The CSSE (or Consortium of Selective Schools in Essex) requires you to take two tests, one English and one Maths, for your 11+ exam.
Within this blog we will look at what the English test requires of you and additionally provide some example exam questions to enable a clearer understanding of the types of questions you will be asked on the day. The CSSE website also provides some sample exam papers.
The English test is divided into three main sections: comprehension, applied reasoning and continuous writing. It is up to you how long you spend on each section, however there are advisory time frames given which are there to help you make the most of your time.
The amount of marks that can be awarded for each question will be given in the margins of the test paper. This should also be an indicator for how long you should be spending on each question.
CSSE Essex 11+ English Exam: Section 1: Comprehension
This section requires you to read a passage or an extract of text and subsequently answer a range of questions based upon what you have just read. For the real exam it is recommended that you spend approximately ten minutes reading the extract given and a further thirty minutes answering the related questions. The lines of the text will be numbered in order for you to be able to refer back to them when giving your answers.
The types of questions you will be asked in the comprehension section are designed to test your understanding of the text and the words and themes within it. They will be a combination of both multiple choice and longer, more descriptive questions.
CSSE Essex 11+ English Exam: Section 1: Comprehension: Example Questions
Read the short passage of text below and have a look at the questions that follow:
Mimi sighed audibly as she trudged her way through the grassy, marshy fields. The sky was about as drab and uninspiring as the playlist her father had insisted on listening to throughout the seemingly never ending journey to the event. Why must her family insist on dragging her to these tragically monotonous things. They don’t ever even give her a choice, branding her as ‘anti-social’ if she doesn’t attend every single one.
I’m hardly social when I’m here anyway, she thought, I just plug my headphones in and try desperately to imagine I’m somewhere at least vaguely more compelling with incredibly more enthralling company. Or even on my own for that matter.
She failed to see the point of these strangely optimistic and elated people she saw every time she came to these things; all oddly beaming at each other as they stood there trying to coax a sad, lonely human being into purchasing some decrepit piece of long discarded furniture for the pitiful sum of ninety nine pence.
“One day you’ll understand Mimi”, her mother would say.
“One day you’ll stop being a miserable teenager and realise all the incredible treasures just waiting to be uncovered and appreciate all the wonderful, joyful people to chat to”.
Mimi disagreed. She honestly felt with some contention that no matter how old and dull she became, she would never find the thought of dragging herself through miles of stalls of musty clothes and rusty trinkets thrilling. Did people seriously think it was realistic to find anything of any discernible value at these kind of things?
Her parents would try and excite her by recalling stories of folk who purchased some inconspicuous knick-knack only to find out later on in life that it was worth millions and would instantaneously change their life forever. They would march about the fields, her father whistling to himself joyfully and her mother on an overly optimistic and misguided mission to discover some unbelievable hidden gem.
Please note that extracts of text for the real exam will be somewhat longer and followed by more questions; however this gives you an idea of the style and types of questions you will come across. Bear in mind that you are likely to see a few words you might not be entirely familiar with, but try and interpret the text to the best of your ability.
- (a) Find an example of a SIMILIE in the text.
- List four words from the extract that show Mimi’s negative response towards her surroundings.
- Describe two ways in which Mimi’s parents speak positively about the fair.
- Find one word in the last paragraph that implies that Mimi does not believe that her mother will find anything valuable at the fair.
(b) Describe what this simile means.
CSSE Essex 11+ English Exam: Section 2: Applied Reasoning: Example Questions
It is recommended that you spend ten minutes on this part of the test in the real exam. You will be asked a few different types of ‘verbal reasoning’ type questions, similar to those in the section below.
- Give one letter which completes the end of the first word, and begins the start of the second word. You must use the same letter for both words, for example:
you ( r ) ate pea ( r ) ain – thus forming the words your, rate, pear and rain.
- tim ( ? ) ase sur ( ? ) arl
- car ( ? ) ove lar ( ? ) oor
- sho ( ? ) ord flo ( ? ) alk
- cla ( ? ) ain fli ( ? ) our
- Use the letters within the word mother to make four other new four letter words. You can use the letters in any order you wish.
For example, mote uses the four of the letters within the word mother to form a new word. List four more below:
- Using the same process as in question one, find the one letter which completes the end of the first word and begins the start of the second:
- pivo ( ? ) hese
- year ( ? ) ought
- shre ( ? ) raft
CSSE Essex 11+ English Exam: Section 3: Continuous Writing: Example Questions
You will be given a separate booklet for this part of the test. It is recommended that you spend around 20 minutes completing this section in the real exam. You will be given a couple of tasks and asked to write a number of sentences on a subject or topic in your own words. See the example questions below for an idea of the style of the questions that will be asked in this section.
