Here is a glossary to help you understand the terms surrounding the 11 Plus Exam and application process, allowing you to make informed decisions and better support your child’s learning.

A late transfer test which determines which students are suitable for entry into a grammar school in Year 8 or Year 9. Not all grammar schools have this system, but they can offer late-transfer in three cases.

The first is if the school has a pass mark for the 11 Plus and only admits children who achieve this score, rather than admitting the highest-ranked children until all places are filled. The second is if there were fewer applicants than overall places. Finally, if a number of children have left the school during the academic year, leaving vacancies, a transfer can be made.

The test is intended for children who didn’t gain a school place via the usual process, perhaps because they didn’t reach the required standard, or didn’t take the 11 Plus in the first place.

In Northern Ireland the 11 Plus was replaced by two different transfer tests, the AQE and the GL. Which of these your child sits depends on the school you are applying to. Most schools use one test or the other.


This document details the rules a school uses to decide the order in which children are offered places. This must be published by the Admission Authorities.

Admission Authorities are obligated to admit two categories of children ahead of all others: children in the care of the Local Authority, and children with an Education, Health and Care Plan that specifically names the school. After these children have been allocated places, the remainder of the places are filled in accordance with the Admissions Policy.

This policy may cover:

  • Catchment area: a pre-defined area around the school which is given priority.
  • Distance from home to the main entrance of the school: either ‘the shortest journey’ or ‘as the crow flies’.
  • Sibling priority: priority may be given to children who already have an older brother or sister attending the school.
  • 11 Plus score: highest score downwards, until all places are filled.
  • Tie-breaker: elements of the 11 Plus test may be used to decide between two otherwise-equal applications.
  • Religious commitment (for faith schools).
  • Exceptional medical, educational or social reasons: professional referral or evidence must be supplied to support such applications.
  • Aptitude: places awarded at some schools for children with academic, musical or sporting talent.
  • Random allocation (lottery system): this does not apply to grammar schools, other than as a ‘tie-breaker’ for two children who both equally satisfy the admissions criteria.

Places for most state secondary schools are allocated on the first working day in March. This is known as National Allocations Day.

Parents can appeal to an Independent Appeal Panel to review the Admission Authority’s decision not to offer your child a place at the school you wanted.

The designation given to applications that are received outside the normal Admissions round, usually because a family has moved in from a different area.

An area that is set out around each school. Children regularly living within the Catchment are usually given a higher priority than those regularly living outside of it.

CEM (Centre for Evaluation and Monitoring) is a research group based at the School for Education, University of Durham. They produce 11 Plus entrance tests for schools and local authorities.

You can learn more about how to pass the CEM test here, and compare CEM vs GL here.

If you want to see our CEM past papers then click here.

Every parent must complete this form for the transfer to a state secondary school. The CAF is submitted to your Local Authority (even if you have named schools in another Admission Authority). The Local Authority will advise a neighbouring authority if you have a preference for a school in their area.

Common Entrance is the name for a set of examinations taken for entrance to senior independent schools at 11 Plus or 13 Plus. The syllabuses are devised by the Independent Schools Examinations Board. Heads from the three Associations that represent the leading independent schools in the country – the Headmasters’ and Headmistresses’ Conference, The Girls’ Schools Association and The Independent Association of Prep Schools – compose the test. The papers are set by examiners appointed by the Board, and marked by the senior school for which a candidate is entered.

GL Assessments provide selective entrance exams for grammar schools’, as well as many independent schools’, entrance examinations.

You can compare this GL vs CEM exams here.

National Foundation for Educational Research. The former name for GL Assessment.

A child’s ability to understand and analyse visual information and solve problems using visual reasoning.

Schools that contain both grammar and non-selective streams and are taught separately, called Bilateral Schools; and Partially Selective Schools, that elected to retain some selection by academic ability in a named specialism, after the grammar school system was dismantled.

Parents can express a preference for their child to attend a particular school. This does not guarantee a place at that school, but makes decision makers aware of the preference.

The number of pupils (maximum) that the Admission Authority will admit to each year group.

Priority is sometimes given to children with one or more siblings already attending the grammar school. Siblings can include adopted children who reside at the same address as the older or younger child.

Some schools select a percentage of their applicants based on aptitude in a specialised area (such as arts, language, sports, technology, business and enterprise, maths and computing, science or engineering). Comprehensive Secondary schools can apply for a specialist status.

Standardisation gives equal value to the results of each test taken, regardless of the number of questions and the time allocated to completing them. The number of questions on a test paper and the time allowed to complete it, can differ and so standardisation ensures that equal weighing is given to the results of all tests. It also considers the age of the child at the time they take the 11 Plus. Children born from 1st September to 31st August can vary greatly due to developmental progress over the course of that year, which can make a big difference to the results of the tests. The marks of the tests are therefore adjusted for fairness to all children in the range

Additional information that is not collected online or on the CAF, but is sometimes required by some schools for admissions. Faith schools are a common example.

Understanding and reasoning using concepts framed in words. The exam aims to test the ability to think constructively, rather than just simple fluency or vocabulary recognition.

Mainly religion or faith schools, normally with buildings and land owned by a charitable foundation, often a religious organisation.

Bilateral schools contain both grammar and non-selective streams. The two streams are taught separately.

Partially selective schools elected to retain some selection by excellence in a named specialism, after the national grammar school system was dismantled. 

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