparing words and understanding what they mean. There are various types that could come up on the test, including Multiple Meanings, Closest Meaning, Opposite Meaning, Odd One Out and Reorder Words to Make a Sentence.

Multiple Meanings Question Example:

Closest Meaning Question Example:

Completing Passages:

This group of questions, also known as ‘cloze’ questions, includes completing a short passage either by choosing the most sensible word from various options, or by filling in missing letters.

Choose a Word Question Example:

Fill in the Letters Question Example:


Your child will possibly be given a passage of text to read, followed by a series of questions about what they have read. There are numerous different styles of comprehension question:

Standard Comprehension — These questions examine your child’s understanding of the text. For example, they might be asked about what happens in the text, what a certain character is like or how the character feels.

Comprehension Question Example:

Language and Word Meanings — These questions assess your child’s vocabulary and understanding of figurative language.


Logic — These questions measure your child’s ability to extract information from a text.


GL Verbal Reasoning Questions can also be divided into Four Groups:

The GL Verbal Reasoning questions most commonly can be divided into four groups, which assess different skills:

• Making Words
• Word Meanings
• Maths and Sequences
• Logic and Coding

Like with the CEM questions, the question types that come up might vary from the examples given below, but they are likely to examine similar skills.

Making Words:

These questions comprise changing words to make new words. There are seven ‘Key Question’ types in this group, as well as a number of other types. The ‘Main Questions’ are: Missing Letters, Move a Letter, Hidden Words, Find the Missing Word, Use a Rule to Make a Word, Compound Words and Complete a Word Pair.

Missing Letters Question Example:

Move a Letter Question Example:

Questions in this group evaluate the following skills:

• Adding or removing letters to make new words.
• Spotting words that have been hidden in, or removed from, whole sentences.
• Finding patterns in the way words are made and applying those patterns to make new words.
• Accurate spelling.

Word Meanings:

The question types in this group are quite similar to the Word Meaning questions in CEM. Common question types are Closest Meanings, Opposite Meanings, Multiple Meanings and Odd Ones Out. Another ‘Key Question’ type for GL is Word Connections.

Here’s an example:

Questions in this group gauge the following skills:

  • Understanding the meanings of words.
  • Comparing words and spotting similarities and differences in meaning.
  • Spotting ways that words can be grouped together.

Maths and Sequences:

Questions in this group includes basic maths skills and precise counting. Five ‘Key Question’ types in this group are — Complete the Sum, Letter Sequences, Number Sequences, Related Numbers and Letter-Coded Sums.

Letter-Coded Sums Question Example:

Questions in this group assess the following skills:

• Basic maths such as addition, subtraction, division and multiplication.
• Awareness of number patterns like square numbers and multiples.
• Identifying and continuing patterns in both number and letter sequences.

Logic and Coding:

The final group of questions includes reading and interpreting information. Five ‘Key Question’ types in this group are — Letter Connections, Letter-Word Codes, Number-Word Codes, Explore the Facts and Solve the Riddle.

Letter-Word Code Question Example:

Questions in this group examine the following skills:

•To able to read, understand and sort information quickly.

•Crack letter and number codes and use them to create new words and codes.

11+ Non-Verbal Reasoning:

Like Verbal Reasoning, most people might not have seen Non-Verbal Reasoning questions earlier. These pages will give you a basic overview to the subject for both CEM and GL.

Non-Verbal Reasoning contains Shapes and Diagrams:

11+ Non-Verbal Reasoning questions are created of shapes and patterns instead of words or numbers. They’re aimed to test your child’s problem-solving and spatial reasoning skills, but they also assess basic maths skills (like symmetry, adding, subtracting and dividing).

For all Non-Verbal Reasoning question types, your child will have to think about the same basic principles to help them spot patterns:

1) Shapes — the different shapes, the importance of different numbers of sides, and symmetry.

2) Counting — when to count, what to count, and how to use basic maths.

3) Pointing — how arrows can point in directions, as well as at, or away from, an object.

4) Shading and Line Types — the different line types and shadings that a shape can have.

5) Position — where a shape is positioned in a figure.

6) Order — the order that features of a figure are in, and how it can change or move.

7) Rotation — how much an object is rotated (its angle) and in what direction.

8) Reflection — when a mirror image of a figure is made by reflecting it across a mirror line.

9) Layering — how and in what ways images can overlap.

