Winning strategies to pass the 11+ CEM Exam


  1. What is the 11+ CEM exam?
  2. Where can my child take the 11+ CEM exam?
  3. When will my child do the 11+ CEM exam?
  4. Can I get 11+ CEM exam practice papers for my kid?
  5. What is the format of the CEM 11+?
  6. How long does the CEM 11+ exam last?
  7. What is on the CEM exam?
  8. What do you need to study for the CEM 11+?
  9. How to prepare my child for the CEM 11+?
  10. CEM exam tips


The CEM 11 Plus exam is an entrance exam used by certain independent schools, partially-selective state schools, and grammar schools to choose pupils with extra academic potential. Read on for our quick guide to CEM testing and 11 plus exam technique.

What is the 11+ CEM exam?


The 11+ CEM exam and CEM testing has been growing in popularity with schools around the country since 2013. It is run by the Centre for Evaluation and Monitoring, an organisation belonging to Cambridge Assessment that designs tests for schools and local authorities. 

The 11 Plus CEM exam was created because schools felt other types of 11 Plus exams had allowed parents and teachers to ‘game the system’ through concentrating on teaching kids how to do well in the exam at the expense of other learning. However we know that there are still plenty of things that your child can be doing to ace CEM testing.


Where can my child take the 11+ CEM exam?


Individual schools offer the 11+ CEM tests to pupils who want to enrol with them. CEM assessments are used by institutions in Berkshire, Bexley, Birmingham, Devon, Essex, Gloucestershire, Hertfordshire, Shropshire, Trafford, Walsall, Warwickshire, Wiltshire, Wirral, Wolverhampton and Yorkshire.

Independent Schools use CEM testing 

  • Cheadle Hulme School
  • City of London School for Girls
  • Edgbaston High School for Girls
  • Eltham College
  • Exeter School
  • Exeter School (12+)
  • Farnborough Hill School
  • Guildford High School
  • Haberdashers’ Boys’ School
  • Heathfield School Ascot
  • Heathfield School Ascot (13+)
  • Holme (Eaton) Grange School
  • Hymers College
  • Ibstock Place School
  • Millfield School
  • Mill Hill School
  • Mill Hill School (Belmont)
  • Moreton Hall
  • Mount St. Mary’s College
  • Newcastle High School for Girls
  • Nottingham High School
  • Princethorpe College
  • Prior Park College
  • Queen Anne’s School
  • Reading Blue Coat
  • Rendcomb College
  • Shrewsbury High School
  • St. Edmund’s College
  • St. George’s Weybridge
  • St. John’s Leatherhead
  • St. Joseph’s College, Reading
  • St. Mary’s Calne
  • St. Mary’s School Cambridge
  • St. Michael’s School
  • St. Nicholas’ School
  • St. Paul’s Girls’ School
  • Sutton High
  • The Cathedral School
  • The Grange School
  • The King’s School, Gloucester
  • The Royal Masonic School
  • Uppingham School
  • Warwick School
  • Worth School

Independent schools using adapted versions of CEM testing or online tests very similar to CEM Select. 

These include:

  • Bishop’s Stortford College
  • Clifton College
  • Cranford House School
  • Croydon High School
  • Eton College
  • Harrow School
  • Junior King’s School
  • Myddelton College
  • Newcastle-under-Lyme School
  • Oakham School
  • Pangbourne College
  • West Buckland School

Grammar Schools that use the CEM exam for Year 7 (11+) entry

  • Adams’ Grammar School
  • Altrincham Grammar School for Boys
  • Altrincham Grammar School for Girls
  • Bacup & Rawtenstall Grammar School
  • Beths Grammar School
  • Bexley Grammar School
  • Bishop Wordsworth’s School
  • Chatham Grammar School for Girls
  • Chelmsford County High School for Girls
  • Chislehurst & Sidcup Grammar School
  • Churston Ferrers Grammar School, Galmpton 
  • Colyton Grammar School, Colyford
  • Denmark Road High School
  • Fort Pitt Grammar School, Chatham
  • Heckmondwike Grammar School
  • Herschel Grammar School
  • Holcombe Grammar School, Chatham
  • Ilford County High School
  • Kendrick Girls’ Grammar School, Reading
  • Langley Grammar School
  • Marling School, Stroud
  • Newport Girls’ High School
  • Pate’s Grammar School, Cheltenham
  • Queen Elizabeth Grammar School, Penrith
  • Queen Mary’s Grammar School
  • Queen Mary’s High School
  • Rainham Mark Grammar School, Rainham
  • Ribston Hall High School, Gloucester 
  • Rochester Grammar School
  • Sale Grammar School
  • Sir Joseph Williamson’s Mathematical School, Rochester
  • Sir Thomas Rich’s School, Longlevens
  • St Bernard’s Catholic Grammar School
  • Stretford Grammar School
  • Stroud High School, Stroud
  • The Crypt School, Gloucester 
  • Torquay Boys’ Grammar School
  • Torquay Girls’ Grammar School
  • Townley Grammar School
  • Upton Court Grammar School
  • Urmston Grammar School
  • Wolverhampton High School for Girls
  • Woodford County High School

As schools may change their exam boards from year to year you should check with the schools that you are interested in applying to for more details. 


