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A guide to grammar schools in the United Kingdom

  • What is a grammar school
  • How to get into a grammar school
  • When to take an exam?
  • Timeline for 11 plus exam
  • Two main exam boards for 11 plus exam

01. What is a grammar school

Grammar Schools are state secondary schools in England and Northern Ireland that select students based on their academic abilities. They are well-known for preparing students for university. The curriculum focuses highly on academic subjects like English, Mathematics, Verbal and non-verbal reasoning.

02. How to get into a grammar school

The 11+ exam varies across the country and depends on the type of school chosen ( Grammar School/ Independent School), including the subjects and the examining board used.

There are usually four subjects:

  • Verbal Reasoning: Choosing words, Categorizing words, Codes and Sequences, Verbal and Numerical Logic
  • Non-verbal reasoning: Recognizing Shapes, Identifying Missing Shapes, Rotating Shapes, Complex Shapes
  • English: Understanding passages, Spelling, Vocabulary, Punctuation & Grammar, Word Selection
  • Mathematics: Number Logic, Graphical Data, Shapes & Sizes

When is the best time to begin preparing my child for the 11+ exam?

Based on our experience, we suggest that the optimal time to commence preparation is between 12 to 18 months before the exam.

03. Timeline for the 11 + Exam

Ideally, you will have decided which grammar schools you are considering. It is a good idea to visit each school with your child to get a better feel and see if it is the right environment for them.

  • April 2024: Most grammar schools will open their registration in April or May and set a deadline around June or July for parents to register their child for the 11+ exam. There is some variability, so please check these dates with your schools. Buckinghamshire automatically enters all primary children for the 11+ exam and operates an opt-out system for parents who must actively choose to withdraw their child from the process.
  • September 2024: For most grammar schools, the 11+ exam will occur during the first two weeks of September 2024. There is some variability with some schools holding 11+ exams in October, so please check the date with your schools.
  • October 2024: For most grammar schools, 11+ results will be posted in mid-October 2024.
  • March 2025: School allocations are confirmed on 01 March 2025.
  • September 2025: New intake begins in Year 7 at each of the 164 grammar schools.

04. Two main exam boards for 11 plus exam

There are two main exam boards for the 11+ Exam:

  • GL Assessment (formerly known as NFER) conducts the 11 + exams for the majority of grammar schools in Berkshire, Bexley, Birmingham, Buckinghamshire, Devon, Gloucestershire, Kent, Shropshire, Walsall, Warwickshire, Wirral, and Wolverhampton. The GL 11 + exam includes English, Mathematics, verbal reasoning, and non-verbal reasoning. Each school can select any combination of these subjects to best suit their selection criteria. 
  • CEM, developed by the Centre for Evaluation and Monitoring at Durham University, administers the 11+ exams for Cumbria, Dorset, Lancashire, Medway, Northern Ireland, and Wiltshire. The CEM 11+ exam covers verbal reasoning, non-verbal reasoning, and numerical reasoning. (The verbal reasoning exam includes many of the skills tested in the GL English exam; the numerical reasoning exam includes many of the skills tested in the GL maths exam.)
  • Schools in Devon, Essex, Hertfordshire, and Yorkshire use a mixture of GL and CEM.


In both GL and CEM exams, there is a strong emphasis on core skills in English and maths, including spelling, punctuation, grammar, comprehension, and vocabulary, including arithmetic skills, problem-solving, and data manipulation. Non-verbal reasoning assesses spatial awareness, pattern-spotting, and logical skills. Let’s connect for Online GCSE Classes in UK