School Guidance
School Guidance
School Guidance
School Guidance

Applying for a place at a Grammar School

There are 164 grammar schools left in England. The counties that have the most grammar schools are Kent (47), Lincolnshire (15) Buckinghamshire (13) and West Midlands (11). To find out where the Grammar schools are in England go to:   

Grammar schools are selective, state secondary schools. They usually take pupils from age 11 to 18. To obtain a place at a grammar school a child has to pass what is called the 11+ test. Grammar schools provide an excellent education for children who thrive in an academic environment. Most of the pupils go on to take degrees at top universities.

Some independent schools have the word “Grammar” in their name. These schools have nothing to do with state grammar schools though may have an historical link with them.

To apply for a place at a grammar school contact its local authority. Your child will need to apply to take the test. This has to be done by a certain date if you are applying for a place in Year 7. You need to put the name of the grammar school on the preference list of your Common Application Form (CAF). 

You can apply for a place at a grammar school in school years other than Year 7. Your child will have to take a test to join any year at a grammar school. If your child fails the test he or she can usually take it again the following year. A child is not allowed to take the test more than once in one school year. Passing the test does not guarantee a place at a grammar school.


Competition is fierce for places at grammar schools. The local authorities that have grammar schools in their area, and sometimes the individual grammar schools within that area, have their own Selection Tests referred to as the 11+. These tests decide which children have the academic ability to qualify for a place at a grammar school. Pupils in Year 6 usually sit the 11+ some time during the autumn term. The 11+ tests take many different forms including Verbal and Non-Verbal Reasoning Tests, tests in English, mathematics and writing or a mixture of the above. The format of the test is either standard format or multiple choice. Standard format questions are generally seen as harder than multiple choice as there are no clues as to what the answer might be.


Many parents tutor their children for the 11+ test. This can skew the results and has led parents to fear that if they do not have their children tutored they will be at a disadvantage.

It is possible to tutor your child yourself. Contact your local authority or the school to find out which practice paper booklets you should purchase. There are many resources available which explain clearly how to tackle, for example questions in verbal and non-verbal reasoning tests.

The optimum time to send your child to a tutor or give tutoring at home is during Year 5. It is best to start at least six months before the first test date so that your child has the time to build up confidence. It is important not to place too much emphasis on passing the tests as this may cause panic and could make your child nervous. Nerves, it has been shown account for many lost marks.


Standardisation is a statistical process that is designed to take account of the fact that older children are at an advantage when taking the 11+ test. Standardising the raw score makes it a level playing field for all the children in the year.

The test scores are adjusted to take account of the age of the children at the time they take the 11+. One child taking the test might be born on the first day of the school year (September 1st) while another might be born on the last day (August 31st). With what amounts to a whole year’s difference in their ages, the older child is clearly at an advantage: for example the older child will have an additional year’s worth of vocabulary. As children are exposed to new vocabulary at the rate of more than 1,000 words per year, the difference can be very significant for the 11+ tests. To remove this unfairness, the marks are adjusted to make them “standard” for all children, regardless of their age.


If your child does not pass the 11+ you may be in an area which allows Selection Appeals. At a Selection Appeal you can put your case to the panel that your child has the academic ability to go to a grammar school and would have passed the 11+ if it had not been for mitigating circumstances. School Guidance can help you with a Selection Appeal

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Penny Bysshe. School Guidance Consultancy
Orchard House, High Road, Cookham, Berkshire SL6 9JT
Tel. +44 (0)1628 810696. Email.
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