July 11, 2021

11 Plus CEM Syllabus Explained

This article serves as an in-depth look into the 11 Plus CEM subjects and what they entail, and what can be expected from them. First, the phrase “11 Plus” comes from the fact that 11-year-old children typically take these exams in their sixth year of school who would like to be admitted into a grammar school. The CEM syllabus is made up of 3 subjects, namely: Numerical Reasoning (Maths), English (Verbal Reasoning), and Nonverbal Reasoning. These are also the subjects that will be covered by the 11 Plus exam, which can sometimes be a tricky test to get the hang of. But, with the correct guidance and tutoring, and in-depth knowledge of the syllabus and its subjects, the exam will be a breeze to get through. That said, down below, you’ll find everything you need to know about the 11 Plus CEM syllabus and what areas it covers.

Numerical Reasoning (Maths)

According to the CEM testing board, numerical reasoning is very similar to maths in many ways. In the exam, questions can range from straight mathematical equations that don’t require any justification or reason compared to the usual problem statement that requires a solution to be provided. Some exam questions may also include questions requiring the student to work out a missing piece of information to complete the given calculation, which is usually called a two-step problem. But rest assured that if the syllabus has been covered and there is a good understanding of the content, your child will have above average calculation skills and can use the timetables, therefore not having too many problems with the exam itself. A great idea always is to make sure your child does past papers from previous exams in order to get a good feel for the questions and how they are set out, seeing as you never know what will actually come up in their exam.  

English (Verbal Reasoning)

Children who have covered the English syllabus can read much more fluently and with greater speed, which also has a ripple effect that will allow them to work much faster in their exams and manage different tasks. Children who do well with the English syllabus will also have better technical abilities, which are very important for some exam areas. Down below, you’ll find a list of some of the topics covered in the 11 Plus CEM English syllabus:

  • Proper nouns
  • Prepositions
  • Determiners
  • Suffixes
  • Prefixes
  • Subordinate Clauses
  • Similes
  • Fronted adverbials
  • Time Connectives
  • Metaphors
  • Clauses
  • Powerful Verbs


CEM English Tests are called Verbal Reasoning tests by the CEM Board, but in reality, it’s a solid English exam. These exams can cover a variety of sections. They may include a vocabulary test, a comprehension test, an exercise requiring you to put the words in the correct order, a synonym and opposites section, and a comprehension test that will require you to fill in the missing words. It has been reported that most mistakes children make in this exam are due to simply not having a vast enough vocabulary.

Non-verbal Reasoning

Non-verbal reasoning tests are part of the exams where CEM lays out the tests. Regular CEM exams are usually two forty-five-minute tests; non-verbal reasoning should be in one but not both tests. CEM Non-Verbal Reasoning 11 Plus tests are included in most areas where CEM sets the exam. Non-verbal reasoning also accounts for the least marks out of all the tests, so it wouldn’t be recommendable to spend too much time on this subject. Concepts included in non-verbal reasoning range from symmetry to spotting differences and mirror lines - the essence of this exam is to test a child’s logic as well as their skills in observation by giving them different shapes and patterns and having them distinguish the odd one out. Therefore, the purpose of the test is to distinguish each child’s level of education received and where they fall on the spectrum.


When it comes to spelling, there are more than a few words that are considered as “must-know” by examiners, and these words are called statutory spelling words. Examiners may set the exam to identify learners who have done well in their stage and test their spelling by using material from the syllabus. Statutory spelling lists are considered a requirement for parents to teach their children - these words have all been taught (or should have been taught) to students in Primary school. Statutory words include the following:

  • Harass
  • Stomach
  • Interfere
  • Accompany
  • Disastrous
  • Criticise
  • Exaggerate
  • Sufficient
  • Conscious
  • Committee
  • Mischievous
  • Nuisance
  • Awkward
  • Definite
  • Amateur

Homophones also make up an essential part of the 11 Plus CEM syllabus and are commonly used in verbal reasoning tests. Homophones are words that sound the same but are spelt differently, and while children may practice these words, they can sometimes make mistakes due to the stress and pressure they are under while taking the exams. An excellent way for learners to be able to distinguish between the words is by understanding what each word means - after this happens, they tend to improve drastically. Homophones that have come up in many past exams and would be a good idea to have your child exercise include the following:

  • Prise - Prize
  • Hangar - Hanger
  • Sheer - Shear
  • Bridal - Bridle
  • Flair - Flare

Creative Writing

Creative writing tests comprise totally different topics each time. But, by having a clear understanding of words, emotions, and verbs and describing things very clearly, your child would be able to do well in these tests. A solid and broad vocabulary is also a must, and your child can exercise their skills by writing from sample topics in order to improve and strengthen their creative writing. Central themes that can be used in tasks include animals, nature, emotions, and activities. Be sure to have your child re-visit their practice tasks after a few days - by rewriting their exercises, students have been found to improve tremendously.

The above information may be helpful in acquainting yourself with the 11 Plus CEM syllabus as well as the exams. By taking the necessary precautions and preparations, your child will thrive and excel in their work as well as their exams.




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