- helping parents choose the best private preparatory or pre-preparatory school for their child

Just wanted to say many thanks for all your help with my son. The school did accept him and he is very happy and settled. It would not have been possible without your help for which I am truly grateful. I will definitely recommend my friends and family to you.

Mrs S K

Common Entrance

Administered by the Independent Schools Exam Board

The Common Entrance exam is administered by the Independent Schools Examination Board (ISEB) and is used by about 250 senior schools in the UK to test applicants. Children can take the exam at 11+ or 13+, and it is set three times a year (November and January for 11+ and November, January and June for 13+)

At 11+ the exam consists of English, Maths and Science

At 13+ there are compulsory core papers in English, Maths and Science, plus a range of optional papers in History, Geography, French, Spanish, German, Greek, Latin and RE. Which papers a child takes depends on the curriculum being followed and the senior school being applied to. Prep schools liaise directly with senior schools about their specific requirements.

The 13+ exams are generally taken by children in prep schools in June, and supervised by the prep school, but marked by the senior school. Senior schools set their own pass marks with the most selective schools often looking for over 70% scores in each paper. If a child is overseas or in a senior school the exam is usually taken in January. Results are published within two weeks.

For children whose first language is not English there are special arrangements.

Increasingly a number of senior schools require children in Year 6 or Year 7 to sit “pre-tests” to determine whether they will be eligible for a place in Year 9. If successful in these, children are offered places conditional upon their Common Entrance results.

Alongside the Common Entrance results, prep school head teachers also submit a report to the senior school with details of the child’s general attitude to learning, plus information about any extra-curricular interests or talents and any responsibilities they have had.

For more information about Common Entrance and to download sample papers go to