CEM and GL assessment are the two predominant 11 Plus examiners.

GL Assessment, formerly known as NFER, was renamed in 2007. GL Assessment develop and administer 11 Plus exams in many grammar school areas.

CEM exams were developed by the Centre for Evaluation & Monitoring at the University of Durham. CEM exams were introduced in response to fears that existing 11 Plus exams had become too transparent. CEM do not publish practice materials and change the format of examinations to minimise ‘teaching to the test’.

In recent years there has been a shift to CEM examinations in many regions. In some, a combination of GL Assessment and CEM exam papers are used.

How do they differ?

Although both CEM and GL Assessment exams broadly cover English, maths, verbal and non-verbal reasoning, there are a number of key differences.

  • 11 Plus subjects
    GL covers English, maths, verbal and non-verbal reasoning. Schools can pick to administer all subjects, or select those that best meet their requirements.
    CEM covers verbal, non-verbal and numerical reasoning. Verbal reasoning includes many of the skills covered in a GL Assessment English test and numerical reasoning covers the main maths skills that would be tested in a GL maths exam.
  • Format of the exam papers
    GL exams are split by subject (English, maths, verbal reasoning and non-verbal reasoning). Questions are chosen from GL question banks, so regular practice helps to familiarise children with question types they will see. Answers are either written in a blank space next to the question or are multiple choice and answered in a separate answer book.
    CEM exam papers do not separate subjects by paper. Commonly one paper tests English and verbal reasoning skills, whilst the other tests maths and non-verbal reasoning skills. Exam papers are broken into sections which may, for example, move from short maths to non-verbal questions to worded problems. Questions are can be either standard, or more commonly, multiple choice, with answers being written in a separate answer book. The weighting of each subject is unknown before the exam, due to the mixed nature of the papers.
  • Exam timing
    GL exam papers tend to last 45 minutes, although this can vary.
    CEM exams consist of two 45-minute papers. A short break is normally given between the two papers. Each paper has a mix of topics covering English, verbal reasoning, non-verbal reasoning and maths (numerical reasoning). The papers are spilt into sections, with varying numbers of questions and timings. Often more questions are provided than are likely to be answered. Children are only given a set amount of time to answer a section and cannot move forward until told to proceed.
  • Knowledge and skills
    GL Assessment exams can cover any of 21 different verbal reasoning skills, much more than seen in CEM examinations. However, CEM examinations require a much broader range of vocabulary.
    CEM exams align much more closely to KS2 National Curriculum content than GL Assessment exams do, although the ‘question bank’ nature of GL Assessment exams aids in preparation for this exam type.


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