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Test your wits against the dreaded 11-plus

The mini eleven-plus

For many years Britain's school children had their educational fate decided by the eleven-plus exam. What would happen if you had to take the exam again? Test your knowledge with these genuine questions from the original eleven-plus.

Pupils sit a modern exam

1.) Question 1

Subtract two-thirds of eight hundred and thirty four from 23 times 185.

  1. 3,699
  2. 3,973
  3. 4,111

2.) Question 2

Seven piles of bricks are placed side by side so that their tops form steps one brick high. If the lowest pile contains nine bricks, how many bricks are being used altogether?

  1. 49 bricks
  2. 84 bricks
  3. 93 bricks

3.) Question 3

These words express movement: galloped, trudged, crawled, raced, trotted Arrange them in order beginning with the slowest.

  1. trudged, crawled, galloped, raced, trotted
  2. crawled, trudged, trotted, galloped, raced
  3. crawled, trudged, trotted, raced, galloped

4.) Question 4

* do you consider the best scholar in the school?

  1. Who
  2. Whom
  3. What


Read the following: I am quite big now. I am eight years old and my name is Ann. I go to school in England, but in the holidays I live at home as other schoolgirls do. My home is on an island called Skokholm, in the Atlantic Ocean, not very far from the land of Wales. One day when I had just come home from school to stay on the island, and was looking around me to see what I could play with, I came across the remains of the cook's galley from the wreck of the Alice Williams. It was lying beside one of the ruined buildings of the old farm, so I decided to make a house for myself out of it.

5.) Question 5

Where does Ann live?

  1. Stockholm
  2. Wales
  3. Skokholm

6.) Question 6

INK is to PEN as * is to BRUSH

  1. HAIR
  3. PAINT

7.) Question 7

One of the numbers in the following line does not fit properly with the others Which is it? 1, 9, 16, 23, 27, 31, 34

  1. 16
  2. 23
  3. 27

8.) Question 8

PARIS is a bigger city than VIENNA and VIENNA is a bigger city than ROME. Which is the smallest?

  1. PARIS
  3. ROME

Question 9

Imagine yourself as a scarecrow and tell a story about yourself. (We'll have to trust you to do this one well)

View of a field of wheat


  1. 3,699
  2. 84 bricks
  3. crawled, trudged, trotted, galloped, raced
  4. Whom
  5. The island of Skokholm
  6. PAINT
  7. 23
  8. ROME

Which school are you destined for?

0 - 2 : Technical school

3 - 5 : Secondary modern school

6 - 8 : Grammar school

The Today programme is sitting the 11-plus.

A collection of old test papers from the 1940s and 50s is being published in a new book. For some people, the thought of the exam will bring back happy memories of success and achievement.

For others it inspires dread and disappointment.

Some still support academic selection and claim that it is the best way to ensure success; while others question whether a bad exam result should decide a child's educational career and chances in life.

Did the test bring back memories of your last days of primary school? Do you think it is a fair way of deciding a child's future? Read some of the hundreds of comments we received from listeners.

I took the 11-plus and went to grammar school, but I think it was a load of rubbish. The standard of education I received was abysmal and totally failed to inspire me. The school tried to pigeonhole me into becoming a teacher, but that for me was anathema and I dropped out. Later, as a mature student, I gained a first in a "difficult" modern language from a top UK university (which didn't even exist as an option for me when I was at school) and now have a successful career in translation and editing. I feel that I found my way in life despite the education system. I feel so sorry for kids being forced into "exam hell" nowadays. Education should inspire, not coerce.
Sweet Dreams, Japan

I passed my 11 plus back in '99, but I took my exam at a local non grammar school, which i wanted to attend due to my friends and family all going their. I remember it being quite scary and I felt slightly pressured by my parents to do well. My parents were also disappointed that I didn't want to attend a grammar school. But I have no regrets, I done well at school and am doing well in my job. The main reason I didn't want to attend a grammar school because they are all same sex, maybe if their are mixed grammar schools this would of gave me the incentive to take my exam at one of them.
Scott McDonald, Essex, Southend

I sat the eleven-plus with a borderline pass but the small primary school I was at was only allocated a few places to Grammar School so I did not get a place as others in my school had higher passes. It certainly made me feel like I had failed. Then whilst I was at the Secondary Modern Senior School the Grammar system in our area was ceased and the two Senior schools were merged into one Comprehensive. Suddenly we were all back in the same classes again having been creamed off and then reunited. We were streamed into ability groups and I was in the top stream for every subject alongside those that had been to the Grammar School. In fact the top streams were basically made up of 50% from each school, and often made of a higher ratio of us 'failed' pupils. So as a social experiment we surely proved that eleven is far too young to divide children's education. Perhaps it worked in my favour, I still did well and took GCE's when I may have been forced to take GCSE's had we not merged! That may have affected my whole career path, who knows...
Claire, Surrey

I'm currently studying for an English Degree with the Open University. I scored an abysmal 4 out of 8! Mind you, the maths questions are mostly responsible... If there are any 11-year-olds out there who can do better, I take my hat off to them, but I worry that we have too much of a testing culture in our schools and that we are putting way too much pressure on our kids.
Rob Baker, Newport, S. Wales

