What is GL Assessment? GL 11 Plus Exams Explained

What is GL Assessment? GL 11 Plus Exams Explained

If you’re helping your child prepare for their 11 Plus exams, chances are you’ve come across the acronym “GL”. 

But what exactly does it mean?

Well, GL is short for GL Assessment, the leading provider of 11 Plus exam papers in the UK. They provide 11 Plus tests for most grammar schools in the country. 

Given their popularity, it’s essential to know what GL tests involve. In this guide, we’ll explain everything you need to know about GL Assessment’s exam structure, scoring system, where to find practice papers and how to support your child’s 11 Plus preparation.

GL Assessment: An Introduction

What is GL Assessment?

GL Assessment is a leading test provider that designs and administers 11 Plus exams for UK grammar and independent schools. Their mission is to “improve student performance through better assessment”. They deliver over 300,000 11 Plus exam papers each year, working with some of the largest school trusts in the country. 

GL Assessment’s 11 Plus tests are designed to challenge the best and brightest of students each year. They include questions beyond the standard national curriculum, to gauge children’s potential in a selective school environment.

We should also mention that GL Assessment doesn’t just do 11 Plus exams. They provide a whole array of tests, including reading tests, progress tests, SEND identification, emotional well-being tests, and Year 7 CATs (or Cognitive Abilities Tests).

What does GL stand for in 11+?

In the context of the 11 Plus, GL stands for “Granada Learning”. 

Originally known as the National Foundation for Educational Research (NFER), the organisation was acquired by Granada Learning in 2001. Despite the GL Assessment rebrand, NFER still operates as a separate research entity.

GL Assessment is now part of the Renaissance group, a “global leader in education technology”.

What is the GL Assessment for grammar school?

GL Assessment 11+ tests serve as entrance exams for grammar and selective schools. They’re designed to be as fair and accessible as possible, to assess children’s academic proficiency. 

These subjects normally include Maths, English, Verbal Reasoning and Non-Verbal Reasoning. The scores across all four subjects are combined and standardised, helping schools make independent and unbiased admissions decisions.

Looking for more information on the 11 Plus? Don’t miss our guides to all the key dates and deadlines, grammar schools without a catchment area and the best grammar schools in the UK.

What is the GL exam in the UK?

The GL 11 Plus exam varies between schools. Generally speaking though, it consists of separate papers in English, Maths, Verbal Reasoning and Non-Verbal Reasoning.

This could include:

English Paper: roughly 50 questions in 50 minutes

The English paper includes a reading comprehension as well as spelling, punctuation, and grammar (SPaG) questions. There’s normally a “word choice” section (i.e. selecting the most appropriate word to go in a sentence) to finish. 

Reading comprehension involves a passage (which could be fiction or nonfiction) followed by questions to assess inference, deduction and vocabulary. SPaG questions may ask students to complete sentences or spot mistakes like spelling, capital letters or missing commas.

Maths Paper: roughly 50 questions in 50 minutes

The Maths paper usually consists of 50 questions in 50 minutes, covering topics like number, measurement, data and geometry. Rapid recall of number facts and proficiency in problem-solving are key to success.

GL Assessment Maths papers cover knowledge of times tables, quick mental arithmetic and firm understanding of the four basic operations (+ – x ÷). Your child should also be confident in their knowledge of shapes, space, measures and basic graph reading.

Verbal Reasoning Paper: roughly 80 questions in 60 minutes

Verbal Reasoning tests a child’s ability to manipulate and understand verbal information, requiring a broad vocabulary and strong logical reasoning skills. This section often includes questions on synonyms, antonyms and logical sequences. 

Verbal reasoning papers might ask your child to group words together, spotting similarities and differences. They test problem-solving skills and the ability to identify patterns as well as the rules and meaning of language.

Non-Verbal Reasoning Paper: roughly 80 questions in 60 minutes

Non-Verbal Reasoning assesses problem-solving ability and spatial awareness. Students must identify patterns and rules in visual sequences, a skill that’s massively valuable for STEM subjects. Papers are split into multiple timed sections, with children moving onto each section together.

GL Assessment Non-Verbal Reasoning papers test your child’s logical thinking and ability to process graphic information and apply mathematical skills like rotation, reflection and symmetry. 

These types of questions can be confusing if you haven’t seen them before. So to better understand the format, explore our in-depth guide to What is Non-Verbal Reasoning?

GL Assessment: Scoring and Difficulty

How is the GL Assessment 11+ exam scored?

For each paper your child sits, scores from each subject are combined to produce a total “raw score”. This initial score is then age-standardised to ensure fairness. 

The exams themselves are multiple-choice. This makes scoring and marking simple and clear. 

