ISEB

Parents

Common Entrance

Overview

Common Entrance is the name for a set of examinations taken by boys and girls for entrance to senior independent schools at 11+ or 13+. The syllabuses are devised by the Independent Schools Examinations Board which is composed of Heads from the three Associations which represent the leading independent schools in the country: The Headmasters' and Headmistresses' Conference, The Girls' Schools Association and The Independent Association of Prep Schools. The papers are set by examiners appointed by the Board, but the answers are marked by the senior school for which a candidate is entered.

Candidates may normally be entered for Common Entrance only if:

  • they have been offered a place at a senior school subject to their passing the examinations

or

  • they are entered for internal marking, in which case the papers are marked by the candidate's prep school

The examinations are usually taken in the candidate's current school. 11+ candidates sit examinations in English, Mathematics and Science when they are in Year 6, usually for girls' schools. 13+ candidates also sit examinations in these core subjects, alongside papers selected from a wide range of humanities, languages and classical subjects.

The 11+ examinations may be taken in the autumn or spring term of Year 6 prior to entry to senior school the following September. The 13+ examinations are taken in the autumn, spring or summer term of Year 8, again prior to entry to senior school the following September. Senior schools decide at which stage in the year the examinations are to be taken.

How do I register my child?

If your son or daughter currently attends an independent prep school in the UK or overseas which is a regular user of Common Entrance, it is likely that he or she will be entered by the prep school. If in doubt, please check with your child's school. If your child currently attends a state school or is at an independent school which does not enter candidates for Common Entrance, he or she should be entered using the registration form below. Parents should check with the proposed senior school which subjects and levels their child will be required to sit.

Registration guide
Registration form

Dates for registering your child are:

Examination Session Opening date Closing date
11+/13+ Autumn (November) 2 July 1 October
11+/13+ Spring (January) 2 October 1 December
13+ Summer (May/June) 2 December 1 March

If it is not possible for your child to take the examination in his/her present school, or at an appropriate tutorial centre, you should make an arrangement with a private invigilator. This person should be either a head or teacher at a local school or a person of such professional standing as to ensure the integrity of the examination. Sometimes the senior school for which your child is entered can provide invigilation.

Your child may be registered at a second senior school, but it is important for you to have previously obtained the agreement of that school to be second choice. If your child fails to gain entry to the first-choice senior school, you will need to request that the scripts are forwarded by that senior school to the second-choice senior school.

FAQ

Do all independent schools use the Common Entrance examination?
Many independent senior schools use Common Entrance, but not all of them. Some schools set their own entrance examinations. Prep schools, or a candidate's parent, should check with the relevant senior school to see whether Common Entrance is required and, if so, which papers need to be taken and at which level.
Who sets the papers?
The papers are set by teams of highly qualified and experienced teachers drawn from some of the best independent senior and prep schools in the UK. They all have specialist subject knowledge and a thorough understanding of the age group.
Who marks the Common Entrance papers?

The papers are marked by teaching staff in the senior school for which a pupil is entered. Detailed mark schemes are provided by the Board but senior schools are free to allocate marks according to their own criteria.

Senior schools award candidates a grade for each subject, from A to E. Each senior school decides the range of marks represented by each grade, and this may vary from school to school.
Can pupils from state schools sit Common Entrance?
Yes, pupils from the maintained sector can sit Common Entrance and many do, particularly at 11+. Pupils are usually entered by their parents using the registration form available in the parents' section of this website. At 13+, advice should be sought from the chosen senior school about the papers which need to be taken, and at which level. Some pupils from the state sector will be able to sit the examinations in their current school; others will need to find a suitable sitting centre, such as a local prep school or a tutorial college.
Can pupils from overseas sit Common Entrance?
Yes, a significant number from overseas sit Common Entrance examinations, mainly for senior schools in the UK but also for independent schools in their own countries. The examinations can often be taken in candidates' own schools and the Board regularly despatches papers to schools in Hong Kong, China, Kenya, Nigeria, the United States, Russia and a wide range of other countries.