11 Plus English Syllabus: A Detailed Breakdown

Both grammar and independent schools use English as a main component of their 11 Plus exam.

This comprehensive guide breaks down the 11 Plus English syllabus into manageable sections, making it easier for students and parents to understand what is expected. 

Let’s dive into the specifics of the 11+ English and explore each component in detail.

What Is the 11+ English Syllabus?

11 Plus English Syllabus: A Detailed Breakdown

The 11+ English syllabus is a main component of grammar school exams and is designed to assess a child’s knowledge and proficiency in key areas of English as taught in school.

Each of these areas is crucial for developing a well-rounded understanding of English topics and literacy skills and for performing well in the exam. 

The main components of the English syllabus include:

  • Reading Comprehension
  • Writing
  • Grammar and Punctuation
  • Spelling and Vocabulary
  • Creative Writing

It’s important to note that the 11 Plus English exam comes in various formats depending on the testing body or the school administering the test. Understanding the specific type of exam your child will take is crucial for targeted preparation.

GL Assessment 11 Plus English papers typically include a reading comprehension exercise followed by all other question types. These exams are mostly in a multiple-choice format.

CEM exams are designed to assess verbal reasoning, which is essentially English under a different name. The CEM reasoning test papers include standard comprehension exercises, CLOZE tests, jumbled sentence exercises, and sections on synonyms and antonyms in multiple-choice questions.

Some grammar schools and many independent schools write their own 11 Plus English exams. Unlike other exams, which use a multiple-choice format, school-written tests often require written responses. Independent schools, in particular, may include a creative writing component.

What Are the Specific Topics for 11 Plus English?

11 Plus English Syllabus: A Detailed Breakdown

Let’s have a detailed breakdown of the 11 Plus English exam’s different topics, which are designed to test a child’s comprehensive language proficiency.

Reading Comprehension

Understanding the Text

Reading comprehension question types test students’ ability to read and understand passages of text. These passages can be from a variety of genres, including fiction, non-fiction, poetry, and informational texts.

Children must demonstrate their understanding by answering multiple-choice questions based on the text. This includes:

  • Main Idea
  • Supporting Details
  • Inference
  • Author’s Purpose
  • Tone and Mood

Analysing Literary Devices

Children must also identify and analyse figures of speech and literary devices used in the text, for example:

  • Similes and Metaphors
  • Personification
  • Alliteration and Onomatopoeia

Creative Writing Section

The creative writing component of the 11 Plus English exam evaluates the child’s ability to express ideas clearly and coherently in written form. This can be in the form of:

  • Narrative Writing: Crafting stories with a clear beginning, middle, and end.
  • Descriptive Writing: Using vivid details to describe scenes, characters, and events.
  • Expository Writing: Explaining or informing about a particular topic logically and systematically.
  • Persuasive Writing: Convincing the reader of a particular viewpoint using arguments and evidence.

Grammar and Punctuation


This is the backbone of the English language. Children must demonstrate a solid understanding of various grammatical concepts, including:

  • Parts of Speech: Nouns, verbs, adjectives, adverbs, pronouns, prepositions, conjunctions, and interjections.
  • Sentence Structure: Understanding simple, compound, and complex sentences.
  • Tenses: Correct usage of past, present, and future tenses. 


Punctuation marks are essential for clarifying meaning and structuring sentences. Example key areas:

  • Full Stops, Commas, and Semicolons: Correct use in sentence construction.
  • Quotation Marks: Proper use of direct speech and titles. 
  • Apostrophes: For possession and contractions.

Spelling and Vocabulary


Accurate spelling is crucial for effective communication. Commonly misspelt words, words with silent letters, and tricky rules are often tested. 


A rich vocabulary enables children to express themselves more clearly and creatively. This includes:

  • Synonyms and Antonyms
  • Homophones
  • Word Roots and Prefixes/Suffixes 
  • Compound Words

How to Pass 11+ English Tests?

11 Plus English

Passing the 11 Plus exam requires a strong foundation in English. Master its core skills and techniques to succeed in grammar school exams.  

Reading Comprehension Strategies for Success

  • Skimming and Scanning: Quickly identify main ideas and specific information.
  • Annotating: Marking key points and notes in the margins.
  • Summarising: Briefly restate the main points of the text in your own words.

Writing Key Competency

  • Planning: Organising ideas before writing.
  • Coherence and Cohesion: Ensuring the writing flows logically from one point to the next.
  • Language and Style: Using varied sentence structures, vocabulary, and rhetorical devices.

Grammar and Punctuation Practice Tips

  • Exercises: Regular practice tests of grammar exercises.
  • Punctuation Drills: Practicing the correct use of punctuation in different contexts.
  • Reading Aloud: Helps in understanding the natural pauses and flow of the language.

Spelling and Vocabulary Enrichment Activities

  • Reading Widely: Exposure to a variety of texts to naturally enhance vocabulary.
  • Spelling Bees and Word Games: Fun and engaging ways to improve vocabulary. 
  • Using a Thesaurus: Encourages the use of varied and precise words in writing.

How to Prepare Effectively for the 11 Plus English Exam?

Effective preparation for the 11 Plus English exam papers goes beyond rote learning for a child. It involves strategic planning and leveraging diverse resources. 

Practice Regularly

Consistent practice is key to mastering the 11+ English syllabus. A child should:

  • Read Widely: Engage with a variety of texts, including fiction and non-fiction.
  • Write Frequently: Practice different types of writing to improve composition.
  • Expand Vocabulary: Learn new words daily and use them in context.

Use Study Guides and Practice Papers

There are numerous study guides and practice papers available that are specifically designed to prepare a child for the 11 Plus exams. These resources provide:

  • Sample Questions: Mimics the format and difficulty of the actual exam to identify strong and weak areas.
  • Answer Explanations: Help a child understand mistakes and learn from them.

Seek Professional Help

Tutors and teachers with experience in 11 Plus preparation can provide personalised guidance and strategies to help students succeed.

Master the 11 Plus

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Frequently Asked Questions

The syllabus for the 11 Plus can vary slightly depending on the specific requirements of the schools or local education authorities. However, the exam generally covers four key areas: 


  • Reading Comprehension
  • Punctuation
  • Spelling
  • Writing


  • Arithmetic
  • Problem-Solving
  • Geometry
  • Algebra

Verbal Reasoning

  • Synonym and antonym questions
  • Word analogies
  • Other language-based puzzles

Non-Verbal Reasoning

  • Pattern recognition
  • Sequences
  • Spatial awareness

Each subject on the 11 Plus exam plays a crucial role in evaluating students’ academic abilities and readiness for secondary school education. The 11+ exam typically comprises four main subjects: 

  • English: A child may be asked to read passages and answer multiple-choice questions, complete sentences with appropriate words, correct grammatical errors, and write essays or stories.
  • Mathematics: The focus is on both computation and progress in applying mathematical reasoning to solve problems.
  • Verbal and Non-Verbal Reasoning: These tests evaluate students’ ability to understand and reason using concepts framed in words or solving problems using visual information.


Preparing for the 11 Plus English exam requires a thorough understanding of the syllabus basics and consistent practice across all components: reading comprehension, writing, grammar, punctuation, and vocabulary.

By breaking down each area and focusing on specific skills, a child can build a solid foundation and approach the exam with confidence.