January 31st, 2020 Grammar Schools

11 plus schools in Essex and exam preparation guide

Exam preparation guide

Boasting high-quality grammar schools, the county of Essex is well stocked to serve its residents the 11+ experience with eight selective 11 plus schools in Essex to choose from throughout the county.

The Essex towns of Colchester, Chelmsford, Southend and Westcliff all have excellent schools offering a grammar school education to those boys and girls who, following a selective entry test (11+), are successful in securing places at one of the schools.

All 11 plus schools in Essex are single-sex and operate quite separately from each other. Colchester Royal Grammar School for boys offers co-ed education in its 6th form.

11 plus schools in Essex have long been amongst the best performing at GCSE and A level in the country, therefore entry to these schools is fiercely competitive with around 800-1000 students sitting for each exam over two dates. Preparation can begin as early as year 3.

Read more on 5 Benefits of laying 11 plus foundation early.

This article will hopefully guide you through what can be a maze of application and preparation for the 11+ in Essex.

A general guide to the 11+ for parents can be found here A complete guide to 11 plus.


Admissions to 11 plus schools in Essex are managed by the schools who make up the Consortium of Selective Schools in Essex. Details of how to contact them along with other information offered can be found here: CSSE.

The CSSE website is very helpful and should be your ‘go-to’ place for dates and application information. Their website also has a printable guide that you can keep handy during the application and preparation process with contact numbers if you need a ‘human voice’.  Preparation for the 11+ can take a lot of organising, the CSSE website has most of the application information you will need, all in one place.

Grammar schools in Essex, like others around the country, offer places to children achieving the highest scores in the selective 11+ test. The test is not pass or fail, for instance, if a school has 150 places on offer, the top 150 scorers will secure the places. Your chosen school will be able to give you an idea of ‘pass marks’ from previous years.

Each school has its own admissions policy. LIST OF GRAMMAR SCHOOLS IN ESSEX. which you should look at as some have catchment area incentives. Colchester Royal Grammar School has a 13+ entry, which can be really useful if a place is not secured at year 7.

Each school offers an Open Day and tours and most of these include an introduction from the headteacher along with guided tours from current pupils. Attending Open Day is an essential part of the preparation process. Seeing the school in action will inspire your child and help you with any application and preparation issues.

You will find the application process and forms on the CSSE website. You will also need to complete the LEA application form, in case your child does not secure a place at a grammar school. Do not send off your LEA form until you have the result of the 11+ as you must put the grammar school as your first choice. If your child is not offered a place at grammar school, you can then put your alternative school as the first choice. The results of the 11+ are now timed to fit in with this process.

General Admissions Information for entry (taken from CSSE website.)

Applications Closing DateLocal Authority Forms 31/10/20

Test Registration closing date: Wed 1st July 2020 CSSE registration will open for 2021 entry Tue. 19th May 2020
Test DateSaturday 19th September 2020
Test TypesMaths and English
ExaminerPapers are written by teachers from the schools
Allocations2nd March 2021
Admissions Essex Consortium Tel: 01245 348257
Essex Council Tel: 0845 603 2200
Email: admissions@essex.gov.uk

The 11+ Test in Essex

The test is taken in the first 2 weeks of year 6. The exact date and time of the test can be found at CSSE

The CSSE sets one common selection test for all Essex grammar schools, except Chelmsford County High School for Girls, which has its own test.  The consortium sets its own exams so does not follow GL or CEM structure, however, papers from those examining bodies are still ok to use as practice papers.

The Essex 11+ test is taken in one of the local high schools. There are usually two sittings because of the high application numbers. Some of the test centres are quieter than others. If you speak to someone at CSSE you may be able to place a more anxious child in one of these locations.

You can elect to be notified of the result by email or post. Your letter will tell you your child’s score and where that places him or her in terms of an offer of a place. Results are usually released about a month after the exam. The CSSE provides a colour-coded guide to show you how, in previous years, scores have matched offers. This sheet will indicate if your child will be likely to receive an offer, may receive one, may get onto the waiting list or is not likely to be offered a place. It is this information that should inform your choice on the LEA form which must be returned by 31st October to your LEA. The final offer will come through on or around March 2nd which is National Offer Day.

There is an appeals process which very seldom results in the offer of a place. Only Colchester Royal Grammar School has a 13+ entry system.

If it is something you have considered, it is also worth remembering that many independent schools offer academic scholarships to students who have scored highly in the 11+. If you are visiting an independent school prior to taking the 11+ it is worth notifying the admissions office that your child is sitting the 11+ and registering interest in an academic scholarship.

The only way into a grammar school is by selective testing. You cannot pay to get in, or enter in any other year than year 7. (except Colchester Royal Grammar School which has 13+ entry)

Essex 11+ Exam Format

The Essex 11+ papers are aimed at high achieving students of KS2. Along with maths and English, included in the papers are questions on non-verbal and verbal reasoning. These two topics are not taught under the National Curriculum but can be studied in preparation for the 11+. At the time of the test, students should; have a good knowledge of National Curriculum Maths and English, have a reading age above 11, be familiar with comprehension and understand the principles of spelling, grammar and punctuation.

