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Our online and adaptive Common Pre-Tests are taken when a pupil is in Years 6 or 7 and include four tests in a multiple-choice format; English, Mathematics, Verbal Reasoning and Non-Verbal Reasoning.

Our Common Pre-Tests (2022-23):

  • Are online and adaptive, and in a multiple-choice format
  • Include four tests: English, Mathematics, Verbal Reasoning and Non-Verbal Reasoning
  • May be taken together at the same time, or at separate times
  • May be taken in the pupils’ own school, at the senior school they are applying for, or at an independent invigilation centre
  • Provide a pupils’ results to all senior schools that they have applied to, which means the pupil only needs to sit the tests once
  • May be taken at any time during the Common Pre-Tests session (which runs from October – June in each academic year)
  • Offer full technical support to schools which use them
  • Are unique to ISEB and standardised for the independent sector
  • Provide the ISEB Test Walkthrough so pupils are able to experience the look and feel of the tests


See which senior schools use our Common Pre-Tests.

Download list of senior schools


The ISEB Test Walkthrough

This walkthrough will help you to become familiar with the ISEB Common Pre-tests.

You will be able to:

– Find out more about the test on the instructions page.
– Explore the best setup for your page with the accessibility features.
– See the style of questions that might be asked.
– Familiarise yourself with how to select the correct answer.


  • FEES

    Assessment fee per applicant (non-refundable) £24


    Parents/guardians can register their child for the Common Pre-Tests between 5th September 2022 and 16th June 2023. The Common Pre-Tests can be taken any time between 3rd October 2022 and 30th June 2023.

    Parents should register their child on the ISEB Guardian Portal.

    We recommend that applicants take the tests in their own school, to reduce anxiety and save applicants from having to take days out of school.

    Applicants can only sit the Common Pre-Tests once in any Common Pre-Tests session (ie 3rd October 2022 and 30th June 2023).


    To improve the administration of the Common Pre-Tests, three admin portals will be launched in September 2022.

    Guardian Portal: For parents and guardians to register their child for the Common Pre-Tests. Parent registration means each child is only registered once.

    Senior School Portal: For senior schools to be able to view the pupil records and results of the Common Pre-Tests.

    Invigilation Centre Portal: For invigilation centres (which include prep schools, senior schools and non-school venues such as the British Council Offices overseas) to be able to view the pupil records and schedule the tests (including downloading the access codes).


    The ISEB Common Pre-Tests are designed to identify attainment and potential. 

    Attainment: The English and mathematics tests are designed in line with topics and knowledge that pupils will be taught in class. They therefore assess a child’s ability to recall what they have been taught and apply this knowledge to solve problems in core areas of the curriculum.

    Potential: The Verbal and Non-Verbal Reasoning tests enable pupils to demonstrate their academic potential through a range of question types that may be unfamiliar to them. It is the pupils’ ability to analyse, think critically, find patterns and problem solve that is assessed. These abilities are important indicators of potential as they indicate a pupils’ ability to acquire new information and apply this to situations they have not previously come across.

    ISEB recommends pupils use the ISEB Test Walkthrough to familiarise themselves with the test platform, explore the accessibility features and see the styles of questions that might be asked during the test.

    For further information about the content of the tests, you can download the ISEB Common Pre-Tests Framework below.

    ISEB cannot guarantee the accuracy of any third-party Common Pre-Tests practice resources that are not endorsed by ISEB. They may not accurately reflect the presentation, difficulty, test content and scoring of the live Common Pre-Tests.

    What do the tests include:

    • English: questions on reading comprehension and grammar (including spelling)
    • Mathematics: questions are based on the National Curriculum for Mathematics until the end of Year 5.
    • Verbal Reasoning: questions assess a range of English language skills including word meaning, comprehension, reasoning and logic.
    • Non-Verbal Reasoning: questions assess non-verbal reasoning and spatial reasoning.

    For more details about the structure and content of the test, download the ISEB Common Pre-Test Framework.

    How do the tests work?

    The four tests are all online, adaptive, multiple-choice tests. An adaptive test is one where the questions are chosen to be the most suitable for each pupil. The system assesses the pupil’s ability after each response and selects the next question to have the most appropriate level of difficulty. This means that a test-taker does not need to spend time answering questions that are too hard or too easy for them and the whole test can be shorter while still providing an accurate score.

    In an adaptive test, pupils may be presented with differing numbers of questions and the system does not allow them to go back and change previous answers, eg if they think they have made a mistake. We ensure that the length of the test is optimised to provide an accurate score for every pupil and allows for any errors uncharacteristic of the general level of ability shown in a pupils’ responses.

    Textbooks, calculators, mobile devices, and other materials which might assist an applicant must not be accessible during the Common Pre-Tests.

    Applicants should have access to pen/pencil and paper for their rough work during the tests. It is the responsibility of the invigilation centre to provide pen/pencil and paper.

    The ISEB Test Walkthrough  demonstrates the look and feel of the tests. Schools can share the link to it with applicants’ parents/guardians.

