The exam you take at 11 to enter secondary school will probably be the most important one in your life, so it's worth thinking about carefully how you'll prepare. Here are some things you need to know before sitting your exams.

What is the 11 Plus?

There are two ways into secondary school – by academic selection and by assessment.

There's no point in taking the tests if you don't know what they involve, so here's a quick overview of what you will encounter.

The academic selection is the common entrance test (CET) which is SAT in year 6 (the last year of primary school). Then there's the 11 Plus examination, which all children take at the end of year 5. The 11 Plus is an exam to test intelligence and aptitude for various subjects, including English, Mathematics, Science, History, and Geography.

What do the tests involve?

The tests will involve many different subjects, so it's important to remember that it's a flexible test. As well as English, Mathematics, Science, and History, a child may be asked to answer questions about Geography or Music too. However, some topics may not be covered every year.

It's a test of your skills in general – you don't have to pass the 11 Plus exam to get into secondary school. All you need is good grades in academic subjects, including English and Maths. However, you'll need to be good in your subject for the 11 Plus – so that's why it's essential to have tried lots of different things.

Some areas of the 11 Plus test

In addition to your academic work, the 11 Plus tests your abilities in areas such as Reading, Writing, Quantitative Reasoning (Math), and Understanding – so the more you do these things at school, the better off you'll be.

What will I be doing?

The 11 Plus is a test of your abilities in particular subjects. It's a way of seeing what you can do and is not the same as an exam that will test everything you've done for your school years.

You'll be asked to do tests that assess what you can do. They won't test everything you've learned, but they will show what you've done well in your time at school.

You'll be given lots of different tasks, and as you answer them, the assessors will be looking for things like:

Your level of reasoning – how good you are at solving problems and how good your critical thinking skills are.

How you express yourself – your vocabulary, grammar, and spelling.

How well you're able to analyze and understand things.

So if you answer lots of questions about Games, Sport, or Art, they'll be looking at your level of understanding.

How is it different from an exam?

The 11 Plus is a different kind of exam from the one you take at the end of Year 6 for academic selection. The academic selection test (CET) tests your knowledge in particular areas – like English, Maths, and Science. The 11 plus exams, on the other hand, are a test of your skills. It's not about your knowledge – it's about how well you can do things like Work in English or speak about a historical figure.

There are also slight differences in the way the tests are carried out. With the CET, there's usually just one question on a page. In the 11 Plus, there will be several questions listed on a page, and you'll need to work through them in order.

What is the target score?

The first part of the 11 Plus is to get mark values in your subjects to work out whether you are likely to get into a good school. The second part is about how good you are in the test – so if your targeted score in Maths is 9, then this means they're looking for someone who can get a mark value of 9 or above.