CEM 11+ exam: 5 questions you need to ask to help your child pass

Is your child taking the CEM 11+ exam in the new academic year? We've helped millions of children pass their 11+ exam and have prepared this guest blog for School Guide to highlight the five key questions parents need to ask to make sure their child has the best shot at success.

 1. Is my child definitely taking the CEM 11+ exam?

We know it seems obvious, but it’s essential to check with each grammar school that you apply for exactly what exam board they’re using and what subjects they’re testing. Although most schools in a region will do roughly the same 11+ exam, there can still be differences between individual schools, so it’s vital that you check beforehand. 

There are two different exam boards: GL (which stands for Granada Learning) and CEM (​the test ​developed by the​ ​Centre for Evaluation & Monitoring at the University of Durham​). Although they cover broadly the same 11+ topics, there are key differences to the way the exams work and, crucially, this will impact on how you prepare your child. 

CEM regions: Berkshire, Bexley, Birmingham, Buckinghamshire, Devon, Gloucestershire, Shropshire, Walsall, Warwickshire, Wolverhampton.

GL and CEM: Devon, Essex, Hertfordshire, Trafford, Yorkshire.

Please note: these lists were correct at the time of publishing this blog (August 2015). Schools and regions do change exam boards, so it’s essential that you check with each grammar school that you apply to as to what exam board it uses.

2. What subjects is my child being tested on and in what format?

The CEM 11+ exam covers verbal reasoning, non-verbal reasoning and numerical reasoning. 

Both verbal reasoning and numerical reasoning align closely to the content of the KS2 National Curriculum for English and maths, testing your child’s core English and maths skills.

Depending on the region and the individual school, your child may sit a Standard Format (where the answers are written next to the question), Multiple Choice (where answers are recorded in a separate answer book) or combined format (a mixture of Standard Format and Multiple Choice) exam. 

For more advice on helping your child develop CEM subject knowledge, take a look at the Bond How to Do Guides for CEM.

3. Has my child done enough realistic exam practice?

One of the defining features of the CEM 11+ exam is that the exam papers are mixed. This means that one exam combines English and verbal reasoning and the other combines maths and non-verbal reasoning.

Additionally, 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.

Finally, 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.

Your exam practice this summer needs to reflect accurately these different features of the exam. Your child must get used to answering mixed papers and to understand that they may not be able to finish all the questions in the allotted time.

If you need a hand, Bond Online is an interactive question bank that will provide you with realistic CEM 11+ exam practice, helping your child get used to the mixed style of the CEM exam. 

4. How developed is my child’s vocabulary?

One of the core skills that the CEM 11+ exam tests is how wide your child’s vocabulary is, so it’s essential that you spend time developing this skill:

  • Read widely with your child and make sure you get them into the habit of asking you what unfamiliar words mean. If you don’t know, look up the words together in a dictionary and encourage them to do this for themselves when they come across a new word.
  • Create a ‘word wall’ in their room to record new words and their meanings.
  • Play word-based games such as Scrabble, or complete crosswords together.

5. How good are my child’s time management skills?

Due to the particular structure of the CEM 11+ exam (differently-timed sections, more questions than can be answered in the allocated time, etc.), it’s essential that your child does plenty of timed practice and learns how to manage their time in an exam carefully.

Make sure you encourage your child to look through the exam paper first, highlighting the questions they can answer easily or those that carry the highest marks; they should then go back and complete those first.

Bond CEM test papers will help you conduct realistic mock exams at home, helping your child to develop their CEM exam technique.

We hope everything goes well for all of you taking the 11+ this September – good luck!

The Bond Team