Almost every UK independent school sets 16+ exams for students hoping to gain entry into their sixth-form (year 12). Additionally, schools request previous school reports and predicted GCSE grades. Students are usually offered a conditional place, subject to the school’s minimum GCSE requirements.
Most schools do not have a very big sixth-form intake and places are limited, with a high application to place rate. Pass marks therefore vary from year to year and, depending on the school, entry can be extremely competitive.
In an attempt to demystify the process, outlined below are the most important dates, tips on preparation for exams and interviews and a brief summary of the schools with a larger sixth form intake.
Registration: September of year prior to entry (check on school website!)
Exams and interview: October/November of year prior to entry
Results: December of year prior to entry
* Students applying from overseas may need to take the UKiset test before the end of September (double check on the relevant school's website).
Preparing for exams
Depending on the school, and often sixth form curriculum (e.g. A level vs IB vs Pre-U), prospective students will be asked to either:
a) sit exam papers in their chosen sixth-form subjects.
b) sit exam papers in English and Maths and one or two chosen additional subjects.
The papers are usually written in-house by the prospective school and are normally based on the GCSE syllabus. Occasionally, and particularly for the more academic schools, the exams may include a small number of harder questions requiring students to apply their GCSE knowledge in new and more challenging contexts. Again, you need to double check the specific requirements on the relevant school's website.
Preparing for 16+ exams can be overwhelming because Year 11 students are also trying to concentrate on their GCSEs. We recommend having a look at:
- Past papers (if your chosen school does not provide past papers, have a look at other schools which you know are of a similar academic standing)
- Your GCSE syllabus (and prospective A Level syllabus)
- Essay writing and exam technique tips
If there are particular areas which require focus, please contact Keystone and we can look for an experienced 16+ tutor to iron out any creases. Keystone has worked with 16+ students in London, across the UK, Singapore, Malaysia, Hong Kong and the rest of the world.
Preparing for interview
Schools will be looking for students who can speak fluently about their interests and their favourite subjects. Think about the sorts of questions you might be asked and how you might respond; think about why you want to go to this school and what you would like to achieve in the two years you might have at the school.
Keystone has built up extensive knowledge of the interview requirements 16+ entry. Our team has delivered practice interviews to a large number of individual students in both London and Singapore. Please get in touch to find out more.
Looking for a sixth form place in a UK independent school?
Most London day schools only have a small number of sixth-form places available and the application to place rate is extremely high. Listed below are a few schools with a higher intake but note that the number of applicants will, correspondingly, be higher.
- City of London School for Boys (12-15 boys places)
- City of London School for Girls (15-20 girls places)
- Westminster (60 girls places)
- King’s Wimbledon (50 girls places)
- St Paul’s Boys (20 boys places)
Most single-sex schools are fixed near maximum capacity and therefore, excepting those listed below this paragraph, only seek new sixth-form students to replace vacating students.
- Harrow (20 places)
- Tonbridge (20 places)
- Cheltenham Ladies College (40 places)
It is not uncommon for girls to move from single-sex schools to co-educational schools for sixth-form so often entry to an all-girls sixth-form is an easier route than to a co-ed school. It is always worth checking school websites and contacting the school to determine the situation, which changes year by year.
Several co-educational boarding schools have a larger set number of places available for sixth-form applicants and some are listed below. Please note that sixth-form places at these schools are still highly coveted and can be extremely competitive.
- Charterhouse (75 girls and 30 boys)
- King’s Canterbury (50 places)
- Sevenoaks (75-80 places)
- Wellington (40-50 places)
- Cheltenham (30 places)
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