Competition for the best school places starts from a young age, and it is wise to be aware of the application process very early on.
Many schools have registration deadlines in advance of applications, and in the London area, some pre-prep schools even recommend that parents should register before their child’s first birthday.
This is not to say that you should rush into registering before you have even decided on a school. But the decision-making process should start early, and one must be aware that many good pre-prep and prep schools require registering well in advance.
Pre-Prep Entrance Assessments
Once you have registered and applied, pre-prep admissions – up to the age of seven – usually include the following two assessments:
1) An Interview:
This will usually be with the head or registrar of the school, interviewing the child and parents together.
“I was worried that the interview would be a bit too much at my daughter’s age, but the whole thing was very relaxed and friendly.”
Parent in Reading
It is near-impossible at this age to really judge a child’s potential academic performance. Instead, schools look for signs of inquisitiveness and engagement.
As a result, it is very difficult to prepare your child for such an interview, as the interviewers will see past ready-prepared answers. Perhaps just guiding them on what the head and school will look like beforehand might help calm nerves in the interview room.
2) A Taster Day:
Usually, the next part of the pre-prep admissions process is a half or full ‘taster day’.
The child will attend class with a teacher and other kids – and without their parents – to assess how they interact. This might involve observing the children in playground activities, or in classroom situations.
Again, it is difficult to prepare for such a task, but ensuring that your child gets the opportunity to engage with other children from a young age would be beneficial.
When slightly older children are applying to pre-prep, there is a chance they may be asked to take verbal or non-verbal reasoning tests, and tests in English and Maths. In addition, reports and a reference from their previous school are often sought.
Prep School Entrance Assessments
Examinations are increasingly more common at 7+ level for the top Preparatory schools, especially in London.
Usually taking place in January, these exams focus primarily on Maths and English, along with verbal and non-verbal reasoning.
Not all these tests are written: some include verbal tests like spelling and memory, or even creative tasks like singing or drawing.
With some schools receiving more than 10 applicants per place, the exams whittle this down to two students per interview. It is not uncommon for schools take into account age differences by weighting children’s scores.
They are then ranked on the performance in the exam and interview, before it is decided who is offered a place.
How can you prepare?
Unlike the pre-prep applications, there are some useful ways in which children can prepare.
For English, regular practice in handwriting, reading and writing stories can help children in the entrance exams. For Maths, consistently practicing mental arithmetic in small doses can be useful before they face tests.
Meanwhile, it can be handy to familiarise your child with reasoning tests that they’re likely to encounter in the test. Most of the 7+ tests will be timed, which means time management might be something worth practising.
As a general rule, pre-prep schools will provide far more preparation than state schools, given their reputation is based on strong exit results. This might be something that prep schools take into account in their decision.