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

Due to the fact that the test can be difficult to understand, we’ve created this article to guide you through the main facts and details that you need to know.

All you need to know about the ISEB Pre-Tests for independent schools.

All you need to know about the ISEB Pre-Tests for independent schools.

Key Facts About the ISEB Common Pre-Tests

• It’s taken in by pupils in Years 6-7 who are aged between 10 and 11.

• It provides a measure of ability and potential.

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

• The exam takes 2.5 hours to complete.

• The ISEB follows the GL Assessment (GLA) format and style.

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

• There is no paper-based exam; it’s online only.

• The Maths and English tests are based on Key Stage 2 of the National Curriculum.

• It’s a multiple-choice exam.

• Candidates are registered by the chosen senior school or school they have registered.

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

Why should your child sit the Pre-Test?

Sitting the Pre-Test helps schools to measure learning potential over a given period.

It also enables schools to know if a pupil meets up to their academic standard.  If a child passes the Pre-Test, they are usually offered admission, although they are still required to pass the Common Entrance at 13+.

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

Which Schools require the ISEB Pre-Test?

The ISEB Common Entrance Pre-Test is of the most popular school entrance exams 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

Source: ISEB website

Are there other pre-tests available?

There are three primary forms of Pre-Tests; ISEB, UKiset and CEM. Although some schools rely solely on ISEB Pre-Test, others use one of the two remaining types of Pre-Test. Furthermore, some schools create their own bespoke exams.

To ensure that your child is best-prepared for the schools they’re applying for, we recommend that you contact each individual school to check their entrance requirements.

Can You Prepare for the ISEB Test?

We recommend that students familiarise themselves with the different question types so that they can become more confident at answering questions within the restricted time frame given.

The Subjects

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

• Maths – assesses mathematical ability based on the Key Stage 2 National Curriculum.

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

• Non-verbal reasoning – analyses thinking with shapes, space, diagrams, and pictures.

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 their answer. 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, in the case of the English test.

How Much Time Will My Child in the exam?

The time given for each test can be found below:

• English – 25 minutes

• Maths – 50 minutes

• Verbal reasoning – 36 minutes

• Non-verbal reasoning – 32 minutes

Each test begins with a set of instructions that candidates must follow to understand how to navigate through the test.

Although they are taken online, 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 and work in silence. Teachers are not allowed to provide any help with answering questions.


• Encourage your child to complete timed online 11+ tests such as 11+ Hero. This will enable them to become more competent at answering questions within short time frames.

Early preparation ensures that both parents and students are more relaxed. We therefore recommend that you avoid leaving tuition to the last minute. As the saying goes, the early bird catches the worm. The earlier you prepare for the exam, the more likely it is that your child do well.