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 that we publish on our websites. 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.
In preparatory schools, it is becoming increasingly common to test children in English and Maths if they are older than 7 at entry. Under age 7 the school will often interview them instead and invite them for a taster half day, during which their interaction with staff and other children can be observed. For boarding preps an overnight stay is often recommended.
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 (Year 7) children sit tests in Maths, English and Science in the November or January of Year 6. For 13+ entry (Year 9) 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. For children who have been educated outside the UK and/or not prepared for Common Entrance, schools will sometimes use their own tests.
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, there will be separate tests or auditions.
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. We do not supply tutors ourselves, but we have relationships with more than 4 of the biggest tutorial companies in the UK.
As admissions get increasingly tougher from age 10+ we recommend parents commission one or more of our assessments. These measure a child’s progress in the core test areas of English, Maths and Non Verbal Reasoning. These assessments are not admissions tests per se, but they do score the child’s ability and likely chances of passing the tests set by individual schools. Just as importantly they give the parent a list of areas of weakness so that remedial tuition can take place to fill in gaps, where the child might not have been taught parts of the UK curriculum.
A number of UK boarding schools now request potential applicants to take the UKiset test which is an online test of Verbal, Mathematical and Non-Verbal reasoning plus and English test. Results are standardised and scores provided directly to target schools. In our experience, whilst it provides useful benchmark scores to schools, the UKiset test is of limited value in assessing a child’s strengths and weaknesses and we therefore recommend that your child takes our own assessments which provide a much fuller picture as well as recommendations for additional tuition. Further information about the UKiset test can be found here https://www.ukiset.com/.
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 2-3 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 the form at http://www.best-schools.co.uk/expert-advice-advice-enquiry-form/