Chapter 1 – The Common Entrance Test Explained

Students typically pick up to 4 subjects, to be examined at the end of Year 13 on the last two years of study.

Unlike the 11+ examinations, which are used by both selective and private schools, the 13+ are found almost exclusively at entry to UK independent schools. They are also a second chance for candidates who were unsuccessful at the 11+ stage.

Whilst they are devised by a common body, they are marked internally by each institution, which sets its own pass marks.

Remember- if your child performs well in the 13+ exam, it doesnt necessarily mean they will gain entry to the school of their choice.
The 13+ exam is divided as follows:

  • Compulsory papers in core subjects (English, Maths & Science)
  • Further papers in humanities, often chosen from History, French, Latin, Geography or Religious Studies
  • Verbal and non-verbal reasoning tests, depending on the school

Where to start

Who should take the 13+ exam?

While the 13+ is certainly a good option for those who have not performed in the 11+ examinations, it should not be considered solely as a safety net.

In fact, boys tend to perform better at Common Entrance level than 11+. It is worth preparing your son for these exams over a longer period, and saving yourself a bit of money on admissions fees earlier on.

Common Pre-Testing?

In most preparatory schools, all Year 6 or 7 students can complete a Common Pre-Test, a standardised exam which takes into account a students ability relative to their age. All tests are provided by GL Assessment.

Students who are planning to take the Common Entrance at 13+ are automatically registered to do the Common Pre-Test, a 2.5 hour multiple choice exam which is taken online.

Independent secondary schools will offer provisional places to promising candidates, who will still need to be retested at 13+ level.

While the board state that there is no extra preparation to be done for this exam, our Private Tutoring Service can help your child develop their skills and confidence before the Pre-Test.

How to register?

Common Entrance exam dates are decided 2 years in advance, and the registration process varies from school to school:

If your child currently attends a preparatory school: If your child does not attend a private school:
Most preparatory schools will register their students for the exam, after many months of coaching prior to the test in Year 8. You will have to register them yourself. They will also lack the same coaching as students in prep schools
In many cases they will also sit the CE exam at school. The specific format and style of the CE test makes it harder for students who have not encountered it before.
Even if students have been successful in the Common Pre-Test, they will usually be re-assessed at 13+ level. In order to fully prepare your child for the 13+, it is worth looking into our 13+ Private Tutors as far ahead of the examination as possible.

Unfortunately, getting your child into a top independent school comes at a price. Check out the Independent Schools Examinations Board for precise rates.