Who Invented the 11 Plus Exam?

For many years, the 11 Plus exam has been an important part of children’s secondary schooling. As part of an academic selection, it decides where students go next in their education and creates a big impact on their future.

But, have you ever wondered who came up with the 11 Plus exam? Let’s unravel how this exam came to be and why it’s been such a big deal in the education system of England.

Who Created the 11 Plus Exam?

Sir Cyril Burt Invented the 11 Plus Exam

The idea behind the 11 Plus exam was started by a man named Sir Cyril Burt. He was a psychologist from Britain, born in 1883, and played a big role in shaping how children were tested in schools. Sir Cyril Burt spent a lot of time trying to understand how intelligence runs in families.

Burt believed that how smart you are is something you get from your genetics, and he was determined to find a way to identify this early on. So, Burt made a test for children, kind of like the IQ test we have today. If children didn’t do well on these tests, Burt thought they should be separated from the rest and sent to special institutions. 

As time went on, Burt and his ideas got even more attention. Later in 1933, Burt became a professor at University College London. He also worked with the government on the education system. After he retired, Burt wrote papers on intelligence. He claimed that these papers were based on information from twins who were very alike even if they grew up in different places. 

The big moment came in 1944 when the 11 Plus, based on the ideas of Burt, was used all over the UK. It decided which institution children would go to – either grammar, secondary modern, or technical school – based on how they did on the test. 

But here’s the tricky part – people later found out that Burt wasn’t being honest. He copied and claimed to have invented a statistical technique used in his research. His papers were published in a journal that Burt controlled, and he not only faked the information he used but also lied about the people who helped with the research. 

To put it simply, the numbers he gave about IQs in his twin studies were the same in different papers, even when new information was added. Even though some questions were raised about the work of Sir Cyril Burt after he passed away in 1971, the 11 Plus continued to be used in the UK for a long time.

Where Did the 11+ Exam Come From?

The 11+ exam took ideas from different sources and influences, and the “IQ test” created by Burt is just one piece of the puzzle when looking at the history of academics and psychology during that time.

Eventually, the 11+ exam came into existence in the United Kingdom through the Education Act of 1944, often referred to as the Butler Act. Rab Butler, who was overseeing education at that time, was a significant figure in bringing about this legislation.

The main idea behind the 11+ exam was to help decide which students around the age of 11 would attend grammar schools. These institutions offered a more academically oriented schooling. If a student performed well on the 11+, they had the opportunity to enrol in a grammar school. On the other hand, those who didn’t fare as well attended secondary modern institutions, which followed a different curriculum.

But even before the Butler Act and the research by Burt, exams were already used to assess students. Only, the Butler Act made the 11+ an official part of the education system.

Who Sets the 11+Exam?

The 11+ exam is not set by a single national authority in the United Kingdom. Instead, it is administered by different examining bodies or local authorities, depending on the region.

Two of the most well-known providers of the 11+ are GL (Granada Learning) Assessment and CEM (Centre for Evaluation and Monitoring). These organizations develop and supply 11+ tests to various institutions and local authorities. 

GL Assessment and CEM tests often cover verbal reasoning, non-verbal reasoning, mathematics, and English in their exam papers. However, they have distinct versions of the exam, including specific content, formats, and exam types. 

In certain regions, groups of schools or consortiums come together to create and administer the 11+ exam. These consortiums may be composed of grammar and other selective institutions. They collaborate to design a standardized test that assesses students’ abilities in core subjects.

Some independent schools even have their own entrance exams, which may include components similar to the 11+. These tests are designed by the institutions themselves to assess a student’s academic suitability for admission.

Do note that the structure and content of the 11+ exam can differ widely between regions. Also, not all areas in the UK use the 11+ system, and some have adopted alternative methods for selecting students for grammar or selective education.

How Is the 11+ Exam Viewed Today?

It’s important to know that not everyone agrees on whether the 11 Plus exam is good or not. The 11+ exam has faced criticism for different reasons. Some people argue how it affects social mobility or how people easily move up in society, whilst others worry about its fairness to all children. 

Plus, the exam is quite competitive and so many children undergo extensive preparation. This creates stress for them at such a young age. Because of these worries, some regions have phased out the 11+ exam and adopted alternative education system models. 

Still, the 11+ exam is widely used as an entrance examination in the United Kingdom to assess the academic abilities of children who want to be admitted to selective schools such as grammar and other private schools. 

Parents who support the 11 Plus exam view the system as a way to ensure that their children are challenged academically. They believe that selective schools that admit students based on 11 Plus results provide a more challenging and rigorous academic environment for their children.

But, it’s a good idea to keep up with the latest news and discussions about the 11 Plus to understand and respect different opinions.

Master the 11 Plus

A unique, confidence-boosting way to study for the 11 Plus