Birmingham AND Warwickshire Consortiums SWITCH – What is the difference between the GL and CEM 11+ entrance exam?

What is the difference between the CEM and GL examinations?


What is the difference between the CEM and GL examinations?

Most likely you will have all heard the news that the Birmingham and Warwickshire Consortiums of Grammar Schools has switched from the CEM to the GL exam paper. This new change will be in place for the 11+ entrance exam this September 17th 2022. Now that’s a turn up for the books.

I know a lot of you are at home, quaking in your boots, afraid that this changes everything.

I’m here to reassure you that it doesn’t.

Yes, there are differences between the GL and CEM papers, however there are an awful lot more similarities. So, this week we have written this blog to inform you about the main differences between the GL and CEM papers. We are going to delve into the background of the 11+ exams, look at how this change may affect you and your child and also offer some advise about your next steps in your 11+ journey.

So, sit back, relax, and let us here at Smart 11+ Tuition do the work.


What do GL and CEM mean?

To put it simply, GL and CEM are two different exam boards. 

These exam boards produce tests nationally, every year, for schools that use the 11+ entrance exam. As they are both creating papers for the same exam (much like AQA and OCR for GCSE), they have great similarities. Firstly, they both cover maths, English, verbal and non-verbal reasoning.

Secondly, they both require very similar skills and abilities.

However, we cannot ignore that there are differences also – they are two separate exam papers at the end of the day.

So, let’s dig a little deeper.


Why are there two exam papers called GL and CEM?

The GL assessment was previously known as NFER. In 2007, NFER was purchased by Granada Learning and re-named ‘GL Assessment.’ Interestingly since then, the GL assessment has been adopted by the majority of Grammar Schools in the UK. 

However, due to the GL assessments popularity and continuous publishing of past papers and practice questions, children were frequently being tutored to pass the test. Some believed this was unfair, and so the CEM paper was endorsed by the Centre for Evaluation & Monitoring at the University of Durham to solve this problem.

The CEM paper was seen as more challenging, to try to discourage pupils from tutoring for the test. For this reason, CEM papers are continuously changing formats and have a perceived increase in difficulty.


Which exam paper covers which areas?

The GL assessment takes place in Buckinghamshire, Dorset, Kent, Lancashire & Cumbria, Lincolnshire, Medway, Northern Ireland, Birmingham and Warwickshire

The CEM paper takes place in Berkshire, Bexley, Gloucestershire, Shropshire, Walsall, Wolverhampton.

Please note, as we have found out with the Birmingham Consortium, these are constantly changing. 


What subjects are on each paper?

GL paper:

The GL paper covers English, maths, verbal reasoning and non-verbal reasoning/spatial awareness. However, the most important difference is that it is the schools prerogative to choose the subjects best for their school.

For example, it is known that in Lincolnshire, only verbal and non-verbal reasoning are tested. 

CEM Paper:

The CEM paper covers all the same topics as the GL paper. These topics are also the same across the Nation and cannot be edited by the school.

The verbal reasoning skills covered in the CEM paper are the same skills tested through the GL’s comprehension tasks. The mathematics section of the CEM paper also covers the same topics as the GL paper, in line with the National Curriculum.

The only main difference is the CEM paper does appear to align itself closer to the KS2 material than the GL assessment does. 


What about how the papers are presented? Does the GL and CEM papers have a different format?

For the GL, this does seem to vary from region to region. What we do know is the questions are either standard format (where the answers are written next to the questions) or multiple choice. Again, the timings vary, however the most common is around 45 minutes for each paper.

The CEM exam has a very different format.

All the questions are mixed and there is no individual paper for maths and then English. Another important difference to note is that multiple choice is used across all CEM papers.


What sort of skills are required for the CEM and GL exam?

Although the topics are very similar across both the CEM and GL papers, the skills looked for by each paper are slightly different.

The GL paper looks for evidence of strong vocabulary, logic, maths and spelling skills.

The CEM paper asks for strong English, comprehension, vocabulary, spelling and maths skills.

The verbal reasoning for the GL is much more varied than the CEM and does require more skill and ability.


How do I prepare my child for the GL instead of the CEM paper?

This is probably the key question going around your mind.

Well, that’s where we are here to help.

  1. Firstly, find out if the paper you are taking is for the Birmingham consortium. Currently there has been no news as to whether Walsall or other local Birmingham areas are also making the switch. So, do keep checking in on the Grammar School websites for updates.
  2. If your child is now changing to taking the GL paper – take advantage of the range of practice papers available. Click here for some free GL materials.
  3. Keep working hard both at tuition and at home using our online homework platforms. BOFA is designed to help children taking both the CEM and GL paper. This system will support your child through their journey.
  4. Use your vocabulary booklet, to keep expanding your vocabulary and building upon your antonyms and synonym skills.
  5. Make sure you practice timings both in centre and at home. Both GL and CEM papers are time dependant and your pacing needs to be good to do well.

We know this is a very stressful time for both parents and children. We want you to know that we have always been fully prepared for this eventuality, and we will be doing everything we can to ensure your child is prepared and you are well-informed.

If you have any questions at all please do not hesitate to reach out to our team.

Or if you are reading this and interested in tuition to help your child prepare for the GL 11+ exam in Birmingham, please contact us here.