The majority of Top UK senior schools will require your child to pass entrance tests as well as be interviewed in order to be considered for admission. As a generalisation these tests would be used by all schools in the top 75% of the league tables which we publish on this site. In the bottom quartile, there are a few non-selective schools which might consider admission on the basis of references from the previous school and recent school reports plus in some cases an interview, either in person or via Skype.
Entrance tests vary by school and age group. For entry at ages 11 and 13, schools commonly use the Common Entrance Test set by the ISEB (https://www.iseb.co.uk/). For 11+ entry children sit tests in Maths, English and Science in the November or January of Year 6. For 13+ entry the Common Entrance tests are taken in January of Year 8 in schools outside the UK or in May at UK prep schools. Children sit exams in all the main curriculum subjects, and the tests are marked by the target senior school. Each senior school sets its own pass mark. – the more selective (academically) the higher the required score. A large number of senior schools now pre-test children in Year 6 (age 10) and offer conditional places which are confirmed after the Common Entrance exam results are known. Not all schools use Common Entrance. Some set their own admissions tests but the standard expected will generally be the same or higher.
At age 16 entry there are different requirements. Most schools will require a minimum of 6 grade Bs at GCSE (or the equivalent)– and some will insist on As in the subjects to be taken at A level. On top of this some schools will set tests in the subjects to be taken in the sixth form, and this includes the IB Diploma Programme.
If you are applying for a scholarship, then there will be separate tests or auditions for those.
Never underestimate the importance or timing of entrance tests. Most will be taken between 6 to 9 months before entry. It is prudent to prepare for them. There are private preparatory schools in the UK which specialise in preparing children to pass the entry exams of chosen senior schools, but even then your child may benefit from additional tuition.
There are a small number of elite schools, where not only is it necessary to apply several years in advance (even up to 5 years ahead), but the pupil may be required to sit “pre-assessment” tests or interviews up to two years before the actual admissions tests. These include schools such as Eton, Harrow, St Paul’s, Westminster, Winchester and Wycombe Abbey. Children can be tutored for these tests – BUT more importantly you should seriously consider having your child assessed to determine if you are targeting appropriate schools. There is little point in stressing a child who is never going to be suited to a high pressure academic environment, when we can find them a far more suitable school.
We use several different firms of tutors who are experienced in admissions test preparation – ask us for details on +44 (0) 1622 813870 or complete an enquiry form.
As we deal with an increasing number of international students, we decided to create our own diagnostic assessments for students: They are tests on maths and English, and give us a good idea of where international students sit in comparison to the required UK levels. The test reports include details on areas that either need to be covered, or need further tuition to prepare for the tests. The tests may be useful if you really want to push and get into the most competitive schools.
Get in touch for more information!