Testing for a test! The world of the ISEB (and other) pre-tests

School entry used to be relatively straightforward: apply, interview, take a couple of exams and join. No longer... welcome to the world of the pre-test.

Why have pre-tests become so prevalent? A couple of reasons: firstly, the increase in applications to UK schools has put already over-worked admissions departments under incredible strain and pre-tests represent a way of filtering students and reducing the number to a manageable size. More importantly though, schools say that they do not want candidates who have no chance of gaining a place going through the stress of an application. Sounds fair enough...

There are a number of pre-tests but I am going to focus on the ISEB pre-test as has been adopted by a number of big schools (Eton, Radley, Wellington, Westminster amongst others) and is therefore a hot topic amongst our parents.

What is the ISEB Pre-test?

The test consists of four sections:

English (25 minutes)
Maths (50 minutes)
Verbal (36 minutes)
Non-Verbal reasoning (32 minutes)

All the sections had a timer which is displayed at the top of the screen and an indicator showing how many questions have been answered at the bottom. Students need to know that they can't go back to questions which have already been answered.

The test is language intensive - in addition to the English/verbal reasoning section, the maths test requires candidates to read through problems carefully in order to work out what is being asked of them.

The test is often taken in Year 6; schools will give you a window during which the test can be taken,

What are schools looking for?

"We look for candidates who will be able to cope academically. We don't just look at test results though, we will also take Head's reports into consideration." (Registrar - UK school)

How do I prepare?

Come to Brandon Learning Centre!

If you are not near us, I suggest getting up to speed with 11+ standard prose comprehensions and having a look online for verbal/non-verbal reasoning practice.

Does a pre-test get me in?

Sadly not, most schools use the pre-test to screen candidates who are suitable for interview/further testing. On the positive side though. the preparation for the ISEB pre-test will give your son or daughter a good foundation for 11+/13+ and may be an opportunity to identify gaps in their learning.

Most importantly

If your son or daughter does not get through the pre-test stage, the school may not have been suitable for them; there will be plenty of other schools which are!


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