Although question types and paper structures change each year, a “standard” format might look like:

    • English: An initial reading comprehension with around 25 to 30 multiple-choice questions. This is followed by spelling and punctuation sections, as well as a vocabulary test (all around 10 questions each) where children select words that are the “best fit” for a sentence. 
    • Maths: Roughly 50 mixed mathematical questions (normally increasing in difficulty), all with multiple-choice answers.
  • Verbal Reasoning: Roughly 80 multiple-choice questions on verbal reasoning, including code words, finding word pairs, comprehension, series, synonyms and antonyms.
  • Non-Verbal Reasoning: Four sections, each containing 20 non-verbal reasoning questions. This could include sequences, patterns, transformations, similarities and differences.

What is the SAS score on GL Assessment?

The Standard Age Score (SAS) on GL Assessment 11 Plus exams adjusts a student’s raw score based on their age. This ensures fairness for younger students. The standardised score is then compared to a nationally representative sample (i.e. how well students have done across the country). 

The SAS score accounts for the student’s age in years and months – enduring fair comparison of academic performance within year groups.

What is the highest score on the GL 11+ exam?

The highest standardised score on a GL test is usually 141, representing the top 1% of candidates. 

If you’re wondering “what is a good GL score?”, the average SAS score is 100. So more than 100 indicates “above-average performance”. Scores below 100 represent “below-average performance” (compared with the national sample). 

Total marks can range anywhere between 60 and 141. 

A good target for students aiming for grammar school entry is 120. For some schools and consortiums (for instance, Dr Challoner’s High School), any student scoring 121 or more is eligible for a place – with admissions based on the school’s entry criteria.

Other schools rank students in order of performance. So in terms of a “good” GL score, it’s always best to aim for the top!

GL Assessment: Schools and Choices

Is the 11 Plus GL or CEM?

In most cases, schools use GL Assessment for their 11 Plus exams. But this isn’t always the case, so check with the school if you’re unsure.

There’s another main 11 Plus testing organisation called CEM (the Centre for Evaluation and Monitoring). They recently transitioned to online testing however, reducing their popularity among UK schools.

CEM 11 Plus tests have a very different structure to GL Assessment. Instead of multiple subject-specific papers, questions are organised into shorter sections, all on one test. Content is also more closely mapped to the national curriculum. 

Which grammar schools use GL Assessment?

Most grammar schools in the country use GL Assessment. So you’ll probably face GL tests if you’re applying to grammar school.

But this isn’t always the case, so check carefully!

GL Assessment, CEM and ISEB (the Independent Schools Examination Board) are the three main 11 Plus providers in the UK. Some schools might also set their own entrance exams.

Testing arrangements are subject to change each year, so it’s important to check your chosen school’s exam provider. If they don’t list this information on their website, ask the admissions department.

Where can I find GL Assessment practice papers?

In good news for parents, GL Assessment publishes practice papers on their website. As these papers are created by the exam provider, they match the timings and test format your child will face.

As well as practice papers, GL Assessment also provides free familiarisation materials. These are a great starting point to assess your child’s readiness for the 11 Plus.

Educational publishers and high-street bookstores are also good places to find workbooks and practice papers for 11 Plus practice. CGP, Schofield and Sims and Bond 11+ are particularly helpful, with a variety of reliable study guides, online resources and practice papers. 

How can I prepare for GL Assessment 11+ exams?

Getting ready for the GL Assessment 11+ exams can feel like a big task, but with the right approach, it’s manageable and, dare we say it, even enjoyable! 

Here are some tips to help you and your child along the way:

  • Start early: It’s a good idea to kick-off preparation well before the exam date, ideally in the summer term of Year 4 or early autumn term of Year 5. Starting early means less stress and more time to get to grips with everything.
  • Master the basics: Ensure your child has a solid understanding of the national curriculum before diving into practice papers. This means getting familiar with topics they might not have covered in school, especially those from Year 6.
  • Get to know the exam: Take time to understand the structure and content of the GL Assessment exams. Practising with past papers and mock tests can help your child get used to the types of questions and timings.
  • Practice makes perfect: Introduce test papers gradually so your child develops good time management skills and feels comfortable with the exam format. Practising under timed conditions will make the test day feel familiar.
  • Keep calm and stay positive: Preparing for exams can be overwhelming, so it’s important to support your child mentally and emotionally. Encourage regular breaks and keep a balanced study schedule to help prevent burnout and manage test anxiety.
  • Celebrate every win: Keep motivation high by celebrating milestones, no matter how small. Little rewards and breaks make a big difference in keeping young learners engaged and excited about their progress.

If you’d like help preparing your child for 11 Plus exams, get in touch with our expert team at Achieve Learning. We’ll help your child understand the structure and requirements of the 11 Plus, build their skills and confidence, and unlock their best possible performance.