The Real Scoop on The ISEB Common Entrance Pre-Test

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The ISEB Pre-Test is aimed at providing a platform through which independent senior schools can gather information and measure a pupil's academic potential.

The test therefore aims to identify  the potential of a student rather than focusing solely on their academic ability.

The ISEB can be challenging for new parents to understand, however, this article will guide you through some of the main facts concerning it.

Key Facts About the ISEB Common Pre-Tests

• It’s usually taken by pupils in Year 6 who are ages 10-11.

• It provides a measure of ability and potential.

• It tests English, Maths, Verbal, and Non-Verbal Reasoning.

• It takes about 2.5 hours to complete.

• The text is taken online and is not paper-based.

• The questions are adaptive (correctly answered questions will lead to harder questions).

• The Maths and English tests are based on the National Curriculum.

• The tests are multiple-choice style.

• The tests are used by competitive independent schools to select which pupils could potentially be a good fit for their school.

• Candidates can only take a test once per academic year. 

• The test can be taken at a child’s current prep school.

Why should your child sit the Pre-Test?

Sitting the Pre-Test helps to measure pupil's learning over a given period. It provides independent schools with evidence that pupils have satisfactory proficiency at KS2 level and have the potential to excel in KS3 and KS4 exams.

Furthermore, it gives teachers the opportunity and ability to establish, one or two years in advance, the academic potential of the pupil transferring to their school.

Ultimately, schools need to know if pupils meet their academic standards. If a child passes the Pre-Test, they are usually offered admission, although they are still required to pass the Common Entrance exam at 13+.

Each school has the power to decide on how they use a child's Common Pre-Test results. Competitive and popular secondary schools often use the Pre-Test to shortlist pupils.

Which Schools require the ISEB Common Pre-Tests?

The ISEB Common Pre-Test is of the most popular pre-tests available.

The following schools use it:

Ardingly College

Bedford School

Benenden School

Bloxham School

Bradfield College

Brighton College

Bryanston School

Canford School

Caterham School

Charterhouse

Cheltenham College

City of London School

Culford School

Dauntsey's School

Eaton Square Upper School

Eton College

Harrow School

Headington School

Hurstpierpoint College

Marlborough College

Monkton Combe School

Mount Kelly College

Oratory School

Palmers Green High School

Radley College

Reddam House School

St Paul's School

St Swithun's School

Stowe School

Tonbridge School

University College School

Wellington College

Westminster School

Wetherby Senior School

Worth School

Source: ISEB website

Are there other Pre-tests?

There are three primary forms of Pre-Tests; ISEB, UKiset and CEM. 

Can You Prepare for the ISEB Common Pre-Test?

Although most schools claim that tutoring isn’t necessary, we’ve observed that early preparation can be tremendously beneficial in helping students to improve their scores and increase their familiarity with the exam format and question types. We therefore recommend that students practise the GL Assessment papers and also complete online tests. 

About ISEB Common Pre-Test

The ISEB Common Pre-Test consists of four individual tests which can be taken together or at different times and in any order. However, candidates must complete each particular test in one sitting.

• English – assesses spelling, punctuation, comprehension, and sentence completion.

• Maths – assesses mathematical ability based on the national curriculum stage.

• Verbal Reasoning – assesses thinking and problem-solving skills.

• Non-Verbal Reasoning  – analyses thinking with shapes, space and diagrams.

Each test has a time limit allotted to it. For every question, candidates must select an answer from five given choices and then press ‘next' to submit. Once an answer is submitted and the ‘next' button pressed, it is impossible to return to a question. The timing for each test excludes the time required for login and test set-up. However, it includes the time needed for candidates to read the on-screen instructions, as well the time allotted for reading the comprehension passage.

The time given for each test is given below:

• English – 25 minutes

• Maths – 50 minutes

• Verbal Reasoning – 36 minutes

• Non-Verbal Reasoning  – 32 minutes

Each test begins with a set of instructions and candidates can view their progress on the progress bar at the bottom of the screen. The progress bar indicates how many questions are remaining and the timer at the top of the screen indicates the time remaining.

