The ISEB Common Pre-Tests are very commonly used by senior independent schools as a part of their admissions process. This blog aims to explain:
The test is taken on a computer and consists of multiple-choice questions. It is broken down into four parts:
- English – 25 minutes (reading comprehension, sentence completion, spelling and punctuation)
- Mathematics – 50 minutes (in line with Year 5 of the UK National Curriculum)
- Non-Verbal Reasoning – 32 minutes (shape analogies, classes like, horizontal codes)
- Verbal Reasoning – 36 minutes (common words, antonyms, word combinations, letter transfer and number codes)
The test is adaptive, the questions will get harder if the student continually answers correctly, and easier if they do not. There are no practice tests available but there is a familiarisation test and during the actual test example questions will be shown. All questions are compulsory and they cannot go back once a question has been answered. There is a progress bar to show them how far through the questions they are, and a timer (re-added for 2020-21) to show the time remaining. They are allowed pen/pencil and paper for working out during the verbal reasoning and mathematics tests but not during the non-verbal reasoning or English tests.
How to prepare for the ISEB Pre-Test
Despite their adaptive nature and the absence of past papers, we do have a fair idea of what the tests involve and (from the information available) know that they have their roots in Key Stage 2 of the UK National Curriculum. As such, in cases where we have been asked to prepare a student for the ISEB Common Pre-Tests, we recommend that tutors focus on developing a thorough knowledge of the 11+ ISEB Common Entrance Curriculum in English and Maths ensuring that there are no knowledge gaps. You should consult the 11+ English and Maths syllabuses to ensure the fundamentals are strong before introducing 13+ content if stretch is needed. Alongside English and Maths preparation we would advise computer-based practice for verbal and non-verbal reasoning (see section on computerised test practice).
Reading practice: We always encourage students to cultivate a reading habit and to be exposed to all kinds of texts which will naturally expand their vocabulary and comprehension skills. Reading age-appropriate books, stories, news articles, blogs, can also help a student gain more insight into different writing styles. Students needs to be able to read quickly and digest the meaning of a text in an efficient manner. Do take a look at our reading suggestions if you are looking for inspiration.
Here is a top tip from Keystone Tutor Phillipa on preparing for the ISEB Pre-Test:
"From my experience, thorough grounding in spelling and punctuation is essential. Then vocabulary work also vital for comprehension and reasoning. Also regular online practice using variety of platforms (Keystone tests, Atom, BOFA etc). Maths - go through topics one by one, and ensure solid foundation in terms of four operations, times tables, mental maths etc."
ISEB Pre-Test Practice Papers
Paper resources: There are many great resource sets available to purchase that are age-appropriate and cover all 4 sections of the test. Using paper resources will benefit hand-writing and after the ISEB Pre-Tests it is likely that students will need to take written assessments, and as such it is very important not to forget about these and to combine computerised and written preparation.
Computerised test practice: It is important to familiarise students with the style of multiple-choice questions contained in the test. Completing practice questions will give your child an idea of what to expect which should ease any apprehension and allow your child to perform well. We recommend the following websites:
Speed: Students should try and answer questions as quickly as possible and practice working under time pressure to ensure they get through all the questions. They should get used to answering questions independently (without a parent or a tutor) so they do not become reliant on being able to ask for help.
Accuracy: It is not possible to go back and review or change your answers during the computerised test, therefore it is important to not only be quick, but very careful when selecting the answer. It is very helpful to practice as many question types as possible as familiarisation is key to understanding patterns and sequences more quickly.
Here is a top tip from Keystone Tutor Tom on preparing for the ISEB Pre-Test:
“- As much exposure to computerised testing (through one of the platforms) as possible.
- A firm grounding in the essentials of the Maths and English curricula up to year 6.
- Timed practice at the specific question types asked on the tests (e.g. cloze procedure for English).
- Practice at pre-test specific techniques including elimination and spotting red herrings.”
How Keystone can help?
Each year we support many students preparing for the ISEB Pre-Tests. Our ISEB pre-test tutors will focus on strengthening core English and Maths whilst working on computerised exam technique. For more details, please contact one of our client managers in London, Hong Kong or Singapore.
How do I register for the ISEB Pre-Tests?
The senior schools you have applied to will register your child for the test, they will then ask where your child will take the test so they can provide the registration information to the test centre.
Where can you take the ISEB Pre-Test?
For most students this will be their current school but the test can also be taken at an approved test centre (such as the British Council) which is often the case for candidates that live outside of the UK. Do ask the senior schools for a list of accepted test centres as they might dictate where the test must be taken.
When is the ISEB Pre-Test taken?
Registration for the ISEB Pre-Tests, and the exams themselves, follow the schedule below:
- Candidates can be registered for the ISEB Common Pre-Tests between the 1st September and 16th June
- Candidates are registered by the senior school they are applying to and typically sit the test at their current school
- Candidate’s results can be shared with more than one senior school, but it is only possible for a candidate to sit the ISEB Common Pre-Tests once per academic year
- The ISEB Common Pre-Tests can be taken any time between 1st October and 30th June
- Senior Schools set testing windows within this period the most common of which is between the 1st October and 30th November when candidates are in Year 6
- However, it is important to check with the senior school you are applying to for the exact dates the ISEB Common Pre-Tests needs to be sat.
How many times can you take the ISEB Pre-Test?
Students can take the test once per academic year (between October 1st and June 30th). If you are applying for multiple schools, the same set of results will be shared with all schools registering that student during the same academic year.
What if schools have different ISEB Pre-Test deadlines?
Students can only take the test once per academic year so the test will need to be taken before the earliest deadline. For example, if a student has applied to 3 senior schools and the deadlines are October, January and April. The test will need to be taken before October and all 3 schools will receive the results from that sitting.
Do all 4 sections of the ISEB Pre-Test need to be taken at the same time?
No, the 4 parts can be taken with breaks in-between or even on separate days. You will need to speak to the invigilator at the test centre to ask how they plan to administer the test and whether they allow sections to be taken over multiple days.
HOW ARE THE ISEB PRE-TESTS SCORED, AND WHAT IS THE PASS MARK?
To understand how the ISEB scoring system works, and how schools judge the results from the test, have a look at our detailed article on the topic.
Can adjustments be made to the ISEB Pre-Test for SEND or EAL candidates?
Adjustments can be made to the test for candidates that have diagnosed special educational needs or English is their second language if the senior schools permit it. For example, extra time can be added or the text on the screen can be enlarged. Families must inform all the senior schools they have registered for about any requirements as any adjustments need to be agreed by all schools that will receive the results.