ISEB pre-test for 11+

We live in extraordinary times, and many secondary schools have changed their 11+ admissions process for September 2021 as a result. If you are following the news, you will have heard about the ISEB by now. What is the ISEB and how will it affect admissions this year? Will all schools use this test and how do you prepare? We hope to cover all common questions you might have about the ISEB in this post.

What is the ISEB Common Pre-Test?
The Independent Schools Examination Board (ISEB) Common Pre-Test is a computer-based test with sections covering Verbal and Non-verbal Reasoning, English and Maths, and it takes two and a half hours to complete.  The test is age-standardised and adaptive, meaning no two candidates will face exactly the same questions, as the difficulty level increases as pupils answer questions correctly and decreases as candidates make errors. It is important to explain this to your child beforehand, as they might get worried if they start facing seemingly “impossible” questions; this is simply a sign that a child is doing well on the test. Further information for parents about the test can be found here:

Why are schools adopting the ISEB this year and how will it work?
In response to the Covid-19 pandemic, schools want to help minimise possible disruption to 11+ exam candidates who might be affected by changes to government guidelines. Schools are not keen to invite hundreds of external candidates into their schools in January. The ISEB Common Pre-test offers the flexibility required in these difficult times.  Many students will be able to sit the ISEB Common Pre-Test at their own junior schools, reducing the need for travel and enabling them to stay within their own ‘bubble’. They will only need to sit the test once, following which the results will be shared with all participating schools the candidate has applied to. In this sense (not in terms of the exact format), it is somewhat similar to the London Consortium test.

Will all London schools use the ISEB Common Pre-Test this year?
No. The list of schools using the ISEB test this year is long (Latymer Upper, Wimbledon High School, Harrodian School, Godolphin & Latymer and many others). But there are exceptions. The London Consortium Schools (Francis Holland, Queen’s Gate, Queens College and others, with the exception of G&L) will once again use their London 11+ Consortium test. St Paul’s Girls’ School will continue to use the CEMSelect Cognititive Abilities Test as a pre-test, as in previous years, and the City of London School for Girls has opted for the same test this year. Some schools have decided to continue to administer their own tests on site in smaller groups. While the number of exams children will sit is likely minimised due to the wide introduction of the ISEB pre-test, this means it is still possible for candidates to sit a variety of exams and not have to put all their eggs in one basket.

What is the best way to prepare for the ISEB test?
Official guidance, as with other reasoning tests, is that no special preparation is required, as they are designed to identify potential as well as attainment. This may be true to the extent that the test covers the national curriculum in Maths and English and a bright candidate will be able to apply their reasoning and problem-solving skills to the trickier questions. As with all tests, though, familiarisation with common question types, dedicated practice and sitting mock tests can definitely increase a candidate’s score significantly, which can make the difference between reaching the required threshold to be invited for interviews and receiving a rejection letter. We would therefore highly recommend preparing for this test, as you would for traditional 11+ exams.

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