Here's What You Need to Know About the 11+ CSSE Exam


  1. What is the CSSE 11+ exam?
  2. When is the CSSE 11+ exam?
  3. What is the CSSE 11 plus exam like?
  4. What is the pass mark for CSSE 11+?
  5. Are mock exams for CSSE worth the price?

Are you interested in sending your child to a grammar school in Essex? If so then you need to know about the 11+ CSSE exam.child studying for CSSE exam

What is the CSSE 11+ exam?


CSSE stands for the Consortium of Selective Schools in Essex, a group of leading grammar schools that got together in 1993 to organise a common 11 Plus entrance exam for potential pupils. Their thinking was that it made more sense for a group of schools to arrange a single 11 Plus Essex children could sit rather than have them take a different exam prepared by each individual school. 🏦

The ten Essex schools that make up the consortium are:

  •     Colchester County High School For Girls
  •     Colchester Royal Grammar School
  •     King Edward VI Grammar School
  •     Shoeburyness High School
  •     Southend High School For Boys
  •     Southend High School For Girls
  •     St. Bernard’s High School For Girls
  •     St. Thomas More High School
  •     Westcliff High School For Boys
  •     Westcliff High School For Girls

These schools are very academically oriented and place a high intellectual demand on their pupils. The 11+ CSSE exam (or Eleven Plus CSSE exam) is designed to identify the kids who will get the most out of such an environment.  

Your child must pass the test to be considered for a place at one of these academic institutions, but passing the test does not automatically guarantee your chosen school will offer them a place, just that it will consider their application.

Headteachers of CSSE schools are looking for pupils who are naturally curious and enjoy learning and solving problems. They expect them to be hardworking and determined in the face of difficult challenges. 11+ CSSE exam students should have already mastered the material they learned in primary school and be keen readers who read material above their age level. They should have good memory skills, vivid imaginations and an ability to learn quickly. 💪


When is the CSSE 11+ exam?


Keep an eye on the CSSE website for an announcement about CSSE registration dates, but applications usually need to be submitted by early to mid-July. 

You can get the Supplementary Information Form to register from the CSSE website or any CSSE member school. You also need to complete a Common Application Form to register your request for a place at a CSSE school via the Essex Council website before October. 

If you intend your child to start at one of the CSSE schools in 2023, they must sit the 11+ CSSE exam on Saturday 17th September 2022.

The results will be sent out in October 2022 and the national offer day when schools will offer places should be in March 2022. 


What is the CSSE 11 plus exam like?


The 11 plus CSSE exam involves two papers, one in mathematics and one in English.

The maths section takes an hour and the English part also lasts an hour but with an additional 10 minutes allowed for reading. 

Questions in both the mathematics and English papers are designed to test knowledge and understanding of the material taught in Key Stage 2 (KS2) of the National Curriculum.

In its approach to testing maths and English skills through a wide array of tough questions, the CSSE exam is a fairly traditional 11+ test although with a little opportunity for creative writing thrown into the mix.

To prepare for the CSSE 11 plus exam maths paper, your kid must be able to show a good understanding of the following topics:

  • 2d shapes
  • Algebra including BIDMAS/BODMAS and simple linear equations
  • Angles
  • Area and perimeter of shapes
  • Coordinates
  • Cube numbers
  • Decimals and fractions
  • Distance, speed, and time
  • Statistics and graphs including bar charts, line charts, mean, median, mode and range, pictograms, pie charts, and Venn diagrams
  • Mathematical word problems
  • Measurements: area, volume, length, mass, money, time, and unit conversions
  • Number lines
  • Operations: addition, subtraction, multiplication, division
  • Ordering and comparing
  • Percentages
  • Place values
  • Prime numbers
  • Ratio and proportion
  • Reading and writing numbers
  • Reflections and translations
  • Square numbers
  • Timetables

The CSSE 11 plus exam English paper includes both multiple-choice and questions where students write in their answers.

To do well in the English paper of the 11 Plus Essex children must show an excellent grasp of grammar, a wide vocabulary, a deep comprehension of texts, and advanced verbal reasoning skills. 

Showing deep comprehension means your child can, among other things, look for relevant information in a text, make inferences, identify and interpret literary techniques such as irony or sarcasm, and summarise an extract.

A child with a wide vocabulary should also know about idioms, synonyms and opposites, have a conscious or unconscious understanding of the Latin or Greek roots of English words and be able to infer the meanings of unfamiliar words confidently.

Your child should be able to correctly use and identify the following grammatical structures:

  • Active/passive voice
  • Adjectives
  • Compound words
  • Conjunctions
  • Determiners
  • Main and Subordinate Clauses
  • Nouns
  • Plurals
  • Prefixes
  • Prepositions
  • Pronouns
  • Suffixes
  • Tenses
  • Verbs

Punctuation is also important for the CSSE 11+. To get good marks, children should be confident and accurate in using:

  • Apostrophes
  • Brackets / Parentheses
  • Commas
  • Full Stops
  • Hyphens
  • Quotation / Speech marks
  • Semi-Colons

The English paper tests verbal reasoning skills as well. This section is basically a series of word puzzles like mixed up sentences or stories, sentence gap-fill questions (cloze tests) and exercises to test knowledge of synonyms and antonyms. 

A creative writing question gives kids a topic which they must explain in six or seven detailed sentences. This is an opportunity for your child to demonstrate their imagination and descriptive writing abilities. 📝


What is the pass mark for CSSE 11+?


There is no one set pass mark for the CSSE 11+. The maths and English papers are each worth 50% of the total. But that’s where things start getting complicated. 

The scores are also ‘weighted’, this means kids are given different allowances depending on their ages. Results are also ‘weighted’ according to how high the scores are for every child who does the test in a certain year. This means that if the overall marks are high when your child does the CSSE exam, everyone’s score is likely to be reduced by the ‘weighting’. 

What’s more, as some schools may be more popular than others and the number of kids applying to a particular school may change from year to year, there is no standard pass mark that applies to all schools every year. Schools with more applications may raise the pass mark they want to accept and schools with fewer applications may lower it. 

However, CSSE has provided a rough guide to what some of the schools have accepted in the past:

  • 55 - 60% for the Southend grammar schools’ priority area and other Southend schools
  • 65% for out of area places at most of the Southend grammar schools
  • 65 - 70% for Colchester County High School
  • 70% for Colchester Royal Grammar School and King Edward VI Grammar School priority area
  • 75% for King Edward VI Grammar School out of priority area


Are mock exams for CSSE worth the price?


As the CSSE exam is based on KS2 material, the exam designers do not believe children should do a lot of practice tests to prepare for the 11+. They recommend that a few hours of practice should be enough for them to get a good idea of how to do the exam.

The CSSE website provides free ‘familiarisation papers’ that you can download to allow your kid to get familiar with the format of the exam and the types of questions they can expect to see in the real test. 

The CSSE also sells extra practice material to help prepare for the exam. The current price for two papers is £15.90 and there are 4 sets of papers available. At this price it’s not a bad idea to purchase a few sets of papers to give your child confidence with the question format and also to practice their time management skills under simulated exam conditions. The CSSE will sell 2022 entry examination papers as practice material from May 2022.

More generic 11+ style practice tests are available online and via bookshops but you should be aware that they will not match the exact format of the CSSE 11+. 

In general, the best way for your child to prepare is for them to read widely and actively and to make sure they have a good grasp of the material and concepts they were taught in English and maths throughout Key Stage 2. 

Our GoStudent tutors are ready and waiting to give your child mentoring and support to prepare for the 11+ CSSE exam, to help with KS2 topics or for any other educational needs they may have. Click here to try a free trial class today!


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