The Common Entrance Exams are in essence, an alternative entrance examination for secondary schools to the 11+, used by certain selective schools. They can be taken at the age of 11 or at 13, and are taken at your child’s current school. They are marked by the independent school to which you have applied, this provides a means of filtering the many applicants for that particular school. Common Entrance exams are generally compliant with the National Curriculum and are similar in style and level to GCSEs.
Pass marks, how they are evaluated.
Selective schools set their own pass marks for the Common Entrance exam; this depends on the quality of the school, the number of applicants they receive each year and the number of available places. There is no common "pass" mark. More selective schools set a higher pass mark, less selective schools a lower one. Day schools often set their own entrance exam.
What Subjects are Assessed?
Common Entrance Exams for children age 11 are sat in English, Maths and Science and are similar to Key Stage 2 exams. Those sat at the age of 13 are in a larger range of subjects chosen by the independent school, potentially including History, Geography, Religious Studies, French, German, Spanish, Greek and Latin in addition to the core subjects. In some cases, English as a Foreign Language (EFL) will be assessed. A private tutor may be useful in helping your children prepare for the Common Entrance exams if their school is not offering support.
When Are the Exams Held?
Common Entrance Exams are often set in January for the 11+ papers and February, March and June for the 13+ papers (but please check the relevant dates with ISEB). If your child is currently attending a state school, your application to sit the Common Entrance Exam must be submitted to the Independent Schools Examination Board (ISEB) four months before the date of the exam.
Finding out exactly what is required for the Common Entrance exam, and the specific information for the selective or independent school to which you are applying should be your first move. Some selective schools require interviews in addition to Common Entrance exams, and that may require specific preparation (which your child’s school, or a private tutor could offer.) Be aware of the pass marks and that even if your child is unsuccessful in their application to one school, it is possible to “pass” the application to another school for remarking and checking against their own criteria for entry.