Non-Verbal Reasoning tests are also devised to assess your child’s aptitude and potential to succeed in grammar school, rather than how good the teaching was at their primary school. As this subject is often unfamiliar to children, it’s worth familiarising your child with the styles of questions they’ll come across, as well as making sure they can use simple tactics to help them solve each question.

Note: Even if the Non-Verbal Reasoning test paper is standard answer, your child will pick an answer from some options and either write the letter or circle it.


CEM Non-Verbal Reasoning Question Groups:

CEM Non-Verbal Reasoning will usually be classified into the following groups, in order to assess different skills:

  • Similarities and Differences
  • Pairs, Series and Grids
  • Rotation and Reflection
  • 3D Shapes and Folding


Similarities and Differences:

The first group of questions contains finding the figure that’s most like or unlike the other options. Question in this group involve, Find the Figure Like the First Two or the First Three and the Odd One Out. Please see the examples of Find the Figure Like the First Two or the First Three, and the Odd One Out below.

Questions will test the following skills in this group:

• To spot similarities or differences by comparing different parts of the figures.
• Notice any small differences by close observation.
• Ability to imagine reflected or rotated image of the given shape.
• Ability to spot multiple things at a time and identifying links between those things.


Pairs, Series and Grids:

This group of questions includes finding the figure that will complete a diagram. Question types in this group involve Complete the Series, Complete the Grid and Complete the Pair.  See the example of a Complete the Series question:

In this group of questions following skills are tested:

  • Visualising how images will look when they’re combined with other shapes.
  • Identifying links between different figures.
  • Spotting changes between figures, and then visualising how other images will look if they’re transformed in the same way.
  • Looking at a series of images and guessing what should come next.

Rotation and Reflection:

This group of questions includes finding out how an image will look if it is rotated or reflected. Question types in this group involve Rotate the Image and Reflect the Image. Here’s an example of a Reflect the Figure question:

In this group of questions following skills are tested:

• Visualising what different images will look like when they’re reflected across a line.
• Visualising what different Images will look like when they’re rotated by different positions (either clockwise or anticlockwise).

3D Shapes and Folding:

This group involves questions working with 3D and 2D shapes that are folded. Questions include 3D Rotation, 3D Building Blocks, 2D Views of 3D Shapes, Cubes and Nets, Fold Along the Line and Fold and Punch. See an example of a Cubes and Nets question:

In this group of questions following skills are tested:

• Ability to rotate and combine shapes in 3D space.
• Visualising 3D shapes in two dimensions.
• Visualising 2D nets folded into 3D shapes.
• Visualising what a shape will look like when it is folded or unfolded.

Note, ‘3D Shapes and Folding’ is also referred to as ‘Spatial Reasoning’.


GL Non-Verbal Reasoning Question Groups:

GL Non-Verbal Reasoning questions can mostly be classified into the following groups, to assess various skills:

  • Similarities and Differences
  • Pairs, Series and Grids
  • Codes

The Similarities and Differences and Pairs, Series and Grids groups include the same question types as the CEM groups, but there are normally 5 options (A-E) to select from instead. Based on what region your child is sitting the test in, they might also have to do Spatial Reasoning questions.


The group of questions in ‘Codes’ involve matching a set of letters to the features they stand for. The two types of questions are — Horizontal Code and Vertical Code. See an example of a Horizontal Code question next:

In this group of questions following skills are tested:

  • To understand that sets of letters can stand for different features of each shape.
  • Spotting for similarities between two shapes with the same letter.
  • Ability to visualise what a shape looks like when it’s reflected or rotated.
  • logically working out what the code must be.

Spatial Reasoning:

The questions here are like those in CEM 3D Shapes and Folding but also involve question types like Hidden Shape and Connecting Shapes. See an example of a Hidden Shape question below:

Questions in this element examine the same skills as those in CEM’s 3D Shapes and Folding group, but also the skill to find shapes amid other lines and angles and ability to visualise what shapes would look like if they were combined together.

Spatial Reasoning questions only appear on the GL test in some regions, please check if they’re examined in your area.

11+ Maths:

In 11+ Maths, your child will be examined on the mathematical understanding they have developed at school. However, the test might also involve some areas or types of question that they’re less familiar with.

11+ Maths involves Key Stage 2 Maths Curriculum:

Your child would have already studied Maths at Key Stage 1 and Key Stage 2, so they would already be familiar to most of the topics that come up in the 11+ Maths test. Though they might not have learnt each topic in school, and therefore the 11+ may introduce some new varieties of question which will be unfamiliar to your child. For instance, algebra problems, visualisation problems and mixed topic problems normally found on 11+ papers but could also be unfamiliar to your child.

