Common Entrance Examinations (11+, 13+) and the Common Pre-Tests


At BlackStone Tutors, we have a long track record of success helping students to prepare for these examinations and gain entry to top schools such as Eton, Harrow and St Paul’s.

An introduction to ‘Common Entrance’
Common Entrance examinations are set by the Independent Schools Examination Board and are used to assess pupils’ academic ability. Several schools also offer scholarship exams alongside the Common Entrance examinations. These are designed to identify particularly gifted students who are then eligible for a small number of places, which are often offered with reduced fees. Practice and knowledge is key for these exams and BlackStone Tutors offers extensive past paper practice to succeed in these examinations.

Who needs to sit the Common Entrance examinations?
The Common entrance examinations are used by more than 250 senior schools to select pupils from junior schools. Students may be required to sit the common entrance examinations if:

  • A student has been offered a place at a senior school subject to passing the common entrance examination with a specified score.
  • A student has been entered into a ‘trial run’, which is conducted and marked by the respective junior school.

Important considerations

  • Each independent school has their own admissions process with some schools requiring Pre-Testing (further details below) and/or interviews prior to the common entrance examination.
  • Schools require applicants to register their interest between 1 and 5 years prior of entry.
  • At 13+, pupils can apply to one ‘first-choice’ school only; with individual schools setting their own pass marks. Hence, it is vital to select a suitable school. Furthermore, it is this ‘first choice’ school that will mark the student’s exam paper.
  • The common entrance examinations are conducted twice yearly at 11+, in November or January.
  • The common entrance examinations are conducted thrice yearly at 13+, in Autumn (November), Spring (January/February) or Summer (May/June).
  • Different pupils will sit different level papers, with especially bright pupils sitting scholarship examinations.
  • Many schools take the opinion of prep school headteachers into consideration by requesting a ‘Head’s report’, hence it is strongly advisable to discuss secondary school choices with headmasters prior to applications. 

11+ Common Entrance
All students are required to sit two English examinations, one Science and one Mathematics examination respectively. 
English – Students will be required to write a short story or personal description as well as complete a reading paper comprising of a fiction/non-fiction passage followed by tailored questions.
Mathematics – Students can be tested on a range of topics including algebra, analysing data and shapes, and measurments
Science – Commonly tested areas include energy, forces and the solar system.

13+ Common Entrance
All students will be tested on:

  • English
  • Mathematics
  • Science

Additional examinations will depend on the syllabus of each prep school, and can include any of the following:

  • Geography, History, Religious Studies, French, Latin, Spanish, German, Greek

Pre-testing and the Common Pre-Test 
In endeavouring to prevent situations where students are left without a suitable senior school, certain schools such as Eton and Wellington,  introduced a pre-test which is held when a child is either 10 or 11 years old. Subsequently the Independent Schools Examination Board have developed the Common Pre -Tests in order to standardise testing. Important considerations include:

-Subjects include Mathematics, English, Verbal Reasoning and Non-Verbal Reasoning
-The test is multiple choice format and lasts approximately two and a half hours
-The test is conducted online between 1 October and 30 June

Following the Pre-test pupils may be subject to one of three outcomes:

  1. Students may be offered a place at the respective senior school subject to a specified common entrance score, 
  2. Students may be placed on a waiting list 
  3. Students may be deemed unsuitable for the respective school and advised to apply to an alternative senior school

Our process involves:
1) Liaising with parents in order to ascertain the right schools for each child. 
2) We then select a specialist tutor(s) with extensive experience in preparing students for the relevant examinations.
3) The tutor then assesses the child and outlines a plan of action designed to fill in any gaps in their knowledge, build on their strengths and most importantly ensure the child has sufficient exam practice in order to excel in their exams.

Secondary School Entrance Examinations
We also offer advice as well as tutoring services for 11+ entrance exam applicants, with a special focus on Hertfordshire based schools. Our experienced tutors have helped students gain places at the likes of Haberdashers’ Askes (Boys and Girls), Merchant Taylors School, Watford Grammar School (Boys and Girls) and St Helen’s School. A comprehensive Grammar School application process is also offered. For further information, please contact info@blackstonetutors.com

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