The test is administered in a formal test environment. Thus, candidates are expected to maintain normal behaviour and follow the constraints of a test environment by working in silence.

Teachers are not allowed to render any help with answering test questions.

How to Prepare Your Child for the ISEB Common Pre-Test


• Familiarise your child with computer based  tests such as 11+ Hero

• Encourage your child to answer questions under strict timed conditions. 

• Early preparation gives your child ample time to improve their confidence and master excellent exam technique. It’s never a good idea to leave preparation to the last minute as it will simply cause more stress for you and your child.

Now it’s over to you, leave a comment below sharing one thing you’ll do to help your child prepare for their ISEB exam. 

11+ Maths: How To Answer Complex Multiplication Questions In Half The Time

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One of the biggest areas that 11+ students struggle with is speed, especially when it comes to answering complex mathematical questions in less than a minute.

Often, nerves and anxiety can get the best of any child and slow them down.

That’s why it’s so important that students learn timeless techniques that are easy to remember.

In this tutorial, Harry goes through one of his favourite techniques for answering multiplication questions.

This method is so easy to follow and fun too.

Watch the video below:

3 Ways To Help Your Child Improve Their Comprehension Skills

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Many parents complain that their child struggles with comprehension.

Perhaps it’s because they struggle to understand the text, or perhaps it’s because they find it difficult to figure out what the question is asking of them.

Whatever the reason, there are things that you can do to help your child improve their ability to read and understand even the most complex of texts.

Here are five of our favourite comprehension boosting tips:

Create an environment of literacy in the home.

This is a piece of advice given by the wonderful Dr Kathryn Weston and it’s one that’s stayed in my mind for a long time.

What does it mean?

Well, many parents completely dismiss literacy at home and often prioritise Maths and Sciences because English is often deemed a less important subject. And then, all of a sudden they realise that their child actually needs to have strong English skills because literacy is assessed throughout a child’s education. Such parents then frantically begin hunting for an English Tutor and panic because there isn’t much time to help their child improve their comprehension skills.

Instead of doing this, you can create an environment of literacy in the home by doing some of the following:

  • Reading to your child at night.

  • Asking your child to read to you for 10 minutes each day.

  • Using vocabulary flash cards during meal times so that you can create table topics around them.

  • Asking them to re-write some of the stories they’ve read recently and read them aloud to friends and family.

By doing this, your child begins to understand how important it is to build strong English skills especially with regards to comprehension.

Encourage them to read a variety of classic and modern texts.

It’s so easy to encourage your child to stick with the usual “fun” books such as Diary of a Wimpy Kid but such books don’t necessarily encourage much creative thinking or help a child develop their deduction or inference skills. By encouraging your child to read a variety of texts, you’ll be helping them to create the skills needed to make studying comprehension much less difficult.

Use 10-minute boosters.

We love the CGP and Bond 10-Minute series of books because they enable children to improve their comprehension skills in such a short space of time. It’s therefore worth purchasing some of these books and gradually working through the books with them. Start by going through the books together, discuss the passages and then eventually encourage your child to complete the comprehension papers on their own. It takes just 10 minutes and it’s so worthwhile.

So, there you have it. Three of our favourite tips for improving comprehension skills.

If your child needs additional help with comprehension, consider purchasing our online course which enables students to study at their own pace. Click here to learn more.

How to use Growth Mindset to Boost Your Child’s 11+ Revision

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What is growth mindset?

Growth mindset in simple terms is the idea that we should not be limited by our talents and shortcomings but that we can instead change, develop and improve.

In essence, we can develop from our talents and shortcomings by making effort, learning from our mistakes and facing challenges.

The opposite of a growth mindset is a fixed mindset.

With a fixed mindset you’ll think and believe that you’re not good or clever enough. You’ll believe that you’re born in a particular way and cannot develop further.

