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Common Entrance: What You Need to Know

If you are considering an independent senior school for your child, it is likely that they will need to take Common Entrance exams. These exams assess whether a child reaches a school’s required academic standard, and are set by the Independent Schools Examinations Board (ISEB) in a variety of subjects. There is a universal set of papers and exams are taken on the same date nationwide.

Here is what you need to know about Common Entrance exams:

 Who Takes Common Entrance Exams?

Common Entrance exams are taken by children in Year 6 or Year 8. Many schools use Common Entrance exams in a range of subjects, while others will have Common Entrance exams in the core subjects - English, Maths, Science and a modern language - alongside their own papers.

Not all independent schools use Common Entrance exams; a number of independent schools set their own entrance exams. It is worth double checking with any schools you are considering, to see which exams they use.

 What Does The 11 Common Entrance Involve?

Common Entrance exam papers are closely linked to the national curriculum, usually set at around the level of an average or above average achievement in Key Stage 2 SATs. There are also extension questions designed to stretch the most able pupils.

The tests are taken over two days, with English comprehension and maths on the first day, and English creative writing and science on the second.

 How Does The 13 Common Entrance Differ?

For those children wishing to transfer to senior school at 13 , there are the standard English, Maths and Science papers - but children are usually required to sit Common Entrance exams in a range of other subjects such as a modern language and a humanity.

13 Common Entrance exams are sat across a four-day period, with the exams tending to be longer than at 11 .

It is also important to note that there are different levels for all of these papers, and different schools have different requirements. For example, some schools may require a good mark in a level 3 maths paper - the highest available - whereas others will be satisfied with a pass at level one or two.

 Registering For Common Entrance

If your child is already at a prep school that uses Common Entrance, the school is likely to register them for the exams, and the tests will probably be taken at school.

Those who attend a state school or an independent that does not use Common Entrance will need to be registered online by a parent or guardian. You will also need to arrange for your child to sit the exams at a centre. There is a registration fee, currently £110, for both the 11 and 13 Common Entrance exams.

 How Are Common Entrance Exams Marked?

Completed papers are sent to the child’s prospective school for marking. The Independent Schools Examinations Board does provide a marking scheme but schools are free to mark the papers however they see fit. In the event that a school decides not to admit a pupil, the papers can be sent to another school to be assessed for entry.


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