ISEB

Parents

Common Pre-Tests

ISEB is welcoming many candidates to the Common Pre-Tests this year as more senior schools turn to this assessment as one part of their selection process, alongside the Head's reference, other test scores and any interviews or activities held on site.

The information provided below will give you an overview of the Common Pre-Tests. You may find the FAQ at the bottom of this page helpful.

The Common Pre-Tests are age-standardised tests used to assess pupils' attainment and potential when they are in Year 6 or Year 7, prior to entry to their senior schools. If your son or daughter is offered a place after completing these tests, he or she may still be required to sit further assessments.

The tests are taken online, usually in the candidate's current school, and consist of multiple-choice tests in mathematics, English, verbal and non-verbal reasoning. Senior schools will inform parents if they use the Common Pre-Tests and will register the candidates. Parents do not need to register their children for the Common Pre-Tests.

Children applying to multiple schools which use the Common Pre-Tests will only take the tests once per academic year. The set of results obtained will be shared with all schools registering that candidate. It is important to inform prospective senior schools if your child has already taken the Common Pre-Tests. In the very unlikely event of a candidate taking the tests more than once within a single academic year, the school(s) will be informed and the first set of results will stand.

The tests take about two-and-a-half hours to complete (English 25 minutes, mathematics 50 minutes, non-verbal reasoning 32 minutes, verbal reasoning 36 minutes) and can be taken together or at separate times, either in the candidate's own school or at the senior school for which he or she is entered. For overseas candidates, testing centres can be used if prior permission has been granted from the senior school.

  • verbal reasoning question styles include common words, antonyms, word combinations, letter transfer, number codes
  • non-verbal reasoning question styles include shape analogies, classes like, horizontal codes
  • English question styles include reading comprehension, sentence completion, spelling and punctuation
  • mathematics content is in line with the National Curriculum; candidates are assessed on National Curriculum topics taught up to the end of Year 5

No special preparation is required for the Common Pre-Tests, which are designed to identify potential as well as attainment. ISEB does not provide practice tests. Examples and practice questions, where relevant, are provided during the tests so that candidates understand what they have to do. Each question is answered by choosing an answer from a selection shown on the screen. Each question must be answered and candidates cannot go back to previous questions. While taking the tests, candidates are able to track their progress within the test (number of questions answered in relation to overall number of questions).

Textbooks, calculators, mobile devices, or other materials which might assist a candidate will not be accessible during the Common Pre-Tests.

The use of pen/pencil and paper is not permitted in the non-verbal reasoning or English tests. However, candidates should have access to pen/pencil and paper for their rough work during the verbal reasoning and mathematics tests. It is the responsibility of the invigilation centre to provide pen/pencil and paper.

A familiarisation test is available which demonstrates the look and feel of the tests.

SEND candidates

The Common Pre-Tests are accessible to candidates with a range of special educational needs or disabilities. Reasonable adjustments may be applied, the nature of which will depend on the candidate's specific needs. In individual cases, schools may decide that not all test elements are a suitable form of assessment for a particular candidate.

Parents and/or prep schools should always inform senior schools about a candidate's specific needs, provide a report from a suitably-qualified professional, where relevant, and discuss with the senior school what provision or adjustments will be made when assessing the candidate for entry.

Where appropriate, and in agreement with senior schools, candidates can be given additional time to complete each test element. Candidates requiring extra time should take the untimed/manually timed version of each test. This version does not have an on-screen countdown timer. The invigilator is responsible for timing the test and ending the test at the appropriate time.

For visually-impaired candidates, a degree of on-screen text enlargement is available via standard web browser zoom. It is also possible to purchase text-enlargers which clip onto the screens.

All senior schools which register candidates for the tests should be informed of any adjustments made for SEND candidates.

Senior schools should indicate SEND candidates during registration, and take into account the potential impact of SEND as part of their overall assessment of a candidate's application.

EAL candidates

The Common Pre-Tests are accessible to candidates for whom English is an Additional Language. Reasonable adjustments may be applied, the nature of which will depend on the candidate’s specific needs. For EAL candidates, this may include the use of a standard bilingual paper dictionary. In individual cases, schools may decide that not all test elements are a suitable form of assessment for a candidate whose first language is not English.

