How to Prepare for Grammar Schools in Essex – CSSE 11+ Exam:

Posted: 26th January 2023

students exploring technology

Admission to Essex grammar schools relies on the pupil’s performance in the CSSE 11+ exam.  In this article, you will learn about the CSSE 11+ exam and how we prepare students to enter grammar schools in Essex.

Most Essex and Southend grammar school admissions are managed by the Consortium of Selective Schools in Essex (CSSE), including Colchester County High School for Girls and Colchester Royal Grammar School.  The schools have one common selection test except for Chelmsford County High School for Girls, who, since 2013, have their tests. All selective places are awarded based on a pupil’s ability, as defined by their test score.  Beyond that, places are allocated according to the criteria of the individual schools, which can be found on their websites.

All schools assess English, maths, Verbal and Non-Verbal reasoning but in different ways. 

CSSE 11+ Exam 

The CSSE 11 plus test consists of two papers, each one hour long and are generally aligned with Key Stage 2 Level 5 English and maths skills and knowledge.  They are also similar to the type of entry tests set by independent schools. 

English Paper

There is not a stand alone Verbal Reasoning paper, but the English paper will incorporate an element of verbal reasoning. The paper comprises of:

  • Comprehension, grammar and vocabulary questions
  • Two pieces of creative writing
  • Applied reasoning (literacy/verbal)

Maths Paper

  • Questions consistent with KS2 National Curriculum
  • Applied reasoning (maths/non-verbal reasoning)

Chelmsford County High School for Girls

This school uses CEM test comprises of two 60 minute papers, each one comprising a mixture of questions testing: verbal ability, numerical reasoning, non-verbal reasoning.

The first 80% of places will be allocated in order of rank by the academic score to girls living within 12.5 miles radius of the school. The next 20% of places will be allocated from the ranked list irrespective of distance.

Preparation at Holmwood

At Holmwood House, we prepare children for 11+ verbal and non verbal reasoning tests by placing an emphasis on study skills, excellent literacy and an aspirational environment. We offer specialist teaching in all subjects which exposes children to a wide range of language, extends their vocabulary and develops their problem solving skills. There is an 11+ club run by both of our English and Maths teams. 

We also have an online AI based platform (Century Tech) where the pupils can practise the skills in preparation for all of the tests listed above. This platform includes teaching videos and slideshows, as well as a large number of nuggets or tests for 11+ in English, Maths, Non-Verbal and Verbal Reasoning. Pupils can tackle these at their own speed at home. 

Arrange a visit

To find out more about our curriculum at Holmwood House, why not book a personalised tour of the school.  To book a visit, please contact our Admissions Registrar at

Categories: News Category 1


Holmwood House Nursery

151 Coach Road, Great Horkesley,
Essex CO6 4DX
T: (01206) 273 827


Holmwood House School

Chitts Hill, Lexden,
Essex CO3 9ST
T: (01206) 574305