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11 Plus English Paper

The English 11 Plus sample paper with full exemplar responses to the comprehension and writing task - all of our English 11 plus practice tests are complete with these. The full syllabus describing what our 11 Plus English papers contain is linked to on this page.

11 Plus Comprehension

Carefully read the passage below and answer ALL of the questions which follow.

The Interrogation: A Short Story

     The door flew open and harsh artificial light flooded the tiny room. Bob squinted, attempting to defend himself from the accursed light and struggling to make out who, or what, had assaulted his senses. Two amorphous masses lingered in the brightly lit threshold for a second, then entered the room and locked the door behind them.

     Fear and uncertainty gripped Bob. As the shapes drew closer, he realised that he was not going to enjoy what was coming. He attempted to stand up, to meet the black shapes head-on, but the closer of the two forms shoved him violently back into his chair.

     Now Bob got a good look at the first intruder. The dark blob materialised into a tall, bulky man, his thick-rim glasses clinging to his head like moss to a cliffside. His angry grey eyes bore holes into the timid office worker’s skull. Stomping around the desk toward Bob, he spoke, his voice imbued with the bass of a rockslide and the pride of a lion.

     “What is the problem?”

     Bob didn’t understand. What was this idiot going on about? “I don’t know what you are talking...”

     The motion was so quick that Bob didn’t even have time to comprehend what was about to happen. One moment, the bulky man had been standing completely still, and the next Bob’s left cheek was stinging, red from the vicious slap that had been applied. The office worker was stunned. Had the goon even moved?

     The man spoke again. “What is the problem?”

     “Ow! What the hell was that for? I swear, I don’t know what’s going on!”

     The second shape that had entered the room now calmly slid forward, materialising into a rail-thin woman with shoulder-length red hair flecked with blond streaks. She calmly strode to the opposite side of the desk from the brute and sat primly on the corner of it, right hand smoothing out the creases of her skirt as she did so, her left arm clutching a yellow notepad to her chest. Bob had to turn his chair in order to see her, but she did not turn toward him, her hair obscuring her face.

     Then, after what seemed like ages, she spoke, her voice a melodious whisper: “Look, Bob, you’re a nice guy, but we can’t do our job without you telling us what exactly the problem is, okay? So just help us out, and we can let you go.”

     “Let me go? This is MY office!”

     The redhead slowly nodded, then turned to look at the person whose office they had invaded. Her rich green eyes, too dark and vivid to be natural, found their purchase and burned themselves into Bob’s memory. “Oh, we know. And yet, we can’t let you leave, not until you give us what we want. We’re on a schedule here, Bob, and you’re holding us up. We need you to tell us what the problem is. Otherwise we can’t do our jobs.”

     Bob was incensed. “Clearly you guys don’t listen well. I already told you: I have no idea what you are talking about.”

     The woman’s expression hardened, her silvery voice adopting a slight but noticeable edge. “My partner has already asked you once, and quite politely. Please don’t make him repeat himself.”

     Bob stole a glance at the man, who was now towering over him from across the desk, and desperately racked his mind for something, anything, he could tell these two goons to make them leave him alone. He came up blank. “What, about the problem? What problem?”

     The man stepped forward, as if to strike Bob again, but the woman held up her hand and he stopped. She sighed, and gracefully stood next to the corner of the desk. Even though when standing she was several inches shorter than he, at the moment, while sitting in his chair, Bob felt dwarfed by her presence.

Written by Matthew P Jones for Exception Not Found / CC 4.0

END OF ARTICLE. Please answer the following questions:


Sample 11 Plus Question 1: Bob “squinted” in paragraph 1. Why did he do this? (2)

Exemplar Answer: Bob squinted because the ‘door flew open and harsh artificial light flooded the tiny room.’ (1) By ‘harsh artificial light’ the author means that the room all of a sudden would be too bright and so Bob squinted to ‘defend himself from the accursed light.’ (1)

Tips: The first question will often be easier, and so in many cases the answer will be clear. If you do not know what the word means, then your best bet is to search for clues in the text! Bob's action of squinting follows the statement that 'harsh artificial light flooded the tiny room', and so we can assume that the squinting is a response to this light. In other cases, we can use other language clues to point us in the correct direction - for example, the word may be given as part of a list, and we can think about what kind of word would fit into this list. Sometimes the word may sound like the action which it conveys (eg. whooshing, whirring, sizzling) and this can be used to figure out the context in which it is being used. Always look at the number of marks on offer before you move on to the next question. Here there are two, with the second being for explaining why the brightness causes him to squint. Even if something seems obvious and well explained, you should write it down as there may well be an easy mark up for you to grab!