It’s vital to know that though your child would be familiar to most of the topics in the test, the level of the questions could also be tougher than those they’ve done in school.

Topics Usually Come Up in the 11+ Maths Test:

Most commonly the topics in 11+ Maths can be classified into the following sections:

Number Knowledge — Your child could be examined on their knowledge of different numbers (e.g. prime numbers or square numbers) and their skill to recognise them. They might also be asked to work with ratios and proportions and use fractions, decimals and percentages.

Working with Numbers — Your child could be asked to use addition, subtraction, multiplication or division (or a mixture of all four operations) to solve number problems. They might also have to use their knowledge of place value and rounding to solve number problems.

Number Problems — Your child would have to find number patterns and be able to spot the rule for a given number sequence. They may also be asked to work with algebraic expressions or equations. Number problems can also be in the form of written descriptions where they would have to interpret the information in the question to find the correct answer.

Data Handling — Your child can be asked to find and interpret information in a table or a chart. They can be asked to spot why information is misleading. They might also be required to calculate the mean.

Shape and Space — Your child might be examined on their knowledge of the names and properties of 2D and 3D shapes. They can also be given questions involving area, perimeter, volume and symmetry. They could be asked to use coordinates to find points on a grid and carry out transformations. They can also be asked to visualise shapes in different positions to solve visualisation problems.

Units and Measures — Your child could be asked to read scales and convert between different units. Questions on time might require your child to count on or back from one time to another and to understand both digital and analogue clocks.

Mixed Problems — Your child could be asked to use their awareness of two or more different 11+ Maths topics to work out the answer to a problem.

There are Some Question Types that may be Unfamiliar:

The following types of questions are common on 11+ Maths tests, however your child might not have seen them.

Algebra Problems

Some questions could include representing numbers as letters or shapes. In these questions, your child could be asked to solve an equation to find an unknown value, or to choose the right expression from a group of options. Here’s an example:

Visualisation Problems

To solve visualisation problems your child would have to visualise a shape being flipped, rotated or viewed from a different angle. Here’s an example:

Mixed Topic Problems

These questions examine your child on two or more different maths topics. Your child would have to work out what the question is asking them to do, and the right way to find the answer. Here’s an example:

11+ English

The 11+ English test evaluates your child on their literacy skills. This subject is only tested by GL Assessment, while elements of it are also included in CEM Verbal Reasoning.

11+ English covers Topics on the English Curriculum

The English test covers skills taught at Key Stage 1 and Key Stage 2 such as reading and writing, punctuation, spelling and grammar. In the 11+, the texts and vocabulary your child will need to read and understand might be more challenging than what they have learnt at school.

The GL English Paper Test

There are three question types that normally emerge in the English test:

  • Comprehension
  • Writing
  • Spelling, Punctuation and Grammar

The English test could either be standard answer or multiple choice and therefore the format differs for every school. Some schools and LAs do not set a writing test, or only use it as a decider. (tiebreaker)


One long text or two shorter texts would be given your child to read, followed by a series of questions about the text they have read. Texts could be fiction or non-fiction and the questions about these can be divided into three categories:

Standard Comprehension — These questions analyse your child’s understanding of the text. For example, they could be asked about what would happen in the text, what a certain character is like or how the character feels. Here are some typical comprehension questions:

Word Meanings — These questions assess your child’s vocabulary. For example:

Word Types and Techniques — Questions here will assess your child’s understanding of parts of speech, such as nouns or verbs, and literary techniques. See an example of this type of question:

Spelling, Punctuation and Grammar

Spelling and punctuation questions would require your child to spot mistakes in a piece short text. In standard answer tests, they might be required to fix spellings or add punctuation marks to sentences. See example of multiple-choice punctuation question and a standard answer spelling question:

Grammar questions would require a child to pick the correct word from the list of options to complete a short text. Here’s an example of this sort of question:


In certain LAs, children would do a writing test as part of the English test. They would be given between 20 minutes and an hour to write an essay or short story. There is generally a choice of questions — These are some examples:

Other Question Types

Some English tests involve shorter exercises to evaluate word knowledge and vocabulary. Your child might be asked to detect the odd one out from a list of words, make compound words, place words in alphabetical order, reorder words to make a sentence or reorder sentences to make a story.