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Related Pages: - Prep School League Tables - Top London Prep Schools - Top Boarding Prep Schools - Progression to Top Senior - Common Entrance

What is Common Entrance?

The Common Entrance is an exam administered by the Independent Schools Examination Board (ISEB) and is used by about 250 senior schools in the UK to test applicants in their transfer from Prep to Senior school. 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. The syllabus for the Common Entrance exam is based predominantly on the National Curriculum with certain elements not examined due to the papers being sat before the end of the school year. 

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 at the child's prep school and the requirements of the senior school being applied to. Prep schools liaise directly with senior schools about their specific requirements. The core subjects and language papers are also offered at three different levels and each child will be entered for the paper deemed most appropriate for them by the prep school. 


How does the Common Entrance process work?

The Common Entrance exams generally take place at the prep schools. They are supervised by the prep school staff, but sent to the various target senior schools for marking. Senior schools set their own pass marks with the most selective schools often looking for over 70% scores in each paper. 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.

Senior schools will rank order each child's Common Entrance scores and review the Headteacher's report as part of their selection process. Some schools will work entirely on Common Entrance scores and results of other standardised testing that is included in the Headteacher's report. Other schools will pay more attention to the qualities of the whole child and consider what additional extras they can bring to the school community. Results are normally published within two weeks.

If a child is overseas or already in a senior school, the exam is usually taken in January. For children whose first language is not English there are other special arrangements.

What is a Pre-Test?

A Pre-test is an additional test set by certain high performing senior schools to determine a child's suitability up to four years in advance of them starting senior school. For entry to schools such as Winchester, Eton, Tonbridge, or St Paul's (plus others), boys must sit the pre-test just after their tenth birthday. The assessments are mostly designed independently by each school, although some are now offering the ISEB Pre-test. In general they will include both verbal and non-verbal reasoning assessments, as well as English and maths. Most schools require candidates to travel to the target senior school for the assessments which are often accompanied by a short interview. If successful in the pre-test, children are offered places to start at age 13 (Year 9) conditional upon their Common Entrance results.

For advice and guidance on supporting your child, please contact us on +44 (0)1622 813870 or complete our enquiry form. For more information about Common Entrance and to download sample papers go to

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11+, 13+, senior school, ISEB, Pre-test, English, Maths, Non-verbal Reasoning