July 31st, 2019 Articles

What’s the difference between the GL and CEM Assessments?

What is the difference between CEM and GL 11+ exam styles

As a parent, when researching 11 plus exams, you may have come across the terms ‘GL’ and ‘CEM’.

What are the GL and CEM?

GL and CEM are two different exam boards that are the examiners for the 11+ in the majority of regions where the 11+ is still used.

Both boards have a similar exam format and cover a large batch of 11+ topics — English, Maths, Verbal and Non-verbal Reasoning or Spatial Awareness exercises.

However, GL and CEM assessments have significant differences that will ultimately affect how your child should prepare for the exam.

To better prepare your child for taking theirs 11 Plus exams, here is some information and significant differences that separate GL from CEM. Let’s take a look at the GL Assessment first:

The GL 11 Plus

GL or Granada Learning is a body that administers the test for the majority of the 11 Plus exams. It was popularly known as the National Education Foundation for Education Research (NEFR). Granada Learning later acquired it in 2007.

GL assessment provides papers on Maths, English, Verbal Reasoning and Non Verbal Reasoning. The assessment is used by many grammar schools in the UK.


The CEM paper is written by the University of Durham and the tests are designed for selective state schools, independent schools, and selective state schools. The exam aims to prevent certain students from having an advantage over each other and they claim that the test is resistant to teaching.

The test was created as some corners felt that the GL was too predictable in nature and too easy to ‘teach to the test’.

What subjects will be covered?


The GL exam board covers several subjects at 11 Plus level. These subjects are the following:

  • English
  • Maths
  • NVR/ Spatial Reasoning
  • Verbal Reasoning

Schools typically will use a combination of the above when testing to suit their policies.


The CEM test includes up to five subjects at 11 Plus level. These subjects are the following:

  • Numerical Reasoning
  • Verbal Reasoning
  • Non-verbal Reasoning

The ‘verbal reasoning’ side requires many of the skills needed to be successful in the GL English examination. Additionally, numerical reasoning tests maths skills and ability.

The CEM largely follows a lot of similar concepts to the Key Stage 2 curriculum. However, different schools and regions may differ and can decide what subjects they want to test in their 11+ exam.

What is the exam format?


Generally, it takes about 45 minutes for most GL exams to finish. The length of the test papers given to the examiners differs every year. The test is specific to subjects, including individual subjects only.

GL exams present questions in the following formats:

  1. Standard Format: Examinees jot down answers in spaces next to the question.
  1. Multiple Choice Examinees mark answers in a separate answer book.

The questions are usually in multiple-choice format, though a written answer scheme is used for verbal and math tests. 

Questions are sourced from a massive GL question bank that contains over 18,000 questions and is updated regularly.

Generally, students need to attempt around 40 questions per paper

The GL assessment stated that ‘As a result, test papers can be changed from year to year, making it extremely hard to predict what type of questions will appear in a specific test and therefore minimising greatly the effects of coaching in order to create a level playing field for all candidates – particularly those from less advantaged backgrounds. 


CEM doesn’t follow a set format and can change every year. Your child’s school may release information around the structure of the test, so it’s worth reaching out and finding out in advance.

One of the major differences between the CEM and GL is that exams are combined.

  • Maths and non-verbal reasoning
  • English and verbal reasoning

Multiple choice, standard format or a mix of the two may be used depending on how the school operates.

CEM exams are usually split into different sections. For example, a maths section, some puzzles and a problem-solving activity. Children are timed for each section so need to ensure that they spend adequate time on each part of the test.

In addition, CEM exams tend to be more content heavy, and there may be more questions than your child will be able to answer in the allotted time. In contrast, GL exams are not as long and the student should be able to complete the exam within the time.

CEM stated that ‘Our assessments are designed to enable all children to demonstrate their academic potential without the need for excessive preparation’.

Which 11+  assessment will my child be doing? 

which 11+ format

It’s important to note that schools have different preferences when it comes to the test. 

n up to date list of the 11+ boards in your region. Some schools have opted for a combination of both GL and CEM. 

This list is subject to change at the school’s discretion, so it’s always useful to consult with your child’s school in the run-up to the exams. Another important point to note is that not all schools will follow what the other schools in their area are doing.

CEM and GL: 

  • Yorkshire, 
  • Essex, 
  • Hertfordshire, 
  • Trafford, 
  • Devon,  

GL Assessment: 

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


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

Preparing for the CEM and GL Assessment 

Preparing for the 11 plus exam is a good platform for your children to develop the core concepts as a foundation for the next step in their education.

  1. Do your due diligence – The first part for any parent is to do your due diligence, as mentioned in the article every school is different. Spend some time consulting with the school to find out which exam board they will be following and also how your child will be tested
  1. Use past papers and apps – For the GL assessment, there are many GL assessment papers and past papers that you can use, KidSmart has put together a series of 100 free past papers for 11 plus. 

CEM is a little bit different in nature as it is supposedly ‘test proof’ and the questions are more difficult to predict. Regardless, children can refer to familiarisation papers and develop their core understanding of topics to help prepare for the exam. Exam prep is still useful for CEM but the questions on the exam will be tougher to predict.

  1. Develop your child’s vocabulary: In respect to the CEM, this test places more emphasis on developing a wider vocabulary. Here are some ways to develop your child’s vocabulary:
  • Encourage your child to read regularly around a wide variety of topics. This will broaden their vocabulary and help them learn new words.
  • Make learning fun through using apps like KidSmart, when gamification is used children don’t feel like they are learning.
  • Test different strategies on your child. No two people are the same and everybody learns from a different approach.
  1. Time Management: Helping your children understand the importance of managing time is a vital component of doing well with any exam, especially with the CEM exam.  In order to get your child ready for the exam, make sure to:
  • Ensure your child practices under timed conditions to get used to a test environment 
  • Utilise practice papers as ‘mock tests’ to help children get used to the conditions they will face in the exam. Practice makes perfect and it will give your child confidence for the actual exam.

What skills are needed?

Both tests cover different skills. The CEM assessment has a lot of crossover with the KS2 curriculum and requires a wider range of vocabulary. On the other hand, the GL assessment covers more verbal reasoning than the CEM exam.

Where can I find CEM and GL assessment papers?

As mentioned above, at KidSmart we have spent a lot of time compiling a free resource for 11+ past papers.

Simply go here, enter your e-mail and you’ll have access to over 100 past papers, completely free of charge.

Where can I learn more about 11 plus?

11 plus is a complex topic, there are so many different things to consider. That’s why we have put together a comprehensive 11 plus guide to go over any FAQ’s.


As parents, at times we can feel bombarded by all the information around the GL and CEM for 11 plus.

Whichever test your child does, it is important to encourage your children to start developing their english and maths skills from an early age.  

Regardless of the test, the core concepts will be useful for your child’s education and progression through the education system. 

We hope this guide helped and if you have any questions, do not hesitate to reach out to the Kidsmart team!

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