Sample 11 Plus Question 2: Which of the following words is least similar in meaning to “gracefully” (paragraph 16)? (1)

a) Elegantly

b) Stylishly

c) Technically

d) Delicately

Exemplar Answer: c) Technically. (1) ‘Elegantly’, ‘stylishly’ and ‘delicately’ are all synonyms of ‘gracefully’ as each of these words indicates beauty of form in performance.

Tips: When attempting a question like this, make sure that you look at each and every option before settling on an answer. Doing so here may prevent you from making the mistake of missing 'least similar' and instead picking a word that is 'similar', of which there are three. If you are stuck, a good trick is to try and replace the word in the text with each of the options (in your head), and see which changes the meaning of the text the most.


Sample 11 Plus Question 3: Comment on the use and effect of the word “assaulted” (paragraph 1). (2)

Exemplar Answer: The word ‘assaulted’ is a vividly violent, highly negative word which is commonly used to refer to physical attack. (1) As such the use of this word shocks the reader and helps us understand how striking and startling this light was, counteracting typical initial assumptions of light being harmless. (1)
(1 mark for any analysis of the word ‘assaulted’ which supports a negative tone. 1 mark for an appropriate comment on how this affects the reader. Max 2 marks in total.)

Tips: This question calls on your deep analytical skills. When analysing a word or a phrase, there are several questions you must ask yourself. Is the word/phrase positive language or negative language? Is it vivid or dull? Is it normally used in that context or is it a bit of an unusual choice? Has it been used before in the text, or have any of its synonyms been used? Does it fit into the theme of the passage? Does it contrast a word nearby it? Does it rhyme with a nearby word? Are the sentences in the text short or long, and what effect does this have? Is this word/phrase at a key turning point in the story? You can keep going...

On answering questions like this, we can break down what the word or phrase does. Here, the word 'assaulted' is highly negative language. It is vividly aggressive, it is out of place in this context as it normally refers to a fight, it fits in with similar nearby 'fighting' vocabulary such as the word 'struggling' and so fits in with how the passage is developing. It does not contrast or rhyme with any nearby words and the sentences are of normal length. Overall, there are several things different to normal which makes the reader anxious and wary, and sets the tone for what is about to come.


Sample 11 Plus Question 4: What do you think the word “primly” (paragraph 9) means? (1)

Exemplar Answer: Given the woman being described as ‘rail-thin,’ acting ‘calmly’ and how this is evidently meant to contrast with ‘the brute’, we might assume that primly means any of the following: elegant, correct, proper, polite, formal etc. (1)
(Accept any word or statement that suggests behaviour in a trained, proper manner)

Tips: You may not have a clue what the word means - in fact this question is quite difficult and you would not be expected to know the definition. However, there are plenty of contextual clues to help you figure out what is meant. You should look at the nearby choice of descriptive words, whether the tone of the conversation is generally positive or negative, whether the pace is fast or slow and see what kind of environment the author is trying to create. Based on this, it should be possible to work out that the lady is being described as corporate, well-dressed and organised, and as such the suggestions above are consistent with the setting.


Sample 11 Plus Question 5: Re-read paragraph 3. Pick one simile and one metaphor from these lines and describe its effect. (4)

Exemplar Answer: Simile: ‘thick-rim glasses clinging to his head like moss to a cliffside’. (1) The detailed imagery here allows us to picture just how firmly rooted the man’s glasses were to his face, and makes them a part of his identity, since the reader can visualise how tightly attached moss is to rock. (1)
Metaphor: ‘His angry grey eyes bore holes into the timid office worker’s skull’. (1) This vivid imagery highlights how piercing and menacing the man’s stare was, to have such an effect as to appear to drill holes into Bob’s skull. (1) OR ‘with the base of a rockslide’ (1) which again uses imagery of vast numbers of rocks tumbling to allow us to picture his rumbling sound being generated. (1) OR ‘with the pride of a lion’ (1) which uses the comparison of his voice to that of a strong, majestic animal to allow us to appreciate the strength in his speech. (1) Interestingly a group of lions is called ‘a pride’ and so the author may be using double-entendre (i.e. making a pun) to put even more character and strength into the man’s voice. (1)
(1 mark for identifying the simile. 1 mark for appropriate corresponding analysis as to the effect that it has. 1 mark for identifying a metaphor. 1 mark for appropriate corresponding analysis as to the effect that it has. Max 4 marks in total.)

Tips: First of all, make sure that you know what a simile is, and what a metaphor are! A simile is when one thing is compared to another and therefore put into context - for example, 'as white as snow'. A metaphor is when a word or a phrase are used in a context where it is not literally applicable, in order to indicate similarity between the two ideas - for example, 'her eyes were sparkling diamonds'. Be careful as it is easy to confuse them - for instance, 'her eyes were as sparkly as diamonds' is a simile not a metaphor. When using similes or metaphors you can always comment on how they put the described thing into a real life context and help the reader better understand it, by drawing a comparison to objects or phenomena that the reader is more familiar with.