Parents and/or prep schools should always inform senior schools about a candidate’s specific needs, and discuss with the senior school what provision or adjustments will be made when assessing the candidate for entry.

Where appropriate, and in agreement with senior schools, candidates can be given additional time to complete each test element. Candidates requiring extra time should take the untimed/manually timed version of each test. This version does not have an on-screen countdown timer. The invigilator is responsible for timing the test and ending the test at the appropriate time.

All senior schools which register candidates for the tests should be informed of any adjustments made for EAL candidates.

Senior schools should indicate EAL candidates during registration, and take into account the potential impact of any specific needs in their overall assessment of a candidate’s application.

FAQ

Is it possible for candidates to take the Common Pre-Tests overseas?
Yes, it is possible for candidates to take the Common Pre-Tests overseas.

For overseas candidates, parents should ask the child’s current school if they can invigilate the Common Pre-Tests. If this is not possible, parents should contact the British Council in their country to see if they have suitable facilities nearby. If neither of these options are possible, parents will need to find an alternative venue which provides invigilation/exam services. ISEB does not allow candidates to be tested at their home, a tutor’s house or anywhere which is not considered a professional venue.

Parents should then ensure that the senior school(s) requesting the Common Pre-Tests are satisfied with the venue arrangements. The senior school(s) will need to communicate directly with the venue in order to provide candidate login details and supporting documentation.
Why is familiarisation recommended?
The tests are designed in such a way that repeated practice will not continuously improve performance. However, it is important for candidates' confidence that they are familiar with the nature and style of the tests and we provide a short familiarisation test for this purpose.

The familiarisation test can also be used to check any adjustments that may be needed for SEND candidates, prior to the live tests.

Although a degree of practice may help children to build their confidence and to feel secure in what is expected of them, repeated practice is not encouraged.
Does ISEB produce or endorse any Common Pre-Tests practice resources?
ISEB does not produce or endorse any practice resources for the Common Pre-Tests.

ISEB cannot guarantee the accuracy of third-party Common Pre-Tests practice resources. They may not accurately reflect the presentation, difficulty, test content and scoring of the live Common Pre-Tests.
How do adaptive tests work?
Adaptive tests are designed to adjust the difficulty of questions, based on the answers given.

Each candidate will start with a medium-level question. Candidates who answer questions correctly are gradually routed to more challenging questions. Due to this, candidates cannot go back to previous questions.

The adaptive model allows candidates to recover from any early wrong answers to attain a score that matches their ability.
How many questions should candidates try to answer?
Candidates are encouraged to work steadily through each test module and should try to answer all the questions they meet. The time allowance for each module has been carefully designed to give candidates time to consider their answers.

While taking the tests, candidates can see their progress within the test (number of questions answered in relation to overall number of questions).
Should candidates try to work quickly so that they can answer more questions?
Each test has a fixed number of questions. Once all the questions have been answered, the test will end. Candidates should try to work carefully through the test, thinking about each question that they meet.
What happens when a candidate has answered all the questions in the test module?
When all the questions have been answered, the test module will automatically end.
How are higher level mathematics questions made more difficult without going beyond topics expected to have been taught by the end of Year 5?
Although all mathematics questions are based on topics that are expected to have been taught by the end of Year 5, the level of challenge is adjusted accordingly for higher or lower level questions.
Is it important to do working in mathematics and verbal reasoning?
For the mathematics and the verbal reasoning modules all candidates should have access to a pen/pencil and a supply of paper so that they can work out their answers on paper, if they wish, before choosing the correct answer option.
Can a candidate take the Common Pre-Tests more than once?
A candidate only takes the Common Pre-Tests once in an academic year. Having taken the tests, his/her results are shared with each senior school which registers them.

This minimises stress and anxiety for children and we encourage parents to recognise this significant advantage.

If a candidate takes the Common Pre-Tests more than once in the same academic year, the results from the first tests will be used.
Why are results standardised for age?
Results from the Common Pre-Tests are standardised by age so that appropriate comparison can be made between younger and older candidates and between dates of testing.
Can parents request their child’s Common Pre-Test results from ISEB?
ISEB does not provide results directly to parents. This is because parents do not register their child with ISEB, but with the senior school(s) for which they are applying.