Chapter 4 : How does the 11+ exam work?

The 11+ is one of the most common exams out there, and past papers are widely available for your child to complete. Most 11+ exams test Maths and English, followed by an interview that usually involves some problem solving.

Please check out our 11+ Curriculum Guide if you would like more specific information about this exam and the application process.

1) Maths

This is often multiple choice, which can actually make the exam a lot harder when candidates are unsure of the answer. The exam usually features:

  • Word problems
  • Word problems involving money
  • Measurements
  • Fractions and Percentages
  • Time
  • Charts and Venn Diagrams
  • Basic Geometry
  • Scale
  • Coordinates
  • Basic algebra


2) English

This tends to be equally divided between Comprehension, Grammar and Creative Writing. There is often a mix of multiple choice and non-multiple choice questions:

  • Extract followed by a range of simple and complicated questions.
  • Exercises where you must identify grammar mistakes, word meanings, punctuation and word order.
  • A story-writing task – in many papers they will give you the first few lines of a story, which you will have to continue. Usually it will be very open-ended.


3) Verbal and Non Verbal reasoning

Only some exams will have this which, like in the case of the 7+, just requires regular practice.

This can be done through assessment papers available in many shops and online. Alternatively, you can have a few sessions with one of our 11+ Private Tutors.



If a candidate is successful, they will usually be invited to interview. This is a chat about their interests, or any simple questions that the examiner may have. The child may also have to:

  • Answer a few maths questions. Usually, this is something they have never seen before. The interviewer might help them with the first question, and see if they can complete the following ones.
  • Look at a painting or picture. The examiner may ask them to discuss what the context of the picture could be, or what the picture could be inferring. Sometimes there is an optical illusion, where the child should be able to identify shapes and individual images.
  • A child may be asked about their favourite book, so make sure they do a lot of reading as they grow up!

Most prep schools will prepare children for the 11+ exam, so they should go in feeling quite confident. If your child has not come from this background, a little extra help can really help them to feel prepared, which you can access on our Tavistock Tutors main page.