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The Eton List Test and how to make sense of it

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The Eton List Test: guide for parents

Chances are that you have heard of Eton College, the prestigious English independent boarding school for boys in England that has educated world leaders, award-winning actors and prime ministers. The public school which was founded in 1440, has one of the most competitive entrance processes, with around 1,300 boys vying for a place each year.

The Eton List Test is an exam created specifically for entrance into Eton and is taken following the ISEB Common Pre-Test. The results of this test are used to place applicants in three different categories, each signifying different types of offers. The process for 13 plus entries begins when your child is in Year 5 so it is important to get to know the basics as early as possible. If your child is currently in Year 5, they can register this year for 2025 entry.

Read on to find out key information on this test and tips on how to help your son secure a place!

What are the three stages?

Your child will have to pass various stages before they officially join Eton College. These include:

  • Stage 1 (October–November of Year 6): ISEB Common Pre-Test

  • Stage 2 (later in Year 6): Eton List Test and an interview

  • Stage 3 (Year 8): An offer is made according to three types:

  • A Type: guaranteed conditional place.

  • B Type: waiting list of whom 40% are likely to be moved into the A list.

  • C Type: no offer given. There is the possibility that a child with a C Type offer could get a place on a music or academic scholarship, but this is highly unlikely.

The final test will be either the King’s Scholarship test, Eton Test or Common Entrance test in maths, English, history, geography, languages (French, Spanish, Latin or Greek) at 13 plus. If your son has passed the previous stages he is also likely to pass this final stage.

What is the format of the entrance exam?

The Stage 1 exam, ISEB Pretest, tests your son’s ability in English, maths, verbal and non-verbal reasoning, with emphasis on how they think and how they respond to the curriculum. As the test is adaptive, the difficulty of the questions increases as the candidate answers them correctly.

The Stage 2 examination, the Eton List Test, covers the same broad subjects as the ISEB. However, it does add a few new challenging dimensions. For example, an essay full of errors on each line, with the text moving up at a rapid pace, and the errors need to be corrected before the lines disappear.

The test was developed by cognitive testing experts at Cambridge University and is unique to Eton. It is predictive, meaning future potential is assessed as well as innate reasoning ability. It lasts 60 minutes and 16 boys may sit it at any time. Each boy uses an individual workstation, and should not be distracted by anything appearing on adjacent screens.

As well as the online test, there is also a writing task where boys are expected to write an essay based on a prompt, e.g. “Is the world a better place without rules?” The time limit for this writing task is relatively short.

How is it scored?

Like the ISEB Common Pre-Test, each candidate taking the Eton List Test is given a Standardised Age Score (SAS) based on the difficulty of the questions they answer and their birthday. The most successful candidates will be those who have achieved the highest SAS scores due to answering the hardest questions.

How difficult is the test?

Less than 20% of all the candidates get offered a place at Eton. These stats reveal how selective the entrance process is and how challenging the exams can be. They are designed to test children to reveal their future potential and so test cognitive and reasoning skills as well as speed and accuracy.

When should my child be registered?

The deadline for registration for 13 plus entry is the 30th of June when your child is in Year 5. The registration can be completed online here and is accompanied by a non-refundable fee of £400.

What is the best way to prepare for the Eton List Test?

Many prep schools already prepare their students for these exams. At home, regular and steady practice that suits your child’s academic ability is recommended. Over-tutoring is a common problem when it comes to the Eton List Test, so it is advisable to be aware of your child’s individual strengths. If they are very intelligent, highly academic and perform well in exams, then they might not need tutoring. However, it is still good to have them practice the skills they will be tested on to improve their chances of success and reduce stress.

If they may need some extra help to feel confident in the entrance exam then we would recommend that you get them a tutor or join an online learning platform, such as Atom Nucleus. Either of these options will provide your child with top-quality resources that will greatly improve their likelihood of success!

If your son generally struggles at school then it's a good idea to make an informed decision about whether it is worth putting him through the stress of the entrance process. Speak to his teachers at school to see if they think he should apply.

Find out more about the Eton List Test here.

We can help

Eton College does not provide any Eton List Test examples, however, you can get unlimited Eton List replica tests with a premium Atom Nucleus subscription. If you’re looking for more ways to prepare your son, start your 5-day free trial of Nucleus for success in the classroom, entrance exams and beyond.

Eton List Mock Tests on Atom Nucleus

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