UK's Pioneer in 11+ Preparation CEM and GL Specialists
UK's Pioneer in 11+ PreparationCEM and GL Specialists 

An overview for parents

The Buckinghamshire Grammar Schools (TBGS) has announced on 28 March 2017 a five-year contract agreement with GL Assessment for the provision of grammar school tests. GL Assessment will be replacing the current provider, the Centre for Evaluation and Monitoring® from The University of Durham®, known simply as CEM. Buckinghamshire County Council (BCC) will continue to administer the tests and it will formally announce the changes and details of the new arrangements in November 2017.


The (LAST) BCC 11+ Tests based on CEM have officially been set for 12 September 2017 (Preparation Test) and 4 September 2017 (Transfer Test).


A Decade of Changes in Buckinghamshire

Bucks 11+ examinations were well-known to be easy to learn and coach to a point where pupils were almost guaranteed to pass the transfer test. However, TBGS needed a test that would challenge the pupils in areas beyond the well-known 21-Types framework (mostly based on verbal reasoning). In 2012, BCC made the decision to radically change 11+ entrance exams for secondary school admission. CEM won the bid for designing a new type of 11+ exam for TBGS replacing NFER (and administered by GL). CEM exams focused on various areas of reasoning including short and long maths as well as spatial awareness exercises. While the CEM-style exam worked very well in discovering well-rounded pupils, TBGS’ contract with CEM was coming to an end and a new bid was put out seeking the next provider. On 28 March 2017, TBGS announced that a 5-year contract was awarded (back) to GL Assessment to provide the next set of 11+ entry tests. GL Assessment tests will start from September 2018 (pupils entering secondary schools in 2019).


GL Assessment vs CEM Overview

Having researched various examination board frameworks, GL and CEM are the most commonly-used providers in the UK. Here are some of the key differences between them.


GL Assessmentpreviously known as NFER, has designed and administered 11+ entry tests in most grammar schools currently serving Kent, Lincolnshire, Medway and Wiltshire to name but a few.

During the time it was providing the 11+ tests for BCC, NFER tests were based on a framework made up of 21-Types. These types are mainly based on verbal reasoning where pupils are tasked on encoding/decoding codes, Type 9 ‘Letter Series’; working with letters and words, e.g. Type 5 ‘Hidden Word’; and basic maths operations involving sums, e.g. Type 7 ‘Letters for Numbers’.

NFER exams were too easy to learn and pupils were literally memorizing the types. In addition, the papers were ‘structurally’ the same every year: 2 papers of 80 questions each. The paper with the highest score was used and the other discarded. If a pupil was to score around 72-73 correct questions out of 80, then most likely he/she would score at least 121 (the required score for passing the transfer test).

TodayGL Assessment offers papers based on four areas of reasoning: English, Maths, Verbal and Non-Verbal Reasoning. Schools can pick and choose any combinations to suit their selection process. Therefore the tests will vary depending on the county which uses GL Assessment tests. GL Assessment uses a database of questions covering the four areas of reasoning which will form part of two types of papers: Standard or Multiple Choice. The multiple choice paper is most commonly used and it typically takes 45 minutes to complete.

When the NFER exams had become too predictable and transparent, TBGS decided to start looking for a new examination board.

Based on our research and collaborating with various partners in the UK, through practice and preparation, tutors and coaches can easily learn and teach their pupils the particular types of questions used in the GL Assessment papers with great success.


CEM, a dedicated team within The University of Durham, was founded to create new and innovative 11+ testing papers. The main purpose of the CEM papers was to be ‘tutor-proof’. The new style made a huge impact and was adopted by counties such as Berkshire, Bexley, Birmingham, Buckinghamshire and Wolverhampton. The key strengths of CEM exams were the facts that there were NO past papers that pupils could practice with, the test would continually change in content and structure, and the impression of being increasingly difficult to cope with. The CEM approach to designing their exams was to make sure that NO tutor/coach could support pupils sitting the 11+ transfer tests by ‘privatising’ (hiding) any intelligence about the exam content and structure. CEM papers are based on the following:

  • Verbal Reasoning (VR): Literacy, Reading & Comprehension, and Cloze Test;
  • Numerical Reasoning (NR): Maths, Data-Processing, Mental Arithmetic and Patterns;
  • Non-Verbal Reasoning (NVR): It uses abstract figures that require the child to work out, for example, similarities in sequences of shapes or codes.

