What is the Common Entrance Exam?

The Common Entrance Exam is used by independent private schools in order to assess boys and girls who wish to move on to a senior school at age 11 or 13.

Exams are decided by the Independent Schools Examinations Board (ISEB), however the papers are marked by the senior school to which the child has applied to enter. Usually they can only take the exam after they have been offered a conditional place at a senior school.

Entrance at age 11 or 13

At 11+ pupils will be tested on compulsory modules – English, Maths and Science – with no other optional assessment. At 13+ they will undergo a more in-depth version of the compulsory modules. The majority of 13+ pupils also sit French, History, Religious Studies and Geography. Optional exams are also available in Latin, Greek, German and Spanish.

More in-depth information about the 13+ can be obtained by contacting your child’s current school. Each senior school will have differing options and levels. Any queries about the specifics should be forwarded to the senior school to which your child is applying. Generally the exams are based on ability and time spent on each subject.

The Common Entrance Exam pass rates vary from school to school, usually from 55% to as high as 70% in some schools. At 11+ parents can enter their children for as many schools as they wish, while at 13+ the exam is taken for one school only. This makes it important for parents to consult with teachers, school heads and their children to decide which school is best for their child.

The Common Entrance Exam was first introduced in 1904 and it is testament to its quality that it is still used by more than 200 of the top independent senior schools when selecting their pupils.

Common Entrance Exam pre-testing

Many private schools now offer pre-testing for 10 and 11 year olds. This is perceived to help with the selection process by preparing children for certain aspects of the Common Entrance Exam years in advance. They test verbal and non-verbal reasoning as well as English and Mathematics. The tests are available online and can be taken all together or at separate times.

The ISEB have introduced a standardised pre-test that candidates can take part in from their own school. Senior schools offer conditional places to children on the basis of the pre-tests. If a child passes the pre-test they will be offered a place on condition that they go on to then pass the Common Entrance Exam.

Ask teachers about exam advice for your child

In some ways, the exam is a life-changing one but it is paramount that you do not panic about it. With a regime of regular exam preparation, time management and additional tutoring, your child will earn top grades and gain a place in their first choice private school. By using revision guides and past papers, you will be setting your child on the path to success. Supplement this with revision questions of your own in the lead-up to the exam and this will help prepare them for the real thing. Getting your child to explain something back to you is a simple but incredibly powerful technique to use during the exam revision period.

It is always worth asking for advice from the people who deal with your child the most. Speak with their current teachers and gauge where their strength and weaknesses lie. You can then figure out what areas to work on and decide what revision your child should focus upon.

Use revision guides and past papers

Revision guides and past papers will add the educational support that your child needs and improvements will be noticeable almost instantly. It will help ease them into the idea of exams and make them familiar with how the questions are shaped and the best way to answer them.

It is wise to buy textbooks which deal exclusively with the Common Entrance exams. The official Independent Schools Education Board revision guides are excellent and will pave the way for your child’s success.You can purchase the ISEB Common Entrance Exam Revision Guides here.

You can get free past papers for 11+ and 13+ Common Entrance Exams by filling in your details below.

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Common Entrance Exam

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