ISEB Common Entrance Pre-Test
Who are ISEB?
ISEB (The Independent Schools Examinations Board) provide examinations and assessment for students who are progressing students from prep and junior schools to independent senior schools. Formed in 1903, ISEB design and implement the Common Entrance assessments, offering a wide range of diverse assessment methods for schools located across the globe. The Common Entrance exam is Britain’s oldest exam, a piece of the foundation that the UKs independent schools stand on, integral to the students across the country and innovative due to its independent nature. ISEB offer their assessments for independent, maintained and state-funded schools, working in collaboration with teachers, schools and students through trials, consultations and feedback opportunities. ISEB work with major UK education associations and also the UK government to ensure that the learner’s progression is always put first. The Common Entrance assessments are written by seasoned and highly qualified teachers across a collection of the highest achieving schools, aimed at targeting learner progression across multiple subjects at 11 Plus (11+) and 13 Plus (13+). ISEB now offer online and adaptive Common Pre-Tests for senior school testing, adopting software which enables them to adjust testing levels to learner’s independent capabilities, challenging at an appropriate level of the individual to enable them to develop creative and academic skills to progress further in their education journey.
What are the ISEB Common Pre-Test / Common Entrance exams?
The common entrance exams in England are often a prerequisite for an independent secondary school place. ISEB administer the test on behalf of schools and offering a wide range of subjects for learners to take tests in. The tests are carried out to demonstrate to the senior school the level that your child is working at academically, highlighting their strengths and areas for development in their learning journey. The tests are a chance for students to demonstrate their knowledge and to show what level they would be able to start their work at their desired school at. The senior school will find the CE exams valuable because they enable the distinction between the learners who are ready to contribute to the school and those who are not and equally inform the senior school as to where they will need to direct specific teaching attention (highlighted through the student’s scores). The CE exams are an indicator, not just of next stage potential, but of strengths and areas for development that can be telling of a learner’s life-long learning, often revealing specific subject aptitudes and strengths, which in turn can highlight student subject passions.
What subjects are in the Common Entrance exams?
Subject content in the Common Entrance exams vary between the 11+ and the 13+ examinations.
11+ Students will sit their CE exam whey they are in their Year 6 schooling year, for entrance into senior independent schools. Students are presented with the option to participate in the November or January CE exams, with most learners sitting the January exam, due to knowledge development and extra revision time. Learners are assessed on their English, Mathematics and Science knowledge across three papers.
English: Learners that take part in the 11+ English CE exam will sit two papers, one focused on Comprehension and the other in Composition. ISEB does not offer an official reading list, so learners are advised to read as broadly as possible to be prepared for the content in the exams. The English Syllabus promotes passion for reading and writing and value for the craft that writers must develop overtime to enable creative expression of high quality.
Mathematics: Learners that take part in the 11+ Mathematics CE exam will sit one paper, consisting of eight, one-mark questions testing numeracy skills. Marks are awarded to answers, with no opportunity to gain marks for workings. This is then followed by more heavily worded questions with the opportunity to show workings. The Mathematics Syllabus is aimed at developing learner’s skills, reasoning and investigative thinking, encouraging learners to be curious of the unknown rather than fearful.
Science: Learners who take part in the 11+ Science CE exam will sit one combined paper, consisting of the three disciplines, Biology, Chemistry and Physics in equal amount. Content from Key Stage 1 should have been covered by the time that learners are participating in their 11+ and this is reflected in the exam. The Science CE exam Syllabus is designed to promote learner curiosity surrounding Science, promoting the value in the connections across different areas within the field and the importance of evaluating and communicating the impact new-found evidence has on our society.
13+ Students will sit their CE exams in Year 8, covering a large breadth of subject content areas, with clear specifications providing learners with effective preparation for their GCSEs. The 13+ CE exams provide three examinations sessions per annum, in November, January and May. Similarly, to the 11+, learners must sit three papers consisting of English, Mathematics and Science. Where the 13+ demonstrates a step-up, learners may be required to sit additional content papers across a diverse range of subjects including Classics, History, Geography, Modern Foreign Languages, Theology, Philosophy and Religion.
English: Learners that take part in the 13+ CE exam will be able to participate in the Level 1 or 2 paper, dependent on their ability. Learners at Level 2 will sit two papers, one containing content on Reading and another on Writing. Learners at Level 1 will sit a Foundation paper and a Writing paper. ISEB does not offer an official reading list, so learners are advised to read as broadly as possible to be prepared for the content in the exams. The English Syllabus promotes passion for reading and writing and value for the craft that writers must develop overtime to enable creative expression of high quality.