- Write a description of a woodland scene. Try to make it as imaginative as possible.
- Explain, in your own words, how you would clean your room. Give clear instructions and include as much detail as possible.
For this section of the test the examiners will be looking at the clarity and quality of your writing, your spelling and punctuation and the creativity of your ideas. For this reason, it makes sense to make sure you quickly check through what you have written afterwards to make sure there are no errors or inaccuracies.
CSSE Essex 11+ English Exam: Answers to Example Questions
Section 1: Comprehension
- “The sky was about as drab and uninspiring as the playlist”.
- The weather was bad, grey, overcast etc., similar to the way in which her fathers’ music choices were dull. (Or similar response).
- musty; rusty.
- They believe there are valuable items to be found and speak of people who have made a lot of money from selling on things they have bought at these types of events.
- Her mother talks of the lovely people there are to talk to at the fair.
- accept optimistic.
- ( e ) – forming the words time, ease, sure and earl.
- ( d ) – forming the words card, love, lard and door.
- ( w ) – forming the words show, word, flow and walk.
- ( p ) – forming the words clap, pain, flip and pour.
- ( t ) – forming the words pivot and these.
- ( n ) – forming the words yearn and nought.
- ( d ) – forming the words shred and draft.
Section 2: Applied Reasoning
Section 3: Continuous Writing
Answers are assessed on the creativity and quality of the piece along with the correct and proper usage of punctuation and spelling.
*Please note that these questions are designed to give an idea of the types of questions that will be asked on the CSSE 11+ exam. These example questions do not correlate directly to the number or length of questions you will be required to answer on the real paper.
See our other blog on this topic here: CSSE Essex 11+ (Eleven Plus) – CSSE 2018 Entry – How2Become
Check out our YouTube Video on CSSE Essex 11 Plus English Practice Questions:
11 Plus Creative Writing – Example Topics and Tasks
Schools can of course ask anything so these example tasks shouldn’t be used as stock answers.
Pupils will however find that developing a full description bank of characters, emotions, action, the natural world and the built environment etc will help them to deliver effective and creative descriptions on the day.
Using those description banks within these sample stories will help them to develop their work further and enable them to embed their thoughts so they can deliver properly on the day.
Remember if you are going to tackle any of these sample writing topics and tasks you should always plan to revisit your work a few days after you have done it. As part of the process children who often re-write their work to improve it find they make better progress.
11 Plus creative writing example topics list
The following topics and tasks have come up in either in grammar school or independent school 11 plus writing tests:
Core themes for creative writing topics and tasks:
Many stories have core themes or emotions or feelings within them. When developing your descriptions banks these are useful areas to think about:
Animals – Typically describe your pet or your favourite animal or an animal you are frightened of. Be prepared to be use literary devices like personification or exaggeration or even simple similes to bring your description to life.
Emotions and feelings – Stories often include a requirement to describe emotion like fear, or joy or what it feels like to be lost or alone. They could easily ask you to describe enjoyment through a title like My brilliant day. Sometimes the titles may overtly lead you in a very clear direction. Lost ! and Alone! Are two previous examples that have come up.
Activities you enjoy doing – This is chance to describe the activity itself ( whatever you like from mountaineering to gardening and everything in between) plus how it makes you feel. Again your development of description banks should have helped you.
The natural world – Could be hills or mountains, rivers or streams or lightning or the rain or the feeling of sunshine or how a meadow looks or a field of wheat. Children who cover the natural world in their descriptions development work always find it useful.
The built environment – Think houses or offices blocks or cottages or castles. Roads and bridges, churches and sheds. Developing some thoughts about how to describe the built environment is always useful.
Story titles can be long or short. Here are some examples of story titles which have come up in both Grammar School and Independent School tests.
- The Day Trip
- The Broken Window
- The Abandoned House
- Lost Boy
- The Voice in the Darkness
- The Garden
- Write a story with Alone as the title, where you suddenly realise that you are on your own. It may be a true or entirely made up, but it should include your thoughts and feelings as well as what happened.
- Write a story (true or made up) about a visit you make to some relations of your own.
- Write a letter to a cousin inviting him to stay with you. You should try and interest him in some of the varied and unusual activities he can take part in.
- Describe a situation which you have experienced which might also be called A Magical Moment, showing what your thoughts and feelings are.
- Write a clear description of an animal you know well. Make sure you describe what it does and how it behaves as well as what it looks like.
- I prefer Winter to Spring.
- The door and what was behind it.
- The Prince of Darkness is a Gentleman.
- Ash on an old man’s sleeve.
- My hobby
- Write a story that begins with the words – I had been waiting for such a long time for this to happen.
- Write a description of someone you admire. (You may choose someone you actually know, or someone you have never met. Describe them and explain why you admire them).