Students will take two papers consecutively, lasting one hour each with a short break after the first paper.

The English paper comprises: 

Comprehension, grammar and vocabulary questions

Comprehension – The student will be asked to read then answer questions on a short piece of text. The comprehension section usually has about 30 marks available and looks for a students ability to read and understand a text, find information within the text, comment on the writer’s use of language, identify implicit and explicit text and recognise inference.

The chosen texts are usually quite difficult and often taken from 19th-century writings. It is a good idea to familiarise your child with these texts either in their complete form or by practising using extracts from 19th-century texts. ELEVEN PLUS READING LIST

Grammar – Within the comprehension section there will usually be questions asking students to identify word types ( e.g. identify the adjective in line 16) or to comment on the writer’s use of language.

Vocabulary – A student’s vocabulary will be tested by asking the student to either define a word from the text or choose a word from a selection that has the same meaning as a word from the text.

Improving your child’s vocabulary is essential for the reading and writing components of the 11+. Marks will be gained from being able to understand what you are reading and to be able to choose the best word when you are writing. You will find tips, games and apps to improve your child’s vocabulary here.

Punctuation – Students may be asked to punctuate a piece of text or their punctuation may be tested in the creative writing section.

Two pieces of creative writing.

The creative writing section of the test looks for a student’s ability to use language correctly and creatively.

Historically students have been asked to write pieces such as ‘Write 7 sentences explaining how to make a cup of tea.’ or ‘Describe in 5 paragraphs a member of your family and explain why you like them.’ However, students may also be asked to write a piece from a sentence starter or to write about a picture given to them.

Within the creative writing section the student must demonstrate proficiency in the following:

  • Spelling – Spelling is important and will be marked throughout the test. Make sure your child has an excellent spelling strategy and always checks through their writing. Spelling advice and strategies.
  • Grammar & Language – Your child must show good use of grammar and language. Making use of adjectives adverbs, similes, metaphors, personification, alliteration, repetition and other language devices will result in high marks. Try using grammar apps – find some here.
  • Vocabulary -Examiners are looking for a wide range of vocabulary. Your child must learn to use words suited to their subject and audience as well as showing an extended vocabulary. Reading will improve vocabulary and there are many apps available to help. Find vocab apps here.
  • Sentence structure -Use a range of paragraphs, simple and complex sentences and clauses. Your child should be able to demonstrate the use of a variety of sentence structure in his or her writing for effect and structure.
  • Punctuation – students must be able to show good use of a variety of punctuation in their writing.

Applied Reasoning (literacy/verbal)

Applied reasoning, or verbal reasoning as it is often called, tests the student on his or her knowledge of words. There are about 20 different verbal reasoning types covering problems such as anagrams. alphabetical order, synonyms, the odd one out, letter codes, and more. Students should try to do at least one set of verbal reasoning problems each day. There are apps and games available to help with this, you could also try Wordsearch books, crosswords, Scrabble, Boggle and other word games

The English papers are written by teachers from the Essex High Schools. 

Past papers suitable for CSSE preparation

The maths paper comprises: 

  • Arithmetic Skills
  • Questions consistent with KS2 National Curriculum 
  • Applied reasoning (maths/non-verbal reasoning)

The Maths papers are written by one of the teachers from the Essex High Schools. The previous two years’ Maths papers can be purchased from the Consortium of Selective Schools in Essex-CSSE but unfortunately, older papers are generally not available. Suitable practice papers can be obtained by clicking here.

The maths paper is notoriously difficult. It requires not only a working knowledge of maths but also the ability to problem-solve. 

Primary Maths Challenge style questions would make good practice. 

You need a good working knowledge of the following:

  • Arithmetic
  • Area
  • Bar Charts
  • Angles
  • Geometry
  • Ratio
  • Algebra
  • Proportion
  • Probability
  • Percentages

Essex 11+ Pass Mark

Historical Essex 11 plus pass parks averages around 350. The pass marks cut off would be higher for people living outside the priority area.

A useful guide to understanding scores can be found here Essex 11 plus pass mark and score guide


For most of the students sitting the 11+ this will be the first big exam they have ever taken. It can be daunting not only because of the number of students in the room, but also the formality and seriousness of the exam.

Learning some essential exam skills could make the difference between offered a place or not.

  • Time management
  • Interpreting questions
  • Choose your battles
  • Using every minute
  • Effective checking
  • Marking up questions

Schools Information

Each school has its own admissions policy the links below will take you to each schools’ websites and admissions policies.

King Edward VI Grammar School | Admissions Policy 2021

Colchester County High School For Girls | Admissions Policy 2021

Colchester Royal Grammar School | Admissions Policy 2021

Southend High School for Boys

Southend High School for Girls | Admissions Policy 2021

Westcliff High School for Boys

Westcliff High School for Girls | Admissions Policy 2020

Chelmsford County High School | Admissions Policy 2021

KS1, KS2, SATS & 11+ Practice
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