Introduction To The ISEB Common Pre-Tests

The Independent Schools Examination Board (ISEB) Common Pre-Tests are standardised measures of ability and attainment taken when pupils are in Year 6 or occasionally in Year 7. They can only be taken once in any academic year. The senior schools to which pupils apply register pupils for the ISEB Common Pre-Tests.

The adaptive tests are created for ISEB by GL assessment. Adaptive testing means the questions change depending on how challenging an individual child finds them.

The ISEB Common Pre-Tests are computerised tests which comprise of four multiple choice assessments: English, maths, verbal reasoning and non-verbal reasoning.

The time allowed for each test is as follows:

  • English | 25 minutes
  • maths | 50 minutes
  • Verbal Reasoning | 36 minutes &
  • Non-Verbal Reasoning | 32 minutes

Each test begins with a set of written instructions. There is no audio component. Every question must be answered and pupils cannot go back to previous questions.

Each test contains a timer at the top of the screen that indicates how much time pupils have left. A progress bar at the bottom of the screen tells pupils how many questions they have answered.

Pupils may use pen and paper in the maths test for working out. No other test requires or allows additional materials. Each assessment, with the exception of English, contains examples and practice questions.

The Pre-Tests Broken Down

The English Test

The English test consists of three parts: 1) comprehension 2) sentence completion 3) spelling and punctuation.

The comprehension section consists of roughly 15 multiple choice questions. These questions test understanding of a passage, knowledge of vocabulary and the meaning of certain phrases. Some questions will involve finding a particular set of lines from the text. The sentence completion and the spelling and punctuation sections each contain roughly 7-8 questions.

The maths test

The maths test consists of the following topics: place value up to 1,000,000; rounding; four operations; word problems with whole, decimal and negative numbers; long multiplication and long division using factors; number properties: even, odd, consecutive, prime, square and cube numbers; multiples and factors, pairs of factors, prime factors, common factors and LCM; conversion of fractions, decimals and percentages with associated word problems; fractions; percentages of amounts and writing a quantity as a percentage of another quantity; ratios; time word problems, interpreting times tables; perimeter and area of squares, rectangles, triangles; angle laws, angles on a clock and on a compass; properties of 2D and 3D shapes; surface area and volume of cuboids; transformations: translations, reflections and rotations; metric conversion (length, weight and capacity); averages; data handling: bar charts, frequency tables and line graphs; probability using terms and fractions; forming linear equations to solve simple word problems; sequences, including finding the nth term of an arithmetic sequence; order of operations (BIDMAS); calculation by comparison; speed - distance - Time.

The Verbal Reasoning Test

The verbal reasoning test lasts for 36 minutes and tests a pupil's ability to understand what they have read and apply key reasoning skills.

The Non-Verbal Reasoning Test

The non-verbal reasoning test lasts for 32 minutes and is designed to assess a pupil's ability to analyse visual information (pictures, diagrams and shapes) and to solve problems using visual reasoning.


The ISEB Common Pre-Tests are rooted in the Key Stage 2 national curriculum and therefore can and should be prepared for.

Atom Learning is an AI-driven, online learning and mock test platform which exactly mirrors the real Pre-Tests, comprehensively preparing pupils for the ISEB Common Pre-Tests.

Atom Learning achieves this through:

  • Personalised learning: Atom is the first truly adaptive learning platform that constantly assesses the optimal learning path for a pupil based on their current ability level, the schools they want to attend and the date of their exams, to ensure that they use their time as efficiently as possible and remain in control of the process from the outset and throughout.
  • Data-driven teaching: Atom's AI pinpoints gaps in knowledge with greater precision than any teacher could, in order to focus on the areas that will most improve a pupil's results.
  • Precision reporting: We track every mouse click to give parents unprecedented insight into how their child learns, a detailed breakdown of their child’s current ability as well as information about areas for improvement.
  • Unlimited resources: Atom provides unlimited practice questions and adaptive mock tests, over 400 videos and text based resources produced by experienced, qualified teachers and education experts.


Each pupil receives an age-standardised score (SAS) per subject based on their performance in the test. The SAS takes into account a pupil’s age when grading, meaning that an older pupil could perform better in the test than a younger pupil but still receive a lower SAS overall.

The ISEB Common Pre-Tests' results are available to the senior schools that use the test, but are not shared with parents or prep schools. Senior schools also receive individual stanines (scores based on a scale out of nine), percentile ranks, group scores and a mean SAS (the mean of the four subject SAS scores).

Each senior school decides how it uses the pupils' results. The selective senior schools use them to discern which pupils to interview and/or assess again according to their own methods and criteria.

