What is Sixth-Form entry?
The key entry points for independent secondary schools are 11+ (Year 7), 13+ (Year 9) and 16+ (Year 12). Out of these, sixth form is arguably the most competitive entry point, particularly if your child is seeking to move into one of the top UK independent schools. However, an increasing number of children move schools at sixth form, these two years of school providing an often-vital bridge between school and university.
How does sixth-form entry (16 plus) work?
Almost every UK independent school sets 16+ exams for students hoping to gain entry into their sixth-form. Additionally, schools will request previous school reports and predicted GCSE grades. Students are usually offered a conditional place, subject to the school’s minimum GCSE requirements.
How Competitive is entry at 16 plus?
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 the 16 plus exams
Depending on the school, and often sixth form curriculum (e.g. A level vs IB), 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
Preparing for the 16 plus interview
Schools will be looking for students who can speak fluently about their interests and 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 students in London, Hong Kong and Singapore; we have also provided effective interview preparation support online for those based outside of these regions. Please get in touch to find out more.
16 plus entry for 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 (up to 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)
To give a sense of some of the schools with a very low number of places available at some schools:
- Eton (4 places)
- Radley (8 places)
· All girls
- St. Mary’s Ascot (5 or 6 places)
- Downe House (8 or 10)
How Can Keystone Tutors Help?
- Entry test preparation support
- GCSE tuition
- Interview practice
- Schools Consultancy and Selection
If there are particular areas which require focus, or if you are considering 16+ applications but are not sure where to start, please do not hesitate to contact Keystone.