A guide to UK Schools Admissions Tests

Private school education can set your child on to a very successful path, but the competition for places is fierce and there are schools admissions tests they will have to sit to be accepted.

But what do these tests involve? How can you make sure your child gets the exam preparation they need? And what are the benefits of securing a place at a private school? We’ve listed all the answers you need in the below guide.

  1. Private schools are able to deviate from the public school curriculum, teaching students the soft skills that employers demand;

  2. There are a range of exams your child may have to sit, each focusing on different disciplines and some requiring interviews;

  3. It’s vital your child becomes familiar with the syllabus, sits mock exams and builds their confidence for the tests;

  4. ClassRx’s flexible, focused online tutoring sessions offer comprehensive guides to the admissions tests;

  5. Our tutors are distinguished academics from some of the world’s most elite institutions, including Harvard and Oxford.

What are the benefits of private school education?

Independent and private schools demand a fee, but there a plethora of positives that come from your child securing a place at one.

Over the years, private schools in the UK have yielded successful alumni that have gone on to become prime ministers and prominent political figures, as well as acclaimed actors, writers and businesspeople.

In short, private and independent school alumni tend to find themselves at the very top of their respective professions.

Part of this success stems from the social circles a private education enables, but it’s also down to the strength of the schooling – class sizes tend to be smaller than their public school counterparts, meaning more focused learning and feedback.

Private school pupils also enjoy career success thanks to being taught the soft skills that many of today’s employers demand, with lessons in drama, debating and music strengthening pupils’ creativity and collaboration.

All of this usually means graduates of private schools have a well-rounded CV with invaluable presentation skills and confidence.

Indeed, a private school education gets results – literally. According to the Independent Schools Council (ISC), over half of A-Level entrants from private schools secured an A grade, with 90 percent of them progressing on to higher education.

So, it’s fair to say that independent and private schools have got a solid reputation for success. Unsurprisingly, then, competition for places is high.

Recent stats from the ISC show that there are around 2,600 independent/private schools in the UK, with 630,000 children being taught. While that sounds a lot on its own, that’s only seven per cent of children across the entire country.

What schools admissions tests will my child have to sit?

Whether you already live in the UK or are based internationally, there are several tests that your child can sit to try and secure a place at these elite but fiercely competitive institutions.

Here are some of the most common examinations and what they entail.

7+ / 11+ / 13+ / 16+ Schools Admissions Tests

Over the course of your child’s young life, they will have the opportunity to enter these exams that could secure them a place at a prestigious school.

The 7+ exam is tailored for students looking to attend prep school (for students aged seven to eight). Normally a short test, the exam focuses on core skills such as mathematics and English.

Prep school admissions tests are normally scheduled for the spring term, to allow enrolment for September.

Other admissions tests in UK schools include the 11+ and 13+, known as common entrance exams (CEEs). The former is taken over two days, the latter four.

  • GL assessment – GL assessments are an 11+ exam focusing on English, maths, verbal and non-verbal reasoning. Students sit the exam and face either multiple-choice questions or ones that require them to write in an answer. GL assessments typically last 45 minutes.

  • CEM exams – In recent years, schools have started to favour CEM exams over GL assessments. Unlike the latter, CEMs don’t separate subjects by paper and do not follow a set format, often changing its style each year.

They also do not adhere to set time constraints and tend to require a much broader grasp of vocabulary.

Both the GL and CEM exams tend to take place in September.

These tests are some of the most competitive, with some schools insisting on a common pre-test to ensure students are suitable to sit the CEEs. The focus, again, is usually around English and maths.

The CEEs usually take place in November, January and May/June.


If you’re based outside of the UK, this will be the test for your child – it’s for international students to determine their suitability and is used by some of the UK’s most distinguished schools (including Eton).

There are several benefits to this test – if you’re applying for multiple independent schools, you will only have to sit just this one test rather than one for each institution.

It’s also delivered online, meaning you can sit it anywhere, although there are also designated test centres dotted around the world.

The UKiset team will usually get in touch with you regarding the exam date.

The test focuses on maths, English, and both verbal and non-verbal reasoning to solve problems. The results will then indicate how well your child compares to those already in the UK school system.


Similar to the UKiset, the Secondary Schools’ Admissions Test (SSAT) and Independent School Entrance Exam (ISEE) assess non-verbal reasoning and other areas and rank against other students within the same grade.

Like the UKiset, these tests are also available online but can also be taken at one of the global test centres.

The SSATs are administered eight times during the school year, usually from August to the following July. ISEEs are also given several times throughout the year, but predominantly take place during the autumn and early winter.

Scholarship tests

Another route to private school education is securing a scholarship.

Scholarships are normally awarded to pupils who show exceptional talent and potential but need financial input. Often, this talent is usually in a certain subject, whether it be drama, dance or art (among many others).

It is a fairly common route – currently, more than a fifth of independent school pupils in the UK receive financial assistance.

However, just like the tests listed above, competition is fierce.

To succeed, your child will need to be included on a private or independent school’s shortlist – this could be from an initial application. Your child will then have to sit an exam with the other pupils gleaned from said shortlist.

From that, it’s likely an interview will follow, with the possibility of one further examination to decrease competition.

Getting the right exam preparation

Ensuring your child is ready to sit the above exams will not follow a one-size-fits-all system, as each exam requires something slightly different.

One solid piece of advice is to get your child to familiarise themselves with the syllabus. It would also be beneficial for them to complete practice exams.

The GL assessment, however, often chooses its exams from a ‘question bank’, which means your child will be familiarised to what kinds of questions will come up after some practice tests (this may have attributed to the GL assessment’s decline in popularity).

Some private and independent schools will also require an interview. With the selection policy being so stringent, these schools will often treat this the same as an adult job interview – it’s a chance to evaluate the child’s character and see if they’d fit in with the existing students.

Even the prep school examination, for students just aged seven, often requires an interview as well as a test.

These interviews can either take place in a group or on a one-on-one basis. In either case, the admissions officers will look for genuine passion, a precocious mind, and what lessons and pursuits your child is most interested in.

Expert tutoring from the world’s finest institutions

So, you now know about admissions tests in UK schools, you know how competitive they are and you understand what kind of preparation is needed to help your child ace those all-important exams.

So what’s the best way to help them get the right prep and support?

Well, a recent study showed that 73 per cent of students that received private tutoring got into an elite school.

Having a dedicated private tutor will help your child no matter what age they are – it’ll foster a positive relationship with learning, build their confidence and curiosity, and enable them to receive bespoke support.

Private tutoring is great, but the only downside is you will have to fit it into your schedule, travelling from one destination to another to get your child to a tutoring session.

That’s where online tutoring comes in.

ClassRx offers one-on-one tutoring to help accelerate your child’s learning, all delivered through interactive online sessions that are designed to fit around you and your child’s busy schedules.

We offer exam preparation for prep school tests, UKiset, CEM, ISEB and many more examinations.

Our tutors provide mock exams, weekly assignments, quizzes, study notes and lively discussions, ensuring your child gains the confidence, creativity, skills and academic rigour needed to conquer these all-important exams.

Rest assured, your child will learn from only the very best – our tutors are academics at some of the world’s finest institutions, including Harvard, Princeton, Oxford and Cambridge. They’re ready to meet your child and give them the help they need, wherever they are in the world.

If they’re ready for an exciting and unlimited future that could span the globe, our online tutors can equip them with the core skills they require.

Does your child need one-on-one support for their schools admissions tests? Get in touch and book your first tutoring session with our money bank guarantee.