Mathematics: Learners who participate in the 13+ CE Mathematics exam will be able to take the exam at either Level 1, 2 or 3, dependent on their ability. These include Foundation, Core and Additional papers (with a mixture of Calculator and Non-Calculator papers). Learners will either take Foundation or Core papers, with some candidates also taking the Additional paper. Learners of all levels are expected to sit the mental arithmetic test. The Mathematics Syllabus is aimed at developing learner’s skills, reasoning and investigative thinking, encouraging learners to be curious of the unknown rather than fearful.
Science: Learners who take their 13+ Science exams will be able to participate at Level 1 or 2, dependent on their knowledge level. The Level 1 paper consists of Biology, Chemistry and Physics questions in equal weighting. Level 2 papers are spread into three separate papers, one per subject area (Biology, Chemistry, Physics). The Science CE exam Syllabus is designed to promote learner curiosity surrounding Science, promoting the value in the connections across different areas within the field and the importance of evaluating and communicating the impact new-found evidence has on our society.
Classics: The 13+ Classics CE exam content is Latin based, offered at Levels 1, 2 and 3, designed by seasoned Heads of Department and approved by ISEB’s Academic Committee for Languages. The Latin Syllabus is aimed at both candidates who have a limited education background in Latin and students who are more grounded in their understanding, including knowledge of Latin or Greek Language.
French: The 13+ CE French Syllabus is aimed at developing learner’s skills across writing, verbal and written content. Learners are able to use a standard English French dictionary during the prep stage for the speaking exams, with learners whose first language is not English provided with a bilingual dictionary (but not in French). CE exams are at Levels 1 and 2, with both levels sitting three papers in speaking, listening and reading & writing.
History: Learners who participate in the CE History exam will be asked to sit one paper, divided into two sections. The History Syllabus is built on Key Stage 3 National Curriculum content and is aimed at developed a passion and deep understanding of cause and effect throughout history, including individual inheritance, historical interpretation and major incidences in history.
Geography: Learners who take part in the 13+ Geography CE exam will be expected to participate in two pieces of assessment coursework in the form of a piece of fieldwork or as a written paper report. The Geography Syllabus is aimed at stimulating learner curiosity of the world, deepening learner comprehension of diverse environments, societies, people and places. Sustainable development and skills pertaining to map and field work are also embedded within the Syllabus.
German: Learners who take part in the 13+ CE German exam will sit three papers, covering listening, speaking and reading & writing. There are no distinct levels in the CE German exam, as to encourage learner curiosity and development. Learners may use a standard English German dictionary during their preparation for the speaking exams only. The German Syllabus is designed to develop written and spoken abilities, building up a wealth of language knowledge and confidence surrounding speaking foreign languages.
Spanish: Learners who take part in the 13+ CE Spanish exam will either take the Level 1 or Level 2 exam. Level 1 consists of assessment in speaking, listening and reading & writing, with Level 2 introducing open-ended tasks during the speaking and writing tasks, encouraging learners to demonstrate their abilities to apply the correct tenses in conversation.
TPR: Learners who take part in the 13+ Theology, Philosophy and Religion (TPR) CE exam will sit one paper divided into three sections for Theology, Philosophy and Religion. The TPR Syllabus is aimed at providing learners with the chance to develop reason and evaluation of different religious and non-religious belief systems.
Common Entrance Pre-Test ISEB tutoring
Mayfair Consultants offers at-home, one-on-one private tuition in a wide variety of subjects and the Common Pre-Test (ISEB) as a whole to students living across the London area and online, preparing students for secondary school. We will help with understanding content outlined in syllabi, gaining specific skills required to effectively tackle the questions and how to score on the examinations. Our fully-qualified Common Pre-Test tutors are experienced and skilled specialists, with many holding postgraduate degrees (Master’s and PhD) in specific subjects you want to focus on. They offer clear, concise explanations and stimulating approaches, helping to support the needs of every student.
If you would like to arrange Common Pre-Test tutoring, schools entrance consultancy or enquire about our schools placement service in England as well as independent schools entrance tests please call us on Tel: +44 (0) 207 665 6606 or you can send us an email via our contact form.
Common Pre-Test Useful Links:
11+ Past Papers:
13+ Past Papers: