GL Assessment: Previously known at NFER, in 2007 NFER was purchased by Granada Learning and re-named ‘GL Assessment’. Since that time, GL Assessment have developed and administered 11+ exams in the majority of grammar schools in the UK.
CEM: Developed by the Centre for Evaluation & Monitoring at the University of Durham, the CEM 11+ exam was created in response to fears from some grammar schools that the existing 11+ exam system had become too transparent. The exam was designed to address concerns over question spotting and ‘teaching to the test’.
GL Assessment: Dorset, Kent, Lancashire & Cumbria, Lincolnshire, Medway, Northern Ireland, Wiltshire.
CEM: Berkshire, Bexley, Birmingham, Buckinghamshire, Devon, Gloucestershire, Shropshire, Walsall, Warwickshire, Wirral, Wolverhampton.
GL and CEM: Devon, Essex, Hertfordshire, Trafford, Yorkshire
Unknown at time of publication: it’s still unclear what exam board Surrey will use in 2016.
GL: GL cover the four 11+ subjects (English, maths, verbal reasoning and non-verbal reasoning) and schools can choose any combination of these to best suit their selection policy. For instance, in Dorset, maths, English and verbal reasoning are tested, whilst in Lincolnshire, only verbal and non-verbal reasoning are tested.
CEM: CEM covers verbal reasoning, non-verbal reasoning and numerical reasoning. In practice, ‘verbal reasoning’ encompasses many of the skills tested in the GL English exam, including comprehension. Likewise, ‘numerical reasoning’ involves the core maths skills needed for the GL exam.
For both verbal and numerical reasoning, the CEM exam aligns much more closely to the content of the KS2 National Curriculum than GL Assessment does. Again, individual regions and grammar schools can choose what subjects to test as part of their 11+ exam.
GL: Again, this varies from region to region, but broadly speaking, most GL 11+ exams are either Standard Format (where answers are written in spaces next to the question) or Multiple Choice (where answers are marked in a separate answer book). The lengths of test papers vary, although 45 minutes is the most common exam time.
GL takes its questions from the GL Assessment Question Bank and uses a variety of different question types across all four subjects. Through practice and preparation, it is possible for children to become familiar with these particular question types.
CEM: One of the key differences between GL and CEM is that CEM papers are mixed, with one exam combining English and verbal reasoning and another combining maths and non-verbal reasoning. Standard Format, Multiple Choice, or a combination may be used depending on school/region.
In addition, the paper may quickly flit between a short maths section, a longer problem solving exercise, then some logic puzzles. Timings will be allocated to each section, and children will need to carefully manage the time they spend on each section.
In CEM exams, there will typically be more questions than are likely to be answered in the time allocated, and the weighting of each subject for your child’s final mark will be unknown before the exam.
GL: Strong vocabulary, logic, maths and spelling skills are required.
CEM: Strong English, comprehension, vocabulary, spelling and maths skills are required. CEM verbal reasoning is very different to GL and success is dependent on children having a much more wide-ranging vocabulary.
What does this mean for how I prepare my child?
The 11+ is about testing your child’s natural aptitude and the importance of a well-rounded education cannot be stressed enough. Reading widely, building vocabulary, developing mathematical skills, are all key ways of helping prepare your child for the 11+. With that in mind, here are some key pieces of advice that will help your child prepare for their specific 11+ exam.
Develop good exam technique – encourage your child to pick off the questions they can answer easily or those that carry the highest marks. For the CEM test in particular they may not have the time or be able to answer all the questions, so teach them to focus on the ones they are most sure about. This will help them feel prepared going into the exam and quickly build confidence in the exam as they amass a collection of questions they are happy they have answered well.