Schools That Subscribe To The ISEB Common Pre-Tests

Bedford SchoolBradfield CollegeBrighton CollegeCaterham School
CharterhouseCheltenham CollegeCity of London SchoolDauntsey's School
Easton Square Upper SchoolEton CollegeHarrow SchoolHeadington School
Hurstpierpoint CollegeMarlborough CollegeMonkton Combe SchoolMount Kelly College
Northfields Int. High SchoolPalmers Green High SchoolRadley CollegeReddam House School
St Paul's SchoolSt Swithun's SchoolStowe SchoolUniversity College School
Wellington CollegeWestminster SchoolWetherby Senior SchoolWorth School

The 11+ London Consortium

The 11+ London Consortium represents a group of independent schools in London that have agreed to use the same admissions procedure for entrance into Year 7.

Parents and pupils often apply to more than one of the schools in this group, so managing applicants together makes the admissions process fairer and more efficient. All schools in the group set the same entrance exams with the same mark schemes and then share the results with each other. This means that pupils have to sit fewer exams and have more flexibility over where they sit them. It also means pupils can be matched more effectively to the schools that best fit their academic profile.

This group used to be known as the North London Girl's School Consortium, but changed its name after incorporating more schools into one group and developing a new cognitive ability test. The schools that currently make up the 11+ London Consortium are:

  • Channing School
  • Francis Holland School, Regent's Park
  • Francis Holland School, Sloane Square
  • Godolphin and Latymer
  • More House School
  • Northwood College for Girls
  • Notting Hill and Ealing High School
  • Queen's College London
  • South Hampstead High School
  • St Helen's School London
  • St James Senior Girls' School

The Admissions Process

Open events — throughout the year

Open events are held throughout the year to allow parents and pupils to visit schools and help them decide where to apply. It is important to use these opportunities to decide which schools will best suit your daughter. You should ring each school early in the Autumn Term for the dates and times of Open Days.

Registration — by November of Year 6

You start the applications process by requesting an Application Form directly from the school for which you wish your daughter to be considered. If applying to more than one school, you will need to complete a separate application form for each one. Any schools applied for will then process your application and send you further information regarding the next steps. Registration closes in November.

If you have applied to more than one school in the London 11+ Consortium, you can state a preference for the school in which you wish to take the exam, giving a second or third choice if applicable. Depending on space, a candidate may be asked to sit the exam in a school which is not her first choice, but this will have no bearing on how the application is considered; the result of the test will be shared with all schools to which the candidate has applied and the location of the test will not affect her chances of success at other schools.

Reference — by January of Year 6

The candidate's junior school will need to provide a reference before the entrance examination. Each of the London 11+ Consortium schools to which you have applied for will ask for an individual reference. They will seek detailed information on the candidate's current academic level and performance as well as more general information on character and attitude towards learning.

The Cognitive Abilities test — held in January of Year 6 — (11th January 2019)

From 2019 entrance onwards, the separate maths and English 11+ tests will be replaced with one Cognitive Abilities test. This is an effort to reduce pressure on pupils and combat intensive preparation techniques. It is taken in person at a Consortium school. Please see below for details.

Interview — held January–February of Year 6

In addition to the Cognitive Abilities test, candidates will also be asked to interview at each Consortium school to which they have applied. Each Consortium school decides their interview format and interview date separately. Minimal information will be provided in order to ensure equal opportunity, but interviews will generally test problem-solving, critical thinking and creativity.

Results — Shared with schools in February of Year 6

Results will be shared with all Consortium schools to which you have applied. Each school will decide individually whether to offer a place based on the candidate's reference and their performance at examination and interview. Different schools may place different weight on each part, but all are important.

Offers — Posted in February of Year 6 — (15th February 2019)

Offers are sent directly to parents by all Consortium schools on the same date in February, either by post or by email. Candidates may be offered a place on a waiting list; everyone on the waiting list is considered to have met qualifications for entry if a vacancy comes up.

Acceptances — by early March of Year 6 — (5th March 2019)

If offered a place, you will need to send your acceptance by early March. If no acceptance has been received by the date given, the place will be offered to another candidate. You can only accept an offer at one school. After accepting an offer from one school, it is good practice to inform any other school at which you hold an offer immediately, so they may reallocate their places to pupils on waiting lists.

The Cognitive Abilities test

The Cognitive Abilities test will test candidates' current level of academic attainment as well as their potential. The Consortium website states that it has been created as a ‘bespoke examination', with a different format to any other tests currently available.

