General information

Common Pre-Tests

To register candidates, please click here.


The Common Pre-Tests are designed to give senior independent schools information about prospective pupils' attainment and potential, prior to further assessment in Year 8. The tests are commissioned from GL Assessment which has long been associated with providing high-quality and reliable assessments in education.  The tests are normally taken in Year 6 or Year 7 when a pupil is aged between 10 and 12.

The key features of the tests are:

  • they cover verbal reasoning, non-verbal reasoning, English and mathematics
  • they are online and adaptive
  • they are in a multiple-choice format
  • they take about two-and-a-half hours to complete (English 25 minutes, mathematics 50 minutes, non-verbal reasoning 32 minutes, verbal reasoning 36 minutes)
  • the four tests can be taken together or at separate times; in the candidate's own school, at the senior school for which he or she is entered or at an independent testing centre
  • candidates are registered by the senior school(s) for which they are entered
  • results are available to all senior schools which register the same candidate and therefore a candidate need only sit the test once for a range of senior schools
  • full technical support is given to schools which use the tests
  • the tests are unique to ISEB and are standardised for the independent sector
Senior schools which use the Common Pre-Tests


Assessment fee (non-refundable)
Each senior school which registers candidates will be invoiced. A full breakdown of fees is available here.

Preparing for the tests

  • 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.

Entering candidates

Common Pre-Tests candidates can be registered between 1 September and 16 June.
The Common Pre-Tests can be taken between 1 October and 30 June.

Candidates should be registered by senior schools, using the ISEB registration website. For schools registering more than 30 candidates, you can request an Excel template to complete and email back to ISEB. Senior schools can easily forward individual candidate login details to wherever the candidate will be taking the tests, including overseas. The Board hopes that as many candidates as possible will take the tests in their own schools. This reduces anxiety and saves candidates from taking numerous days out of school to attend separate pre-test assessments at different senior schools.

When the tests have been taken, senior schools can access the results, using the login details supplied. It is possible for more than one school to register the same candidate for the Common Pre-Tests but the candidate will take the tests only once per academic year. The set of results obtained will be shared with all schools registering that candidate. In the very unlikely event of a candidate taking the tests more than once within a single academic year, the first set of results will stand. In no other circumstances will schools have access to results from candidates other than those they have registered.

Senior schools wishing to use the tests should:

  • register candidates at least five working days before they want the tests to be taken; if they wish to register candidates in June, registrations should be completed by 16 June
  • ensure that prospective pupils, their parents and their prep schools are informed that they need to take the Common Pre-Tests
  • check that prospective pupils have not already taken the Common Pre-Tests in the current academic year

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.

SEND report

Administration of the tests

The administration of the tests is straightforward for senior schools, prep schools and independent testing centres. Full technical support is given by the GL team, and the ISEB office staff are always happy to answer questions about the registration process.

The guides below contain all the information schools require.

Common Pre-Tests update 2018-2019
Senior school guide
Invigilation centre guide

Centre declaration form

Request for candidate results


  • each candidate's results will include the time taken for each test element
  • each candidate has a Standard Age Score (SAS) which is based on the number of questions answered correctly; the score is adjusted for age and placed on a scale which makes a comparison with a standardisation sample taken from the independent schools sector; the average is 100
  • reports give individual stanine, percentile rank and group rank scores, together with mean SAS
  • Percentile rank (PR) and stanine are based on the standardised age score. The only variance is that they use different numeric ranges (see below)

Feedback to ISEB

The Board and GL Assessment always appreciate feedback on the tests and both senior schools and prep schools are asked to give their views; please email

Testimonials from schools

"We have found the ISEB Pre-Tests to be a really child-friendly and effective way of pre testing pupils. We have great links with the senior schools who buy the Pre-Tests and they are easy to organise in our ICT suites. They are demanding yet do not totally faze the children. It also means no stressful trips to senior schools. If only every school used them..."
Adrian Downie, Director of Studies, Ashfold School

"At Headington we have been impressed with the accuracy and level of fine detail that the Pre-Tests provides us with. We have been particularly delighted with the flexibility and ease of arrangements of taking the tests and Prep schools have been increasingly keen to work with us on a time frame that is mutually convenient to both schools."
Caroline Jordan, Headmistress, Headington School