CEM English and the core maths sections are like the GL ones. However, the verbal and numerical reasoning sections are more aligned to the content of the KS2 National Curriculum than GL Assessment ones. Likewise, individual regions and grammar schools can choose what subjects to test as part of their 11+ transfer test.

What makes a CEM paper challenging is based on three facts:

  • Its structure is ‘unpredictable’. There are two papers to complete, each taking about 45-50 minutes. A paper is divided into sections that are individually timed, making the paper look like a batch of mini-tests. Sections can be of mixed types, e.g. Section 1, comprehension section; Section 2, short maths; and Section 3, synonyms. The pupils will need to be extremely focused and listen to instructions carefully.
  • The number of questions making up a paper varies each year and NO ONE can predict what number of questions needs to be correctly answered in order to attain the 121 pass score.
  • The marking process will be ‘computer marked’ (scanned) with one point given for each correct answer. The three areas of reasoning will be individually raw scored. The three raw scores will each be age-standardized, weighted and combined to produce an overall score (STTD) that will be provided to the school/county admissions. The school/county will decide where the 121 pass score cut-off point will be in the cohort of scores. In Bucks, 25-30 per cent of the pupils sitting the transfer test will attain the required 121 score. This type of scoring system makes it extremely difficult to predict what score the pupil needs to pass the test.

These exams have been kept private and tutor-proof over the years. The CEM team has accomplished this by redesigning the content, breakdown sections and timings as well as the overall grading weight associated to each paper, i.e. 50 per cent VR/30 per cent NR/20 per cent NVR. However, the areas of knowledge haven’t changed and through analysis and research, we have gained a strong understanding of how these tests are being created.


What impact do these changes have on your child?

For pupils currently preparing to sit the Bucks transfer test, they will not be affected by the TBGS-GL agreement. CEM will provide the test papers for September 2017, as it has done since 2013, and then the transition will take place to GL Assessment. More information will be known after November 2017 when BCC will formally announce the new 11+ format.

For pupils starting Year 3, 4 and 5 this September, the team is providing tailored courses to suit each group preparing them within the time period available to build their core knowledge skillset for the 11+. Our programmes have been specifically designed keeping in mind each group’s requirement, pace and learning ability. The courses provided for the 11+ preparation will suit any of the common 11+ examination boards, GL and CEM, including preparation for independent school entry tests and the super-selective grammar schools such as QE Boys and Henrietta Barnett.


For more detailed information, please visit the Courses page


We are here to help you!

Your child will be supported by experienced 11+ teachers, targeted 11+ based material, and most importantly with tailored 11+ mock papers. We have supported numerous students over the years who have surpassed their own expectations and have gone on to improve their school performance in English and Maths, and laid the foundations before they embark on their journey to grammar schools.

Our teachers will aim to build confidence, belief and trust in your child’s ability to acquire the following:

  1. A strong vocabulary foundation, leveraging the use of the Elevenology Word Dictionary, which will help them overcome any of the verbal reasoning challenges, i.e. ‘Cloze’ tests.
  2. A strong mathematical and logical core ability that will support them in any simple to complex problem-solving.
  3. The ability to read, analyse and process selected fictional/non-fictional stories to enable their comprehension skills to be effective and speedy during exam time.

We have been working in conjunction and within a network of experts (some of whom have had direct GL and CEM exposure) in helping us design our unique methodology and set of teaching techniques.


Elevenology understands that you as parents have many available choices to support your child through their 11+ experience from the internet, local tutors or your own personal support. Over the years, by helping our own children pass the 11+ test, we know the challenges faced by both students and parents. Therefore we have developed a set of resources that prepare, motivate and stimulate pupils to efficiently and effectively tackle the various styles of 11+ examinations.

Join us at one of the available Open Days to meet the teachers, learn about our programmes and how we can help your child pass the various 11+ tests.

2019-20 Official     11+ Bucks Dates

Children born between

1 September 2008 and 31 August 2009 will be moving up to secondary school in September 2020. The remaining dates in relation to the Buckinghamshire Transfer Test are:

27 June 2019, 3pm

DEADLINE Secondary Transfer Test registration closes. 

10 September 2019

Practise Test

12 September 2019

Secondary Transfer Test

18 October 2019

Secondary Transfer Test RESULTS.

31 October 2019, 3pm

DEADLINE Secondary School Applications close. 

1 March 2020

Secondary school places are offered.


For more information regarding appeal processes, please click: 

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