Though they do not state which examination provider they have used, it is clear from their familiarisation booklet that it has been created by CEM. This booklet provides a useful introduction to question style and is available on the Consortium website ( Other details are as follows:

  • The test is 70 minutes long, with a break of 30 minutes in the middle.
  • The questions will focus on maths, verbal and non-verbal reasoning, including short passages of comprehension.
  • The format is a paper test (not on the computer) with a separate sheet on which to mark answers.
  • It will be comprised mostly of multiple choice questions, but some will require written answers.
  • All candidates sit the test on the same day in January. It can only be taken once.
  • All candidates sit the test at one of the Consortium schools to which they have applied.
  • All candidates will need to bring stationery in a transparent pencil case.

As ever, the website is at pains to state that the exam is tutor-proof. This means that they are secretive about format and will not provide sample papers. However, familiarity with CEM-style reasoning questions will undoubtedly help with speed and accuracy, as will a slow but steady revision schedule for maths and English, while reading widely to improve vocabulary.

Learning Difficulties

The London 11+ Consortium follow the regulations and guidance for access arrangements devised by the Joint Council for Qualifications (JCQ). This means that any applicants who have had a professional assessment identifying a learning difficulty or an uneven learning profile may have 25% extra time.

For this to apply, candidates must have either at least one standardised score of less than 85, or at least two standardised scores of less than 90, which relate to one of the following processing scores:

  • Speed of reading.
  • Speed of reading comprehension.
  • Speed of writing.
  • Any other cognitive processing measures which have a substantial or long-term adverse effect on speed of working.

If this is the case, the candidate's current school should have been made aware of this and should already be allowing extra time in tests. The Consortium school to which you are applying will need to receive evidence from a specialist and also from your current school by 30th November to qualify for access arrangements.

If standardised scores do not fall into the conditions described above, there are rare occasions where extra time will be allowed, but these will require extensive evidence and will be considered on a case-by-case basis. If the application for extra time is refused in these cases, the educational professional's report will still be taken into consideration alongside the test results when deciding whether to offer a place.

The cognitive test is a written, multiple choice test. Laptops are not necessary.


SATs (or Standard Assessment Tests) are national tests administered in primary school. They are a tool devised to monitor and evaluate a student’s progress. SATs are taken twice: first in May at the end of Year 2 (students aged 6-7) and second in May at the end of Year 6 (students aged 10-11).

In Year 6, SATs are two or three written examinations. The main subjects tested are English and maths, the sciences are also often tested. Each test is 45 minutes. The results are processed by July.


UKiset is a standardised assessment designed to help families all over the world find the right school for their child. Any student aged between 9 and 18, with at least a basic knowledge of the English language, may choose UKiset if they are applying to a British independent school or similar educational institution in the U.K. There is a one-off fee of £295 to use UKiset. This includes registration, test date arrangement, invigilation fees, the sending of results as well as the sending of the full UKiset profile to target schools.

UKiset is an adaptive online entry test. It tests out of four fundamental skills; English, maths, verbal reasoning and non-verbal reasoning. It takes 2 hours to complete the test. UKiset can also assess a student’s level of academic English and provide them with their current CEFR (The Common European Framework of Reference for Languages) level.

A UKiset profile is generated following assessment. The profile identifies strengths, weaknesses and academic potential. This means that families are able to concentrate on sending applications to the most appropriate schools for their child. This profile may be sent to a total of five British schools (there is a charge of £50 per additional school). Target schools may be selected before or after the test.

Results are generally processed within 3 working days and they are valid for one year. The test may be re-taken after 6 months have passed. Results are compared with those of British candidates of the same age, specifically those currently studying in the independent schools sector.

Please note, some schools may request further testing or interview after viewing the UKiset profile.

Grammar School 11+

To be admitted to a grammar school (or bilateral/partially selective school), a student must successfully sit the Grammar School 11+ exam.

The exam is usually taken in September of the student’s final year of primary school. There are four disciplines often included in the test; English, Maths, Verbal Reasoning (VR) and Non-verbal Reasoning (NVR). However the test components differ by region and some schools may not test on all four disciplines.

Results are shared with the parent/guardian in October, which allows them to make an informed decision on their child’s secondary school application.


A bursary is a financial grant or award designed by independent schools to offer financial support to families unable to pay school fees.

Most bursaries offer reduced fees as determined on a means-assessed basis. A parent/guardian is required to establish if their child meets the necessary criteria to receive monetary aid. If successful, the school will determine a revised fee according to what the family may afford.

Schools design their own specific bursary programmes and have different bursary provisions. Some schools will greatly reduced fees or waive fees, whilst some schools may offer financial assistance to cover such necessities as school supplies, excursions or uniform.

For school-specific information it is important to visit the school website or call the school admissions office.

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