Current Date:May 27, 2024

What are the main differences between CEM and GL 11+ examinations?

Preparing for the 11+ exams is challenging for students, parents, and tutors. Many don’t even know the difference between cem and gl. The 11-plus exams have a series of tricky assessments, and the results decide whether the student secures admission into the top Grammar schools.

The 11-plus exams are different in every region. So, understanding the difference between CEM and gl 11+ examinations is important for students. These tests play a major role in assessing the child’s knowledge and ability to start secondary education at the top Grammar school. 

Every Grammar school in England follows the standard papers prepared by the 11-plus exam boards GL and CEM. Therefore, it’s necessary to prepare for 11 plus exams, and for this students can take part in 11 plus gl mock exams. This blog is going to explain the difference between CEM and gl 11 plus exams.

The GL and CEM Assessments

The GL exam is used in many Grammar schools in England. It was known by the name of NFER, but was purchased by Granada Learning in 2007 and so was rebranded as the GL assessment. 

The CEM assessment was created by the Centre of Evaluation and Monitoring at the University of Durham. It was initially developed because of the rising concern from several Grammar schools that the existing exams had become too transparent and the exam question format meant that children could be taught the skills needed to respond to the test. 

Recently, various schools started to choose the CEM assessment as opposed to the GL assessment. There are 5 main difference between CEM and gl that may affect how you and your child prepare for the 11-plus exam, namely: coachability, the importance of vocabulary, timing, subject differences, and topic differences.

Now let’s learn the difference between CEM and gl 11 plus exams that will help you and your child prepare for exams, you can also take help from 11+ practise papers for better preparation. 

Difference between CEM and gl

A young boy sitting at a table with a pencil in his hand, representing the differences between CEM and GL

Techniques for preparation 

As mentioned above, the CEM is created to be uncoachable. The quesstions which come in the GL test each year come from one bank of 18,000 questions, and therefore their style and format rarely changes from year to year and school to school.

As a result, your child can practise GL assesment-style questions in order to get familiar with this type of exam. The CEM exam requires a more general approach to prepare in the form of revising and growing confidence in a range of topics that may come up which are included in the curriculum. 

The GL and CEM exams are very similar as they have mostly the same topics, and usually follow simple formats such as MCQs. Therefore, preparations for both exams are no different. 


To pass the CEM exam a child needs to learn a broad range of vocabulary that is required for the GL assessment.  This is due to the synonyms, antonyms and cloze tests within the CEM exam’s verbal skills section. 

One of the best ways to prepare your child for this is to make them learn and build up their vocabulary over time, perhaps by teaching them a new word each day from any specially prepared 11 plus vocab list.


CEM exams are very time bound as students are given a set time (6-12 minutes) for each section, and then have to move on to the next part, they also cannot go back and cheque their answers once they are done with the sections. Due to this, students face a challenge to answer every question on the paper. 

Do not be get worried if your child practise paper scores are affected by this as the overall score in the exam itself will be standarised to reflect the difficulty of the paper. However, it is necessary to practise answering questions within the time set by the CEM

Another essential thing for your child is to remember when taking this exam is to skip the questions that they don’t know the answer to and come back again to answer them if they have time left at the end. Do not get stuck, just complete the rest. 

Practising timing is also helpful for those preparing for a GL assessment, although the timings for these aren’t quite as tough and many students are required to complete them within the time.

Subject Differences for CEM and GL 11+ Exam

Gl Assessment 11 Plus

GL and CEM tests are of the same disciplines, there is a slight difference between Cem and gl. GL tests sucjects: Maths, English, Verbal Reasoning and Non verbal reasoning. Meanwhile CEM tests Numerical reasoning, verbal skills and non verbal reasoning/Spatial reasoning. 

English and Maths differences

However these titles may seem a little confusing, to put it simply, CEM’s verbal skills and numerical reasoning typically correspond with GL’s English and arithmetic, however CEM places a greater emphasis on handling data and solving complex arithmetic issues.

Verbal Reasoning and Non-Verbal Reasoning differences

The non-verbal and spatial reasoning sections of the CEM test are similar to those of the GL test; however, not all GL tests ask about spatial thinking. Please enquire with your school to find out if the GL assessment they use is included.

And last, depending on the paper your child is taking, remember that GL’s verbal reasoning, which focuses on assessing logic and sequences, does not have an equivalent in the CEM exam.

Differences in Topics in CEM and GL

Gl Assessment 11 Plus

It is best to prepare holistically because, as mentioned in section 4, the subjects examined in the CEM and GL examinations are substantially comparable. 

There are some distinctions between the actual topics covered by these categories, though. It’s useful to take note of these minor variations so you can determine what your child should concentrate on in order to be ready for their specific exam.

GL-only topics

1. Maths:

Fractions, decimals, percentages, word problems, algebra, probability.

2. English:

More emphasis on finding Spelling, punctuation and grammar (SPAG) mistakes in sentences (although this can occasionally come up in CEM).

Verbal Reasoning: 

Twenty-one themes in all, the majority of which are not utilised by CEM, are possible. 

Non-Verbal / Spatial Reasoning:

Combining shape

Spinning shape

Topic exclusive to CEM

1. Math:
  • A stronger emphasis on managing data, with subquestions concentrating on a single set of data (such as a table or chart). Sometimes GL will ask questions like this, but only as isolated, stand-alone enquiries.
  • lengthier word problems in math
2. English Verbal Skills: 
  • Cloze sections
  • jumbled phrases
  • Cube nets for nonverbal and spatial reasoning


Gl Assessment

Accordingly, we believe that the primary distinction between the GL exam and the CEM exam centres around how each exam defines Verbal Reasoning, which in turn influences how each exam defines English.

As we have stated, this is a very high-level distinction, and the subject matter we are writing about is only the high-level variation. Exam schedules, formats, and other details vary as well.

Now that you know the difference between both of them, it’s time to prepare yourself to earn success in the exams. Good Luck!!


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