11 Plus English Syllabus: What to Expect in the English Test Papers

11 Plus English Syllabus: What to Expect in the English Test Papers

Among the syllabus tested in the 11 Plus, English is important as it reflects a student’s literacy skills, comprehension abilities, and proficiency in creative writing, which are essential for success in the exam and academic and professional endeavours throughout life. 

Strong performance in the 11 Plus English syllabus can significantly enhance a child’s chances of securing a place in a grammar school or independent school.

This article provides guidance to students and parents on what to expect in the English exam papers for the 11 Plus exam. By understanding the English syllabus and the exam expectations, students can better prepare themselves to excel in this crucial assessment aspect.

What Is the 11 Plus English Tests Specification?

The content and skills assessed in the 11 Plus English papers for a grammar or independent school are aligned with the national curriculum guidelines, ensuring that students are tested on topics covered in their school curriculum.

This alignment allows students to apply their learning effectively and demonstrates their readiness for secondary education.

With that, each component of the English syllabus and tests plays a vital role in evaluating a child’s overall English proficiency, including:

  • Grammar
  • Comprehension Skills
  • Extensive Vocabulary
  • Creative Writing

A good grasp of these English topics is essential for success in English exam papers.

What Is in the 11+ English Paper?

11 Plus English Syllabus: What to Expect in the English Test Papers

Understanding the components of the 11 Plus English exam will help students focus their preparation efforts effectively and increase their chances of success. Good practice with sample papers and regular revision of core skills are essential steps in preparing for the exam.

Let’s explore these various components!

Grammar and Punctuation

The English exam assesses a child’s understanding of English grammar rules, sentence structure, punctuation, and commonly misspelled words. Mastery of grammar, punctuation, and spelling is essential for clear communication and effective writing.

Sentence Structure

In the grammar and punctuation section of the 11 Plus English exam, students can expect questions that assess their understanding of sentence structure. 

This may include identifying and correcting the following:

  • Grammatical errors such as subject-verb agreement
  • Tense consistency
  • Sentence fragments

Parts of Speech

Students will encounter questions testing their knowledge of different parts of speech, including:

  • Nouns
  • Verbs
  • Adjectives
  • Adverbs
  • Pronouns
  • Prepositions
  • Conjunctions

These questions may require students to identify the parts of speech of specific words within sentences or correctly use them in context.

Punctuation Rules

Punctuation plays a crucial role in conveying meaning and clarity in writing. Questions in this category may focus on correct punctuation, including periods, commas, apostrophes, quotation marks, colons, semicolons, and hyphens. 

Students may need to apply punctuation rules to sentences or passages to improve readability.


This section evaluates the child’s ability to understand and interpret passages from various genres, including fiction, non-fiction, and poetry. Comprehension exercises may include questions that test a child’s understanding of the main idea, inference, and vocabulary.

Fictional and Non-fictional Texts

This 11 Plus English exam section presents students with passages from various genres, including fiction and non-fiction. 

Fictional passages may include short stories or excerpts from novels, while non-fictional passages may cover topics such as science, history, or biographies. 

Students are required to read these passages carefully and answer questions broadly based on their understanding of the text.


A strong vocabulary is crucial for expressing ideas accurately and articulately. The 11 Plus English exam may include exercises to test a child’s knowledge of words, compound words, opposites, and new words encountered in texts.

Synonyms and Antonyms

The vocabulary section of the exam assesses students’ ability to understand and use words in context. Questions may require students to: 

  • Identify synonyms (words with similar meanings)
  • Identify antonyms (words with opposite meanings) of given words

A strong grasp of synonyms and antonyms is essential for effective communication.

Word Meanings

Students will encounter questions that test their understanding of word meanings. These questions may involve:

  • Selecting the most appropriate word to complete a sentence
  • Determining the meaning of words based on context clues
  • Defining words using context or dictionary definitions

Creative Writing

The creative writing section of the 11 Plus English exam presents students with various prompts to inspire their writing. Prompts may include story starters, descriptive scenes, opinion pieces, or prompts that require a child to imagine and create narratives or arguments.

In this section of the exams, the child must demonstrate their ability to craft coherent and engaging compositions. They should pay attention to elements such as plot development, characterisation, setting, dialogue, and narrative voice. 

Emphasis is also placed on organisation, clarity, and creativity in writing. Additionally, the child must adhere to standard writing conventions, including spelling and punctuation.

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How Can I Prepare for Grammar School or Independent School 11 Plus English?

Understand the Exam Format

Typically, the exam comprises multiple-choice format questions and may include sections on verbal reasoning, comprehension, and literary devices analysis. Most children require preparation for multiple-choice exams.

Some schools prefer to prepare their own 11 Plus papers and different exam boards like GL assessment might have slight variations depending on format, so it’s essential to know which exam body your grammar school or independent school prefers.

Practise with Sample Papers

Practise tests and sample papers are invaluable resources. They give you an idea of the types of questions you’ll encounter in English tests and help you become comfortable with the exam’s timing and structure.

Look for practise papers specific to the 11 Plus English exam from reputable sources, such as typical exam board papers and websites or educational publishers like GL Assessment.

Read Curriculum Texts

Encourage your child to read widely from the curriculum texts their school recommends. This helps familiarise them with different topics and writing styles, which can benefit the child’s comprehension and literary analysis.

Identify Weak Areas

Assess your child’s current level by reviewing your child’s coursework and performance in English classwork. Pay particular attention to any weak areas they may have, such as spelling or understanding of literary devices. Targeted practice in these areas can help improve overall performance.

Work on Improving Core Skills

The 11 Plus English exams require reading, comprehension, grammar, and vocabulary core skills. Ensure your child has a good grounding in these areas by practising regularly and revisiting topics they may find challenging.

Set aside time for your child to complete a test paper under exam conditions. This helps them become familiar with the format, builds their confidence, and improves time management skills.

Seek More Support if Needed

If your child requires more support, consider additional resources such as tutoring or online courses specifically tailored to 11 Plus English preparation. Some children may benefit from extra guidance in specific areas, and these resources can provide targeted help.