What are the Common Pre-Tests?

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 in Year 8.

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. Practice tests are not available. 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).

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

A new familiarisation test is available which senior schools can share with candidates' parents.

SEND candidates

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

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

From 2018, the Common Pre-Tests will no longer have an automatic, on-screen timer. This means that candidates for whom it is appropriate can be given additional time to complete each test element.

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 test should be informed of any adjustments made for SEND candidates.

Senior schools should take into account the potential impact of SEND as part of their overall assessment of a candidate’s application.