A sensible and fair test, which did what it was designed to do. Contrary to the sneers of its critics, it did not decide a childs life chances, it just determined the next stage in their education. There were plenty of new opportunities and challenges after age eleven.
Stephen Dunbar, London, England

I took the eleven-plus in 1951 and passed for grammar school, as did my sister. We were the only ones in our street who did and I was regularly beaten up on my way home from school because of it. However, I ended up with a great career in the Royal Navy and thereafter as a managing editor with a publishing company. The point being that just because we grew up with poor parents in a very working class background we still qualified for a more academic education. I thought then, and still think, that the abolition of the grammar school was the beginning of the end for our great education system and we are still paying for it and trying to catch up with most other European countries.
Keith, Portsmouth

I remember the 11+ as one of the most traumatic events of my life. I was a borderline pupil at the first attempt and had to resit the whole thing a second time. Despite eventually passing it still evokes strong memories. I'm sure my parents felt it even more so.
William Burgess, Leeds, UK

I thoroughly enjoyed answering the questions and was pleased to see that I would have passed. When I was 11 I didn't pass and went to a secondary modern. The standard of education I received was excellent and broad-based. The discipline in the school was equal to anything my contemporaries experienced in a grammar school and the level of parental support and encouragement I received was high. It is my belief that a combination of the above is what is necessary to be happy and successful in adult life. What I see around me now is emotionally and parentally abandoned children, fed on rubbish, teachers who are forbidden to discipline bad behaviour, parents who do not accept any responsibility for the children they have brought into the world, a judiciary hopelessly out of touch with real life (probably grammar school educated) and a police force used as social workers, rather than law enforcers.

Until we get some back-bone and tell the truth about the failings of parents, no tinkering around the edges of the education system would make a scrap of odds. Education is a small part of experience of childhood and the current failure of much of our youth to leave school equipped and ready for the world of work, can be attributed to their up-brining (or lack of it) rather than the easy excuse.
Elizabeth Woodcock, London, England

Suprisingly hard even as an adult. But I think children were pushed much harder then.

Performance on one exam on one day is obviously a very rough and ready and unfair way to sort children for life, also unfair in that it measures the school and social background as much as the pupil. But that said it was probably less disruptive than the current non-stop low level tests. And however unfair on individuals maybe it did tend to select children who would benefit from differing types of educational approach? So ironically it may have achieved an overall educational benefit even if for the wrong reasons. We certainly seem to be incapable of getting the best out of children (and hence doing the best for them)under the present systm.
Chris Woods, Near Crewe Cheshire

I found the test easier today than when I took the 11+ over 57 years ago. I did pass the exam and although I am very much against streaming, I am grateful for the wonderful start in life that the grammar school gave me and credit must go to the excellent quality of the teaching staff in that school. A good education is undoubtedly the bedrock of any well-functioning society today.
John Williamson, Newport, UK

Those maths questions filled me with dread! The depressing thing about that test though was the answers weren't explained so there is little room for learning from similar mistakes in the future, which is why exams such as this are flawed concepts from the outset. For that to determine the next 5-7 years of your life, and subsequently the rest of your life, is a depressing thought indeed! Glad they are now in the bin of history and society does not need them back, thanks very much.
Sean, London

I think it is a good way of sorting students who are more intelligent from those who are not however there are many different types of intelligence the ability to do maths or grammar does not mean you deserve a better education than someone who is musically or artistically minded.
Paul Reynolds, Birmngham

I grew up in a council estate outside Canterbury (not as posh as everyone thinks!) and took my 11-plus, unlike the majority of children in my primary school. 8 of us took it, 2 of us passed. As a result, I got to go to a grammar school and leave behind all the kids who bullied me for 6 years. I loved my secondary school and have kept in touch with many friends, went to a great university, got a first and am now doing a PhD.

I fear this would not have been my path had I followed the rest of them and gone to another non-grammar school. A lot of my primary contemporaries now have a flat near my parents because they've had a baby or two. Yes it's a generalisation but that's just my experience. It was good for me, it's good for others - like another comment posted, if it's not for you you can leave. If it is and you don't get the chance to do it, what then?
Marianne, London, UK

I think that it is wrong to sort children in this manner. Firstly because children develop at very different rates making the process pregnant with injustice. Secondly because it is divisive and I have yet to see the evidence that the putative benefits of selection outweigh the damage to social cohesion the test produces. Thirdly, why in an elective democracy should the majority of citizens be asked to discriminate against their own children? Incidentally, I did not go to grammar school, got an excellent state education and went on to Oxbridge. The test was easy but distasteful.
Andrew, London

Minister attacks school selection
Thursday, 19 June 2008, 16:38 GMT |  Education
Ruane says test call 'difficult'
Wednesday, 14 May 2008, 11:01 GMT |  Northern Ireland
Is Cameron winning schools fight?
Tuesday, 22 May 2007, 10:03 GMT |  Politics


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