Secondary School Entry

There are almost as many different entry policies as there are Secondary Schools. This section must be thought of as an approximate guide.

I tutor students in the Maths part of these tests. I can recommend a tutor for verbal and non-verbal reasoning tests.


Independent Schools – Entry at year 7

Most independent schools test their students prior to offering a place and offer places only to those who do well in the tests. Different schools have different policies, but most schools will test 2 or more of the following:

  • Maths
  • English
  • Non-verbal reasoning
  • Verbal reasoning

In recent years, since say 2012, there has been a trend away from Non-verbal/Verbal reasoning towards Maths and English tests. Schools have been reviewing their entry policies and have decided to give up on the reasoning tests.

Many Independent Schools will also want to interview the prospective student.

Those schools with bursaries/scholarships available to mitigate the cost of school fees use the above entrance tests to decide to whom the bursaries/scholarships should be offered.

The level of Maths tested by schools varies a good deal between schools. Many schools expect the student to have better Maths skills than the average 10 year old. However most only test Maths that would be taught at primary school; using a mixture of easy and difficult questions; I’ve seen one 11 plus Maths paper that included a question that would be seen as very tough on a Higher GCSE paper. All schools aim to test understanding of the concepts of Maths, not just the techniques.

Some schools publish a curriculum on which the test will be based; others do not.

The exams tend to be about 7 to 10 months before the September of school entry.

Most independent schools will tell the parents if the application is successful by late February (6 months before the September of school entry) and will expect your answer to the offer of a place by early March. Note that if you are applying to state schools you are usually notified of the school allocated to you child on 1st March; offers from independent schools are designed to fit in to the state timetable.

Throughout the UK very many Independent schools use Common Entrance exams at for entry to year 7 and for entry to year 9. However, few of the schools in our area use Common Entrance tests. The 11+ tests (for year 7 entry) consist of exams over 2 days in English Maths and Science; these exams are held twice a year, in early November and early January. I tutor students for the Maths component of these tests.

The Centre for Evaluation and Monitoring (based at Durham University) is gradually becoming more involved in providing 11 plus exams. I wish them well – they seem to have a very sensible approach to assessing younger students.


Independent Schools – Entry at year 9

A handful of independent schools in our area offer entry to 13 year olds. The Maths questions for entry at year 9 are much more difficult than for entry at year 7; they expect students entering at 13 to be more proficient at Maths than the average 13 year old. In my experience entry at year 13 to schools is much tougher in most years than entry at year 11; a student who would sail through the 11 plus process may well struggle with 13+ tests 2 years later.

Outside London, at the long-established independent schools, entry at year 9 is the norm.

Many schools use Common Entrance exams at for entry to year 9. The 13+ tests (for year 9 entry) consist of exams over 4 days in a number of subjects; there are 2 written and 1 aural exams in Maths. I tutor students for the Maths component of these tests.

An increasingly common trend in recent years has been the use by schools of “Common Pre-Tests”. These are taken in year 6 or 7 and are computer based tests in Verbal Reasoning, Non-Verbal Reasoning, English and Mathematics. They give early indications to secondary schools of student’s abilities long before the 13+ Common Entrance exams.



Selective State Secondary Schools

The London Boroughs of Sutton, Kingston and Bromley have selective state schools as do Kent, Buckinghamshire and some parts of North London. Some of these schools accept students from a wide area, others have limited catchment areas. The entry process to these schools is quite tough.

Some schools have their own entry process; other schools form small groups to set and administer the Exams.

Historically, Selective State schools have only tested Non-verbal Reasoning and Verbal Reasoning, but the recent trend has been to test Maths and English as well. In fact some schools in the area are removing Non-verbal Reasoning and Verbal Reasoning from the 11 plus entirely!

Most of these tests are 10 or 12 months or so before the before the September of school entry. Most will provide some indication of how well the prospective student has done in a test a few weeks later, but you won’t know until 1st or 2nd March whether your child has been offered a place at a selective state school.

A recent trend is for 2-tier tests: An initial multiple choice test is taken in September following by a longer test a month or 2 later for those who pass the multiple choice.

The most common schools that I’m asked to teach for are:

  • Nonsuch High School (Girls – Sutton)
  • Sutton Grammar School (Boys – Sutton)
  • Tiffin Girls School (Girls – Kingston)
  • Tiffin School (Boys – Kingston)
  • Wallington High School for Girls (Girls – Sutton)
  • Wallington County Grammar School (Boys – Sutton)
  • Wilson’s School (Boys – Sutton)

I have also tutored for the “Wandsworth Year 6 Test” which is used as the main entry criterion for out-of-catchment entry to Graveney School (also Ashcroft Academy, Chestnut Grove, Burntwood School or Ernest Bevin). However, I don’t think the tutors can affect the marks from the “Wandsworth Year 6 Test” a great deal.


Martin Procter – August 2017


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