CEM Select: Nine Key Things you Need to Know

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1. CEM Select is an online test created by the Centre of Evaluation and Monitoring (CEM), which is a subsidiary of Cambridge Assessment. 


The test is used for entrance assessments into both grammar and independent schools at 11+ (Year 7 entry), 12+ (Year 8 entry) and 13+ (Year 9 entry).


You can view a list of some of the schools that use CEM Select here. If you’re not sure if your child will be taking CEM Select as part of their entrance assessment, get in touch with us here. We will be happy to confirm for you.


Click here to view the CEM Select official familiarisation material. Due to the drag and drop functionality used in some questions, the test can only be taken on laptops or computers, not tablets. We’ve designed our practice tests in the same way so they are as close to the actual exam as possible.


2. CEM Select covers three key main subject areas: Verbal Ability, Non-Verbal Ability and Numerical Ability.


The test is split up into five or six short modules and takes around 1 hour to complete in total. 


  • Three or four of the modules will cover Verbal Ability.
  • One or two of the modules will cover Numerical Ability.
  • One of the modules will cover Non-Verbal Ability.


3. The core Verbal Ability modules are Comprehension and Missing Words. Other possible modules that could come up include Shuffled Sentences, Anagrams, Multiple Meanings, Selected Letters, Letter Connections and Related Words.


4. The Numerical Ability section can consist of one or two modules. If it’s one module, it is called General Maths. If it’s two modules, the content is split into two modules called Arithmetic and Data Problems.


5. The Non-Verbal Ability section has one module called Pictures. In previous years, this has focused exclusively on Matrices questions in the CEM style. 


>> Note that Matrices questions in the CEM style are different to the traditional GL style. Differences include the use of grayscale for pattern forming and the use of Latin squares as potential solutions.


6. CEM Select is extremely time pressured. For example, the Pictures section could have 25 questions to answer in 7 minutes. This is just 16.8 seconds per question!


However, it’s really important you let your child know that, according to CEM, they are not expected to complete the sections and you can skip plenty of questions and still do very well. 


Once your child understands this, they can approach the test with confidence and won’t get stressed out if they run out of time.


>> In our CEM Select Practice Tests, we recommend aiming for 50%+ in each module if you’re targeting 11+ entry, 60%+ in each module if you’re targeting 12+ entry and 70%+ in each module if you’re targeting 13+ entry. These are solid scores that suggest your child is on track to do well in their actual assessment.


7. CEM Select is not an adaptive test. That means the questions don’t get harder as you answer them correctly and there is no negative marking.


It also means your child can skip questions and come back to them later. However, in reality, since the test is so time pressured, it’s unlikely they will have time to come back to questions.


Therefore, since there is no negative marking, we recommend advising your child to make an intelligent guess for every question rather than skipping it. There’s no downside to this approach and significant potential upside in terms of extra marks gained.


>> The key to doing well in CEM Select is to pick up as many marks as possible. Therefore, you never want to spend too long on any one question. This is especially important if your child is a perfectionist and wants to work through every question. 


Even if they know they can get to the correct answer, if it’s going to take too long, it’s better to make an intelligent guess and move on as the opportunity cost is too great. 


The questions don’t get harder as you progress through the test so picking up one mark but taking two minutes to do so is an ill advised approach if it means you miss out on many more marks on easier questions down the line.


This approach is counterintuitive to what children are often taught so it’s worth familiarising them via practice tests so they know what to expect on exam day and how to approach the test to maximise the number of marks scored.


8. CEM Select, the online test, is quite different in many ways from the paper based format of the CEM 11+ Exam that is used by many grammar schools across the country.


CEM Select contains unusual question formats that cannot be found elsewhere. These include drag and drop and word auto completes, where you only need to type the first two letters of a word.


>> We cover all of these unusual formats in our CEM Select practice material, ensuring your child has exposure to all of the possibilities. This means no surprises on exam day and a distinct advantage compared to their peers who have not come across these formats before.


9. If your child qualifies for Access Arrangements, they can take the test with 25% extra time in each module. This can make a significant difference given how time pressured the actual test is. You will need to ensure that you have the right paperwork and permissions in place to qualify for this.


>> We have included a 25% extra time option in all our CEM Select practice material. However, we only recommend you use this option if you are sure your child will qualify for it in the actual test.


You can view a full range of our CEM Select Practice resources below. We have both full practice tests and skill specific modules available. These are the most accurate CEM Select Practice Tests you will find. Note that nothing else comes close to showing you what this challenging assessment is actually like.

Practice Tests

Our CEM Select practice tests are pitched at the same difficulty level but each contains unique content and question types. Therefore, taking multiple practice tests provides an excellent opportunity for your child to implement the feedback they receive as well as ensuring that they are exposed to all of the different question types that could come up in the actual exam.


CEM Select Practice Test 1

CEM Select Practice Test 2

CEM Select Practice Test 3

CEM Select Practice Test 4

CEM Select Practice Test 5

CEM Select Practice Test 6

CEM Select Practice Test 7

CEM Select Practice Test 8

CEM Select Practice Test 9

CEM Select Practice Test 10


Save 30% by purchasing our CEM Select Practice Tests Bundle, including all ten tests. Click the button below to learn more:

CEM Select Practice Tests Bundle

Skill Practice

Skill Practice products consist of focused tests that allow your child to target specific question formats that appear in CEM Select. They are an efficient way to improve key skills and boost scores quickly.


Verbal Ability


CEM Select – Comprehension Pack 1

CEM Select – Comprehension Pack 2

CEM Select – Missing Words Pack 1

CEM Select – Missing Words Pack 2

CEM Select – Related Words

CEM Select – Anagrams

CEM Select – Shuffled Sentences

CEM Select – Letter Connections

CEM Select – Multiple Meanings

CEM Select – Selected Letters


Non-Verbal Ability


CEM Select – Pictures


Numerical Ability


CEM Select – Arithmetic

CEM Select – Data Problems


Save 30% by purchasing our CEM Select Skill Practice Bundle, including all eight products. Click the button below to learn more:

CEM Select Skill Practice Bundle



Don’t forget to use the discount code ppdiscount at checkout to get 10% off orders over £80 and 20% off orders over £200.



If you have any questions about CEM Select, or any other assessment, feel free to contact us. We are always happy to help and advise.

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