The format of the 11+ English paper varies considerably around the country. In some cases the school simply sets its own paper and changes the style of the paper from year to year in order to keep the material fresh and to prevent parents passing on “inside information” about the test. Other schools use a pre-set paper written by a publisher such as GL Assessment (formerly NFER) and this will usually be in a multiple choice format.

Girl pointing up with both hands and bag on her back

A typical GL Assessment paper (NFER), with a time limit of 50 minutes, features:

  • A comprehension exercise consisting of a two page piece of prose followed by 18 questions about the content
  • 4 further questions about the meaning of words used in the test
  • 3 questions asking pupils to identify the grammatical type of words used – nouns, verbs, prepositions etc
  • 8 questions requiring the child to identify spelling errors in sentences
  • 8 questions requiring the child to identify errors in the use of capital letters and punctuation
  • 8 questions where the child needs to choose the best word from a list that will complete the sentence

Other types of paper usually feature some (or all) of the following tasks:

  • Ordering words to make a sentence
  • Punctuating sentences with capital letters, full stops and question marks
  • Placing words in alphabetical order
  • Finding the odd words out (Similar questions appear on many Verbal Reasoning papers)
  • Opposites (Again, these feature on Verbal Reasoning papers)
  • Rhyming words
  • Ordering sentences to make a story
  • Use of capital letters, full stops & question marks
  • Simple compound words (Also found on Verbal Reasoning papers)
  • A ‘Cloze’ exercise, requiring the child to fill the gaps in a sentence (usually from a bank of words provided) to make it read correctly
  • Comprehensions: Read a passage and answer questions of fact, simple inferences, sometimes in sentences (“standard format”), but more typically in multiple choice format
  • Write an essay/short story within a limited time frame – often 20 or 30 minutes, sometimes 50 minutes

If a child has a good basic education in English and possesses an age-appropriate vocabulary, the main challenges in 11+ English are the comprehension exercise and the essay.

In this section you will find advice on Vocabulary, Comprehension and Essay writing, together with some useful links for helping your child prepare for an 11+ English test.

zoomed in comprehension dictionary entry


An 11 plus English comprehension exercise requires students to read a passage and answer questions that demonstrate their understanding of it.

girl writing on note pad

Essay Writing

Some 11 plus English exams require students to write an essay or short story within a limited time frame – often between 20 and 30 minutes. 

kids reading

Importance of Reading

Reading can have a huge impact on a student’s 11 plus success as it can help improve vocabulary, spelling and comprehension skills.

wooden blocks spelling out the word vocabulary

11 Plus Vocabulary

Developing a wide vocabulary is an essential part of the 11 plus preparation process.

girl sitting on books

11 Plus Reading List

Our list of 11 plus book recommendations is here to inspire your child’s reading.

mum and kid doing work

Useful Resources for English

Our curated list of external resources is here to provide even more helpful 11 plus English practice material.

Multiple Choice answer sheet

Free 11 Plus Papers

Looking to boost your child’s English skills in preparation for the 11 plus exam? Our collection of free 11 plus English practice papers is here to help!