What Are the Differences Between the CEM and GL Assessment 11 Plus Exam?

If you have just started researching the 11 plus exam, you may have come across two confusing terms. These terms are CEM and GL Assessment. They can be a head-scratcher, but don’t worry – we will clear them up and bust the myths on them right now.

What Is CEM and GL Assessment?

CEM and GL Assessment refer to different exam boards. These are the bodies who act as examiners for 11 plus exams in the majority of circumstances.

The comforting news is that these two exam boards use an almost identical format for their exams and cover almost the same things. Despite their similarities, some differences do exist and will influence how your child should be preparing for the exam.

If you recently signed up to our online 11 plus course, then do not worry as our course has been designed to cater to both types of 11 plus exams. Nevertheless, parents should still be aware of the differences and what they could mean for their children come the exam.

Read on to learn more about the CEM and GL 11 plus assessments.

More on the GL Exam

GL stands for Granada Learning and is the most used body by grammar schools. You may have heard of them by a different name. Before 2007, when Granada Learning took over, the body was called the National Education Foundation for Education Research, or NEFR for short.

They currently provide exams on English, maths, verbal reasoning and non-verbal reasoning.

More on the CEM Exam

The CEM 11 plus exam has been devised by a whole other group. It is made by a department within the University of Durham. Their tests are used at selective schools as well as independent schools. They state that their exam prevents students from having advantages over each other They also make a bold claim that acing their test cannot be taught by a teacher. To some degree they are correct, which is what makes preparing for their 11 plus exam so difficult, however, there are ways of enhancing pupils’ skills and understanding of CEM 11 plus questions.

The CEM exam was made because some people criticised the GL exam for being overly predictive and it was too easy to prepare for their exam.

What Subjects Do Both Exams Cover?

The subjects covered are almost the same. The GL variation will cover four main topics, namely:

  • English
  • Non-verbal reasoning (spatial reasoning)
  • Maths
  • Verbal reasoning

Whereas the CEM test is made up of:

  • Numerical reasoning
  • Non-verbal reasoning
  • Verbal reasoning

The verbal reasoning aspect of the exam is somewhat similar to the English demands of the GL variation. Moreover, the numerical reasoning part of the exam is similar to the Maths component in GL’s test.

For the most part, CEM follows many concepts in the KS2 Curriculum. However, some schools may deviate and decide on other subjects to test 11 plus students on.

How Is the GL Test Formatted?

The exams from GL Assessment often take just under one hour to finish but the exact length of time given changes regularly. These exams will cover specific parts of subjects and may also target individual subjects rather than cover a wide range of topics.

Their questions come in one of two formats:

  1. Multiple-choice questions
  2. Open-ended questions

Their questions usually take the form of multiple choice. However, written answers are often used for math and verbal tests. The questions used come from a colossal bank of questions, rumoured to contain over 18,000 questions. These questions are frequently updated too!

But don’t worry. Your child won’t need to answer anything like this number of questions. A typical paper will consist of 40 questions.

The types of questions used are changed regularly so they can try to even the playing field for students trying to get a grammar school place from a disadvantaged background.

The Format of the CEM Exam

The format of the CEM exam is unknown and will change every year. Some schools get an update on this year’s format, so it is worth calling your headteacher and asking if you have not already been told about the exam’s format.

The biggest change between this exam and GL Assessment’s is that this one combines exams into:

  1. Non-verbal reasoning and maths
  2. Verbal reasoning and English

The exam may take a multiple-choice approach or a standard open-answer format. Sometimes the two formats are combined.

The exam is likely to be divided into sections, such as including one maths section involving puzzles and problem-solving questions. Each section will come with its own allocated time, so you may need to help your child read faster!

One other difference between the practicalities of these exams is that the CEM variation is likely to be longer. In fact, your child may not finish this exam, whereas they would be expected to complete the GL Assessment exam.

Which 11 Plus Test Will My Child Take?

The #1 way to answer this question is always to speak with your child’s school. They should be able to give a definitive answer instantly. However, although the following is not definitive and subject to change, some schools and areas are known for using a specific exam board:

Areas that tend to use both:

  • Yorkshire
  • Hertfordshire 
  • Trafford
  • Essex 
  • Devon  

Areas that tend to use the GL Assessment exams:

  • Dorset
  • Lincolnshire
  • Medway
  • Kent
  • Lancashire & Cumbria
  • Northern Ireland
  • Wiltshire

Areas that tend to use CEM: 

  • Berkshire 
  • Buckinghamshire
  • Bexley 
  • Birmingham
  • Devon
  • Gloucestershire 
  • Warwickshire
  • Shropshire 
  • Walsall
  • Wolverhampton
  • The Wirral

Preparing for the 11 Plus Exam

Whether your child manages to get a place at a grammar school or not, preparing for the exam is good practice anyway, and it builds the foundations to experiences in further education. Some tips to do it right include:

1. Due Diligence

Consult with your child’s school to learn what test they will be using and ask for as many detailed questions about the format as they have.

2. Use Resources

Remember to use resources at your disposal. 11 Plus Success uploads free practice papers to the site for children to use. Not to forget the renowned 11 plus online preparation course – and even private tutoring options!

Remember that our course is tailored to both types of 11 plus exam!

3. Promote a Wider Vocabulary

The CEM test is known to emphasise testing on vocabulary. For that reason, you may want to help your child learn more words. This can be achieved through:

  • Using apps and resources
  • Reading books together
  • Increase their thirst for knowledge by introducing reading material on things they already like

4. Time Management

As mentioned, the CEM exam can be quite lengthy, but both exams require your child to manage their time effectively. To help them succeed and have more time during the exam to answer questions,

  • Practice questions under time constraints to reflect the exam
  • Utilise those free papers we mentioned above to help do this
  • Learn to read faster

In a Nutshell

We may feel confused about all the differences, even when those differences are minimal. Yet, just remember that giving your child enough time to prepare and opportunities to develop is the most important thing.

If you want to know anything else about these two exam bodies, feel free to reach out to one of the 11 Plus Success ninjas, soon!

Want to Learn More About Preparing for the 11 Plus Exams?

There is no hiding away from the fact that 11 plus is a tricky topic. It has many peculiarities and a lot of misinformation is out there.

To get more details that you know are correct, head back to the 11 Plus Success blog in the near future!

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