Sample 11 Plus Question 6: Re-read paragraphs 1-3. How do you think Bob feels here? Use quotations to support your answer. (4)

Exemplar Answer: Bob was confused and disoriented, as he was ‘struggling to make out who, or what had assaulted his senses’. (1) Bob was afraid, as he was gripped by ‘fear and uncertainty’. (1) Bob felt as if he was in danger, shown when he was ‘attempting to defend himself from the accursed light’. (1) This is further reinforced when Bob realised that ‘he was not going to enjoy what was coming,’ as he is full of dread as to what may be in store for him. (1) His fear is further evident by his vigilance - for example he is portrayed to be looking for ‘a good look at the first intruder.’ (1)
(1 mark for each description of how Bob may feel that is supported by a suitable quotation, adjective or piece of analysis of the text. Max 4 marks in total.)

Tips: When a question asks you to use quotations, you should assume that for each factual point you can earn 1 mark and for each supportive quotation you can earn 1 mark. In this context, you should never make a point without justifying it with information from the text. The question here makes you put yourself in the shoes of one of the character, and you should submerse yourself in the story. Think how you would feel if you were in Bob's position. Try and identify exact adjectives or descriptions that describe the person's state - here these are 'fear and uncertainty' to pick up the easy marks. Beyond this, marks wil be awarded for analysis of language - for instance the aggression in the word 'assaulted' and panic in the word 'struggling'. You can also pick up marks for analysing sentence structure - if you think that the sentences are particularly long or short, they can disrupt the flow of the text and add to the panic. If you are struggling to find things to say, a point that is often applicable at turning points in plots is that the language becomes more vivid to make the reader feel as if they are in the same environment as the character.

Sample 11 Plus Question 7: Re-read paragraph 6. Comment on the way this paragraph is written. How does it mimic Bob’s own experience of the events which it describes? (3)

11 Plus Exemplar Essay Answer: These lines are written in an unusual way. They describe Bob’s sensations before they describe the slap itself – we are only told about what has happened towards the end of the paragraph. (1) This means that at first the reader is confused as to what is happening, which is much like the confusion and startle that Bob would have been experiencing while this was occurring. (1) The author focuses on the timing and the stinging sensation on Bob’s cheek when the reveal occurs (1) which draws attention to the power of the slap and the confusion it caused. (1) The use of short sentences at the end of the paragraph (1) further creates a tense, stunned atmosphere as it throws the reader off. (1) A rhetorical question is used at the very end (1) which conveys Bob’s confusion by changing the tone to an inquisitive one. (1)
(Max 2 marks for commentary on the sentence structure, sentence order, choice of vocabulary or any other appropriate features of how this paragraph is written. Max 2 marks for appropriate corresponding analysis of how each mimics Bob’s experience of the events. Max 3 marks in total.)

Tips: When you are specifically asked to comment on the writing style, you should make a system for how you analyse the text. Answer the following points in your order of choice: Are the sentences particularly long or short? Is the order of the text normal? Is the language used normal, or is it particularly positive, negative, colourful or dull? Does the author use rhetorical questions? Are there lots of unusual punctuation tools used? Is the paragraphing normal? Is there lots of conversation from characters? Does the language contrast the paragraphs before or after in any way? There are several more such questions which you should ask yourself, and keep a note of what is interesting. When you make your points for each of these, you must add analyse what the aspect of the writing style that you have commented on actually does. For instance, if you state that the author uses lots of rhetorical questions all of a sudden, you must then go on to explain that this could demonstrate that the character is questioning a lot of things, and so could be confused.


Sample 11 Plus Question 8: What comparisons are made between the two intruders? Use quotations to illustrate your point. (4)

Exemplar Answer: Where one interrogator is described to ‘stomp around the desk’, the other is said to have ‘calmly strode to the opposite side of the desk’. (1) The difference in language used to describe the way each character walks highlights differences in their attitude, with one being much violent and the other being much more graceful. (1) The voice of the larger character was ‘imbued with the bass of a rock slide and the pride of a lion’, whereas that of the lady was ‘a melodious whisper’. (1) Whereas the larger character is loud, the lady is made to seem as if her speech is a soft and quiet. (1) Other comparisons to be drawn could relate to build, a ‘dark blob materialised into tall bulky man’ compared to the ‘rail-thin woman’. (1) Finally, the actions of the two characters varies in aggression, with ‘the bulky man’ who ‘delivered a vicious slap’ contrasting the gentle woman who ‘was smoothing out the creases of her skirt’. (1)
(Max 2 marks for any valid comparisons made between the two intruders. Max 2 marks for appropriate corresponding quotations supporting these comparisons. Max 4 marks in total.)

