Big changes in the 11 Plus World

CEM 11 plus test

Some big changes have been happening in the 11 plus over the last few months. Those of you who are new to the eleven plus may not be aware that the 11 plus varies significantly between the 163 state grammar schools in England. The format of the 11 plus exam is determined by the schools themselves or the local authority in which they are based. Around ten years ago a new provider appeared on the scene, CEM (Centre for Evaluation and Monitoring, associated with the University of Durham) offering a new "untutorable" 11 plus to grammar schools and spawning a plethora of "CEM" 11 plus materials by educational publishers keen to cash in on the "top secret" content of the exam - the CEM did not provide any practice materials apart from some extremely short familiarisation tests. Of course, it is impossible for an exam to be untutorable since prior knowledge of the subject matter is required in order to pass any exam and one of the ways to gain this knowledge is through private tutoring. CEM was successful in persuading around half of grammar schools to use their papers. As well as developing a paper-based exam, CEM also developed computerised tests. Only four state grammar schools started using these online tests, but private schools must have liked them as CEM have now made the decision to concentrate on their computerised tests from 2023, pulling the plug on the paper tests, formerly taken by thousands of pupils each year. This has left grammar schools rethinking their 11 plus test format. Whilst many have opted to go for a similar test provided by GL Assessment, others like those in Torbay have decided to focus on the core subjects of English and Maths rather than testing the children on subjects like verbal reasoning and non-verbal reasoning which they are not taught in school. The test in Torbay will be much more "untutorable" than the "untutorable" CEM tests they will replace, as children excelling in these subjects will have a much better chance of passing the 11 plus without tuition. Of course, tutoring will still give children a tremendous advantage, both in the 11 plus and in setting them up for their first couple of years at grammar school.