    Access the ISEB Test Walkthrough


    Applicants with SEND

    Where appropriate, and in agreement with senior schools, applicants with SEND can be given additional time of 25% to complete each test element. Applicants requiring extra time should have extra time requested for them by the parents/guardians as part of their registration in the ISEB Guardian Portal.

    Evidence of SEND status

    Parents/guardians should check with the senior school what documentation is needed as evidence for this request before registering. It is usually an Educational Psychologist’s report (or other suitably-qualified professional). Some schools require proof that the applicant’s reading speed or cognitive processing is less than average  a standardised score below 89). As different senior schools have different SEND policies, ISEB recommends speaking with the SEND departments of the relevant senior schools. The parent/guardian will need to upload this evidence as part of the registration process in order to request extra time. A senior school will be able to view the applicant’s record and evidence. If the information does not meet their requirements for extra time, they will appeal the request for extra time. This process will be detailed in the ISEB Guidance for Applicants with SEND. Senior schools should take into account the potential impact of any specific needs in their overall assessment of an applicant’s application.

    Parents/guardians can still register without this information as they will create an account meaning their child’s record can be amended.

    During registration on the Guardian Portal, parents/guardians can include any other adjustments for access arrangements. The Common Pre-Tests have been designed to be accessible to applicants with a range of special educational needs or disabilities. Reasonable adjustments may be applied, the nature of which will depend on the applicant’s specific needs. In individual cases, schools may decide that not all test elements are a suitable form of assessment for a particular applicant.

    Test features

    There are three features built into the online testing platform, specifically to support applicants with SEND.

    1. Applicants will be able to select a coloured overlay to help improve the visibility of the questions, particularly for applicants who face visual discomfort and disturbance when reading.  
    2. The font size can be adjusted to suit visually-impaired applicants.  
    3. The timer for the test will be visible to all applicants (even those with 25% extra time) and it can be hidden from view if the countdown makes a applicants anxious.

    Further information

    To support applicants with SEND, the ISEB SEND Guidance has been created for parents/guardians, senior schools and invigilation centres. This document explains in detail how the tests are constructed and how the questions have been designed to reduce the load on working memory to be more inclusive for applicants with SEND. It also contains further guidance on the registration process and where to go for support.

    Applicants with English as Additional Language (EAL)

    The Common Pre-Tests are accessible to applicants for whom English is an additional language. Reasonable adjustments may be applied, the nature of which will depend on the applicant’s specific needs. For applicants with EAL, 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 an applicant whose first language is not English.

    Parents/guardians should include what reasonable adjustments are required for their child when they register for the tests. There is no extra time element for applicants with EAL. A senior school will be able to view the applicants record and evidence. If they have any issues with the reasonable adjustments they will contact the parents/guardians and/or the current school directly.


    Once the Common Pre-Tests have been taken, senior schools can access the results in their Senior School Portal. The applicant can only take the tests once in each academic year. Each applicants’ results will include:

    • A Standardised 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)
    • Individual stanine, percentile rank and group rank scores, together with mean SAS.

    Percentile rank (PR) and stanin are based on the SAS. The only variance is that they use different numeric ranges.

    Senior schools can view the results in the Senior School Portal and can download these at any time to a .csv file.


Common Pre-Tests Test Framework

PDF 151.5 KB

Common Pre-Tests SEND Guidance

PDF 159.75 KB

Common Pre-Tests Admin Portals and Processes

PDF 115.37 KB

A Senior School Guide 2022-23 and Invigilation Centre Guide 2022-23 are both coming soon.


An Invigilation Centre (or test centre) is the place where pupils sit the ISEB Common Pre-tests.

An Invigilation Centre could be:

  • Current school: UK prep school, maintained primary or junior school or international prep or junior school
  • Senior School: if the pupil is sitting the test at one of the schools to which they have applied
  • Non-school Venue: if the pupil is sitting the test at an approved venue such as one of the British Council Offices worldwide.

How do I register my school to be an Invigilation Centre?

To register as an Invigilation Centre you will need to complete the form below to create an account.

Register for an Invigilation Centre account

Please ensure that all of the information is completed as you wish it to be viewed by parents (please check spelling and capital letters).

The main email address supplied as the Invigilation Centre email address will be used to create your login. We suggest using a generic email such as admissions@schoolname.


Further information for Invigilation Centres

Do we need to ask Overseas Agents to register themselves with you to invigilate the ISEB?

Yes, the information on the webpage below explains what senior schools should do for your approved Invigilation Centres here:

Common Pre-Tests Information for Senior Schools

If the request to add an invigilation centre comes through you it will be quicker to add these on to the system, rather than through the parent/guardian as ISEB will need to run checks on the centre.

If you know of any overseas testing centres who are likely to host the tests for you, we suggest forwarding the link to register for an account now.

Register for an Invigilation Centre account

I have many pupils wanting to sit at their state schools, how do we get them on to the system. Do I have to contact them directly or is this something you would do?

If you have their contact details already, you would be best placed to do so. You can share the information regarding further information for Invigilation Centres and how to register as one here:

Common Pre-Tests Information for Prep Schools and Test Centres


ISEB welcomes feedback from schools at any time of the year; comments should be sent to

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