11 Plus Tips: The most common error on questions like this is not following the question directly. You should not write one paragraph about one intruder followed by another paragraph about the other - do not assume that the examiner knows what you are comparing. You must put the exact comparisons for each character side by side to earn each mark, and there is often 1 mark for quotations showing the comparisons, and 1 mark for the analysis of what is being compared. You should not hesitate to state the obvious - while one interrogator is seen to 'stomp around the desk' and the other is said to have 'calmly strode to the opposite side', you must directly state that one is moving aggressively and the other peacefully. Finally, you should remember that 'comparisons' can be differences or similarities, whereas 'contrasts' means that you are only searching for differences.

11 Plus Writing Task

Sample Question: Create a piece of descriptive writing about an abandoned mansion, describing the mansion in detail. (20)

11 Plus Exemplar Response:

     The abandoned mansion loomed gloomily at the top of the hill. I had walked past it every day for almost two years on my way to school, but the boredom of these long summer months compelled me to finally visit it. I approached it tentatively, appreciating how it must have been truly majestic in its prime. Two cracked marble columns framed the grand, mahogany door like a picture frame. I uncertainly placed my trembling palm on the large brass doorknob that was firmly embedded into the centre of the imposing door, and gave a strong push. The door gave way, revealing what lay behind it.

     Ahead of me lay a grandiose, spiral staircase in the centre of the entrance hall. Ivy had entwined itself into the banister and delicate metal detailing on the staircase. I treaded softly along the cracked, grey marble floor that was probably once white. The rubber soles of my shoes made no noise as I negotiated the rubble strewn across the ground, tiptoeing quietly so as to not be heard. On either side of the high-ceilinged entrance hall were stained-glass windows; despite being covered in a thick blanket of dust, I could still appreciate the deep reds, blue and green light that filtered through the glass.

     I walked past the staircase rather than up it, due to the fact that many stairs had now been replaced by emptiness, and to go up it would probably be too treacherous. Through a door on my left I saw what clearly used to be a cinema room. Two velvet curtains clung desperately to the ceiling on either side of the screen, and the maroon-coloured leather reclining chairs were full of wrinkles. I walked further on, and reached the kitchen. A kitchen island with a porcelain sink stood in the middle of what was obviously a family kitchen. Idyllic pictures of a family long forgotten occupied every spare space in the kitchen. The cupboards were fully stocked with glasses, plates, bowls and cutlery. The dining table was fully set, as if dinner was about to be served. The entire mansion appeared to be frozen in time, making me wonder what forced this family to leave their lavish home so suddenly. Walking past the abandoned mansion now no longer filled me with fear as it used to, but with a profound sadness.


There are five core elements to ensuring that you produce a strong piece in the 11 plus exam: planning, timing, grammar, language and paragraphing. 

Planning: It is important to shape your piece with a strong plan before you start writing - you should spend about 20% of your time on this stage. Aim for 3-4 paragraphs, and write down your core plot points, the plot twists that you may bring in, and work on a strong opening line. Ensure that you organise your writing well as there is nothing worse than misinterpreting the brilliant things that you have already put to paper! Always hand your plan in with your essay, as often the examiners give credit for it, especially if you do not finish your piece.

Timing: One of the biggest errors that 11 plus candidates make is spending too long on the opening paragraph and rushing through the rest without thought. While you should put a slight focus of time on the introduction and conclusion, since these are the first and last things respectively that the examiners read, you should by no means rush the middle as this contains the body of your plot points.

Grammar: Quality, not quantity! It may be hard to believe, but it really is far more important that what you write is of the best quality that you can produce rather than being as much as possible. There are lots of points at stake for grammar, so make sure that you know how to use commas, colons, semi-colons, capital letters and punctuation marks, and that you know how to introduce and close speech. If you are in doubt over using a particular grammatical tool in the actual exam, then you may well be best off simplifying your writing to avoid using it.

Language: It is important to use a diverse and colourful array of language in the 11+. Make sure that you touch up on your vocabulary regularly, and that you have a good understanding of interesting new words before you use them. Similes, metaphors, rhetorical questions, 'rules of three' and other linguistic tools look very good, so try and slip these into your writing if you are able to.

Paragraphing: This is surprisingly simple, yet so many candidates get it wrong! You should paragraph when: changing topic or introducing a new idea, putting opposing ideas next to each other for contrast, a character is beginning to speak, a paragraph is too long and you have found an excuse to split it up. Typically the first and last paragraphs are 3-4 lines long, and the middle ones are 5-8 lines long. These rules are not hard-and-fast, - you should adapt them around your plot, not the other way round. Remember to indent at the start of a new paragraph!

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