Independent School Entrance Tests

Passing the entrance test to get into an independent school is sometimes a slightly different business from passing the 11+ tests set by state grammar schools. Every independent school is free to set its own tests, and, although many use systems very similar to the 11+, some vary considerably.

As such, if your child is attempting to gain a place at an independent school near you, it’s crucially important that you understand the way the selection process works. Many independent schools offer past papers to help your prepare, which you should definitely accept if they are on offer.

Typical test components often include:

  • Maths – essential skills based on the topics your child should have covered in the upper years of primary or prep school.
  • English – often in the form of an extended essay question to assess your child’s written fluency and skill with spelling and punctuation. However, comprehension tests are sometimes involved, too.
  • Verbal reasoning – logic and problem solving puzzles similar to the ones sat in the traditional 11+ test. An ability to ‘frame’ the problem rapidly (i.e., understand and conceptualise it) is very important.
  • Non-verbal reasoning – logic problems based on shapes, sequences or patterns. They often take the form of ‘odd one out’ or ‘what comes next’ questions. These are perhaps slightly less common in independent school entrance tests, but it’s not at all unusual to come across them.
  • An assessment day, during which potential entrants will come in and experience a day at the school and monitored to see how they get on. This has recently been introduced, for example, at Manchester Grammar School.

In addition, the school may ask to see a portfolio of work from your child’s primary school. There will usually also be an interview, but interviewing well won’t make up for poor results in the academic tests. Getting a high score really is essential.

So, as a parent, what can you do to ensure the maximum chance of success? Once you’ve established the structure of the entrance tests you’ll need to come up with a preparation strategy: don’t expect your child’s current school to help much, especially if it’s a state primary.

You probably have a good idea of your child’s strengths and weaknesses, so the key to a successful strategy lies in working out where the potential problems will fall in the tests and working to address them. There are plenty of good revision guides on the market to boost English and Maths skills.

If the entrance test involves an 11+ style verbal reasoning component, you might also consider some practice tests – the Bond Assessment Papers are probably the best available.

Aside from that, there are various other general things you can bear in mind:

  • Vocabulary can make a big difference. This isn’t just a question of succeeding in English tests; good wordpower will help your child make sense of verbal reasoning questions quickly, ensuring an accurate understanding of the problem and saving valuable time in the test. Encourage reading over the summer, along with use of the dictionary to find out unfamiliar words.
  • Even if there isn’t a specific English test, spelling and punctuation matter. If your child is a borderline case, the school may look at the quality of his or her writing in written answers to verbal reasoning questions. Look at your child’s previous work, make lists of ‘problem’ words and encourage him or her to learn them. Revise punctuation, especially apostrophes to indicate possession and plurality.
  • Good mental arithmetic skills are important. Again, quick, reliable arithmetic can make all the difference in reasoning tests.
  • Finally, puzzles, word games and logic problems are always beneficial for sharpening the brain before entrance tests, and bright children can find them very enjoyable. Even simple crosswords and Sudokos can make a big difference and help your child develop fast, accurate logical thinking skills.

Finally, one of the best ways to give your child a head start is to hire a tutor. If you’re based in the Manchester, Stockport, Macclesfield, Wilmslow or Cheshire areas, contact us to discuss your situation – we have a number of tutors who are very experienced when it comes to coaching children for independent school entrance examinations.

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2 Responses to “Independent School Entrance Tests”

  1. Math Dyslexia in Children…

    […]Independent School Entrance Tests[…]…

  2. GUILLERMO says:

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