When will my child do the 11+ CEM exam? 📆


It depends on what arrangement your chosen school has made, but typically the CEM 11+ exam happens in Autumn during your child’s last year at Primary School. Contact your intended school or Local Education Authority for more information. 


Can I get 11+ CEM exam practice papers for my child?


The  11 Plus CEM test is designed to test natural intelligence and academic ability and prevent parents and teachers from over-preparing children. So, CEM does not provide practice exams or past papers to the public.

What’s more, because the CEM 11+ exam is not formulaic and the contents and format are constantly changing to suit the needs of different schools and local education authorities, there is no one standard format to prepare kids for. The exam expects pupils to be able to use their knowledge of Key Stage 2 material and their own natural ability to ‘think on their feet’.

Although there are materials published that claim to be able to prepare children for the CEM 11 Plus exam, CEM does not recommend them and warns that these resources may not be similar to the test their child sits. 

However, before the CEM assessments, children who are entered for the CEM 11 Plus exam will be given ‘familiarisation materials’ by the school where they are doing the exam to let them see the format of the test and the type of questions it might include. We’ve found that students can really benefit from predicting their CEM 11+ exam technique before taking the real test.


What is the format of the CEM 11+?


The exams may be given on paper or by computer. Remember that the format and structure of the CEM 11 Plus exam can change from one school to another, so there really are no hard and fast rules about what you can expect, although some schools may give out advice about their exams on their websites so it’s worth checking there for more information.

Typically, the papers are divided into sections, with different time limits and numbers of questions. 

Papers can be very mixed with maths questions followed by word problems which are followed by logic puzzles. The CEM 11+ papers can involve standard or multiple choice questions or a combination of both.

Previous formats have included one paper that tests English and verbal reasoning and another paper that tests maths and non-verbal reasoning. Sometimes schools have tested just one area and others have used four papers covering English, verbal reasoning, non-verbal reasoning and maths separately. 


How long does the CEM 11+ exam last? ⌚


The nature of the CEM 11+ means we cannot say how long your child’s test will last overall. It could be that they sit one or two 45-minute papers with a short break in between but it is not guaranteed.

However, your child should know that they will have to be very aware of their timing as they will only be allowed a certain amount of time to answer each section, usually six to twelve minutes, and will not be able to move on to the next part before they are told they can do so.

Often there are more questions than can be answered by most kids in the given time. Answers should be written in the answer booklet provided. 


What is on the CEM exam?


While local authorities and individual grammar schools can decide what subjects their 11+ CEM tests  will cover, generally, the 11+ CEM test will examine your child’s abilities in English, maths, verbal and non-verbal reasoning. The maths and English content will be related to the KS2 National Curriculum

CEM covers verbal, non-verbal and numerical reasoning. 


What do you need to study for the CEM 11+? 


In English, your child should show strong comprehension (saying why characters act or say certain things in a text for example), vocabulary, and spelling skills. They will also be tested on recognising and decoding words. 

In maths, they will have to demonstrate knowledge and skills in general mathematics, mental arithmetic and be able to solve worded questions where maths problems are written out in sentences instead of numbers. 

Non-verbal reasoning sections could include things like 3D shape tests where kids have to say which shape fits in a space or has been rotated or show the mirror image of another shape. 


How to prepare my child for the CEM 11+? 


It might seem like a tough call to prepare your kid for a test that is specifically designed to prevent people from preparing for it. But it's actually a good thing and preparing for the 11+ CEM test is something your kid has already been doing. 

Other 11+ style exams that follow a predictable formula end up distracting parents, kids and teachers from what they should actually be concentrating on, which is making sure children are widely read, multi-skilled and numerate. 

It’s true that if your kid has been working hard at KS2 maths, actively reading lots of different kinds of fiction and non-fiction books and thinking about what they are reading, doing their homework and solving puzzles they’re already well on the way to getting ready for the CEM 11+. But if you think that your child could benefit from a boost to their preparation for the CEM test then our tutors have the knowledge to bring out the best in your child so that they can brush up on their 11 plus exam technique and really excel on the day.


CEM exam tips 👍


Other things you can do to help your child prepare for the CEM 11+:

  • Get your child used to looking up new words in a dictionary and recording them in a notebook. Test them by asking them to explain the meanings of these words and use them in a sentence.
  • Test them on synonyms and opposites. 
  • Do word games and puzzles together.
  • Let them practise doing mock tests (11+ style or KS2 themed tests) under timed conditions so they get used to managing their timing. 
  • Advise them that good exam technique is to quickly do the easiest questions first so they have more time and energy to spend on the trickier questions that carry more marks. 
  • Check out our links throughout this article which have lots of tips to help with 11+ style exams.

Our expert GoStudent tutors know the KS2 national curriculum backwards and forwards. So, if you want your child to be thoroughly up to speed on anything and everything that could come up in the CEM 11+. Try out a free trial class today!