What Is Happening with 11 Plus Exams in 2021?

January 15, 2021 by Minerva Tutors,
11 plus exams 2021

For parents of school-age kids, this third lockdown is far from easy. Just because we’ve been here before, doesn’t mean we’re always ready to face the challenges of a new school term. Each lockdown brings a new set of issues, and this time round the 11 Plus exams for 2021 have fallen prey to the lockdown restrictions, meaning secondary schools have had to change the way in which these admissions tests are carried out. 

11+ exams can be stressful enough for your child at the best of times, so it’s important for parents of children taking the 11+ in 2021 to know what methods schools are using to continue to carry out these exams remotely, and how the exams themselves will have been changed and adapted. In this post, we’ll take you through 2021’s 11+ exams and help you out with all you need to know about their various new potential formats. 

What are 11 Plus exams and when do they happen?

An 11 Plus exam is an admissions test carried out by private or grammar secondary schools for pupils at the end of their primary education. They’re called ‘’11+” because children are usually aged between 11 and 12 when they sit the exam. Because these schools are private, they generally tend to have different, individual exams, tailored to highlight the qualities they’re seeking in potential pupils. The 11+ exams take place throughout the academic year for Year 6 pupils, with many occurring in the Spring Term between January – February.

The 11+ exams for 2021 will be mostly formed of two parts: an interview and an exam, so it’s not too late to fit in some preparation, whether that’s interview technique help or some booster tuition sessions. 

Why is the 11 Plus Important?

Secondary school is one of the most formative times in a child’s development, and helping your kid get into the right one for them will prove invaluable in their academic and general development. 

Though these 11+ exams risk being stressful for pupils so young, it’s perfectly possible, with the right know-how and preparation, to help your child through these important exams in a relaxed and enjoyable way. After all, the more they’re enjoying it, the more likely they are to be themselves, and this is ultimately what a school wants to see. 

Susie West, an 11+ entrance exam specialist, says schools tend to look for ‘self-knowledge, self-awareness, confidence and the ability to think on one’s feet’. These qualities will be particularly valuable in 2021’s 11+ exams due to the shake-up that lockdown has given their format. It’s these kinds of qualities that best shine through when a child is well-prepared and relaxed, so it’s worth the parents being prepped in an exam’s format, to help put any fears about what’s coming to rest in advance. You can read more about Susie’s advice here.

How have the 11 Plus exams changed during lockdown?

For 2021, the 11+ exams have moved online, and will take place using portals like Zoom. The principle difference is that schools have moved the focus of the exam onto the interview, within which the main form of assessment for this years’ 11+ will be carried out.

For schools that are still asking pupils to sit a written exam, that paper will now be completed online. In order to prevent cheating, most schools are opting for the requirement that Zoom be open and that the child completes the exam ‘over Zoom’, within the given time period.

The interview section of the 11+ exam will also take place over a portal like Zoom (or similar). Many schools have taken the change in form for 2021’s 11+ exams as an opportunity to adapt the interview format, meaning that they might be longer and more academically challenging, as opposed to being reserved principally for getting a sense of character.

These changes mean it’s wise to make sure your child is happy working on a computer, feels comfortable with typing for any longer written answers, and is ready to tackle the challenge of putting themselves across via Zoom (a difficulty for everyone, young or old!)

What your 11 Plus exam might look like in 2021

We’ve used our research and expertise in the field to break down 2021’s 11+ exams into the three main potential formats that your child might encounter. 

Each school is different and there are still, of course, lots of different strategies being employed, but our list below outlines the most common.

  1. The 11+ test will take the form entirely of an interview, which will include an extended portion featuring oral tests on English and Maths. In this section, students will be allowed a pencil and paper to aid with figuring out answers. The idea behind this more ‘holistic’ interview technique is that examiners can get a feel not just for a student’s ability, but how they go about answering a question, too. 
  1. As above, the exam will all take place within the space of the interview, but will feature a 15-minute English section and a 15-minute Maths section, overseen by subject-specific teachers. Again, questions will be asked orally, although students will be able to write things down to help them answer.
  1. The exam will take the form of an adapted test – similar to the school’s normal paper – that can be completed online. Tactics to prevent cheating generally involve a portal like Zoom being open at the same time as the child completes the test, as well as screen-sharing and microphones being kept on to prevent any oral help. Generally speaking, schools will then also carry out interviews, but these will be free from any specific academic tasks.

In all, 2021’s 11 Plus exams have been pretty well-adapted considering the current lockdown restrictions, and there are certainly aspects of it that a child might find more relaxing – being able to sit the test from their own living room, for example. The main thing to be aware of and prepare for is the change in interview format: getting in some practice on answering questions orally – and helping your child to feel calm and confident enough to take the time they need to figure out the answer without rushing or feeling flustered – will be very valuable for this year’s exams. 

If you need help regarding the 11+ exams on any front, whether it’s help with interview preparation and technique, tuition on figuring out and presenting your answers orally, or any further information on exactly what type of 11+ exam format a specific school might be using, please don’t hesitate to get in touch. 

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