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ISEB 11+ Common Entrance Examination: Everything you need to know in as few words as possible...

Navigating the Entrance Examination process can be daunting for both parents and children. Different exam boards often test different subjects, schools often have varied admissions procedures and the dates for testing can vary depending on where you are and who you are taking a test under. There is a lot of information online, which is both a blessing and a curse, as it can be hard to get to the most relevant information. We will try and cut through some of the noise by providing clear and concise information in a series of posts, each focused on a specific topic. Today, we focus on the ISEB, commonly known as the 'Common Pre-Test'.


When do you take them and what are you tested on? (Source: ISEB)

They are usually taken when a pupil is in Year 6 or Year 7 (usually Year 6) and include four tests; Mathematics, English (reading comprehension and grammar), Verbal Reasoning and Non-Verbal Reasoning. The four tests can be taken together or at separate times, either in the pupils’ ow



n school or at the senior school they are applying to. The standard test time for the four tests is 2 hours 15 minutes.


The results are shared between schools, meaning a pupil only has to sit the test once, even if they are applying for multiple schools. However, children can only sit the tests once in any academic year.


What do the tests look like?

They are online, computer based. The four tests are adaptive and multiple-choice. You can take all four at once or at separate times, either in your child’s own school, or at the senior school to which they have applied. Below is the standard test length for each subject:

  • English: 40 minutes.

  • Mathematics: 40 minutes.

  • Non-Verbal Reasoning: 30 minutes.

  • Verbal Reasoning: 25 minutes


What does an 'adaptive test' mean?

The system assesses the pupil’s ability after each response and selects the next question to have the most appropriate level of difficulty (you can not go back to previous questions).


What are pupils being tested on in each subject?

The Mathematics and English tests are broadly based on the National Curriculum (covering topics up to the end of Year 5).


English: assesses two distinct areas of knowledge: Reading Comprehension and Grammar.


Maths: Number and place value calculations (addition, subtraction, multiplication, division)/ Fractions, decimals and percentages/ Measurement/ Geometry/ Statistics.


Verbal Reasoning: Assesses logic, comprehension and reasoning. Identifies: Problem solving techniques/ Trial and error skills/ Working logically/ Recognising suitable solutions.


Non-Verbal Reasoning: contains two types of questions:

1) Non-Verbal Reasoning – Analyse 2D figures and diagrams to look for patterns (similarities and differences, completing the diagram, code matching).

2) Spatial Reasoning – Manipulate 3D figures and diagrams to visualise them in a different way.


Essential links:







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