It’s therefore important to teach your child how to have a growth mindset so that they can transform how they view themselves and their abilities.

Teaching your child how to be a resilient learner can help them in their 11+ and other academic and non-academic  areas such as music and sport.

Having a growth mindset enables your child to be persistent even when facing challenges. This makes them more prudent at whatever they are doing.

Furthermore, research shows that children that are taught growth mindset techniques improve in their overall grades/scores within shorter periods.

How can use growth mindset to improve your child’s 11+ revision?

One of the most important strategies is to teach your child not to shy away from their weaknesses or shortcomings. Teach them to embrace their areas of weakness and make effort to improve on them. For example, rather than stating, “I’m bad at Maths,” they could say, “I’m not the best at Maths yet.”

The word “yet” is so powerful because it shows that the possibility of improving is still there.

Also, in order to develop a growth mindset in your child, you should be careful of the words you speak to them. Try not to use words that will make them develop a fixed mindset. For example, don’t use phrases such as, “you’re just not good at Maths,” or,“this is not good enough.” Doing so will cause them to believe that they can’t change or improve.

Having high expectations is another thing that can foster a growth mindset in children. Children who believe their parents think highly of them usually perform better. This is because high expectations lead to faster brain development. However, it’s important to note that high expectations should not be confused with pressure. Don’t put your child under any pressure. Whenever they fail, always encourage them and let them know they can do better.

Additionally, teach your child to face up to their mistakes and learn from them. Rather than hiding their mistakes, they should be encouraged  to embrace them.

Let your child see mistakes as a learning process not as a judgment of their abilities.

It doesn’t matter the number of time ms they fail, give them the opportunity to learn and improve.

And finally, endeavour to teach your child how to deal with their emotions. Encourage them to focus on the positives whenever they are confronted with challenges.

​How to reduce your child’s stress levels in the run-up to their 11+ exam

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For many years now, the 11+ entrance exam has been a part of the English education system. The exam is used to identify which children are academically suited for grammar or independent schooling.

In preparation for the test, there is always a lot of pressure on parents and children alike. This is because the outcome of the exam determines your child’s path through the education system. The 11+ exam is a big thing and it takes most students more than a year to prepare.

The preparation and high expectations from parents can lead to high levels of anxiety and nervousness. To help with this, we’re going to discuss how you can reduce your child’s stress level in preparation for the 11+ exam.

1. Be an early bird.

Early preparation is the best and it will go a long way in the quest for success in the 11 plus exam. Encourage your child to start early with reading and vocabulary building exercises. This will allow them to study at their own pace without much pressure.

2. Love them.

Remind your child that you’ll always love them regardless of how they do. Let them know that your love for them will not be affected by their performance in the exam.

3. And breathe

Keep calm – you the parent must ensure to keep calm at all times. If your child notices that you’re anxious, you might transfer this to them and this can lead to more stress. 

4. Relax

Parents should teach their child how to relax when they feel tensed or under pressure. Allow them to take a day off to relax and take their mind off the exam. Encourage them engage to take part in different relaxation activities such as listening to music, meditation, dancing or sports. This may sound counterproductive but it is for stimulating their brain and makes them more ready for the exam. Years ago, one of my students was extremely nervous about her exam, she was literally shaking. Her mum simply took her to play tennis for the entire day, she sat the exam the following day and ended up doing extremely well. 

 5. Positivity.

You should encourage your child to be optimistic, help them to develop a positive growth mindset. This will go a long way in building their self-confidence and long-term academic skills. Keep encouraging them to visualise a successful outcome. You can even teach them affirmations and create a morning routine around positivity and personal growth.

6. Take out the pressure.

Try not to let your child feel that success in the 11+ exam is a do or die affair. You should not place the test on a pedestal. It will be too much a pressure if your child feels like the world will come to an end if they fail. 

7. Read together. 

Read to them before bedtime and get them to read to you as well. You can also ask them questions about what they’ve read. This is a way great of building comprehension skills.