• Penny

Private School Entrance unravelled

London has grown 16% in the last ten years and there are now over 2 million children under the age of 19 in the capital. Entrance to all London schools is highly competitive, with parents racing to be that early bird that catches the worm.

35% of parents would still favour private school education if money was not a consideration and, although state schools in London are among the fastest improving schools in the nation, their private counterparts still have the edge in terms of results with 50% of St Paul’s pupils consistently scoring top A* grades.

Private Sector Entrance Procedures

Here’s an overview of entrance procedures. Do be aware that, whist the major independent schools have many similar entry procedures, they often have a number of their own bespoke criteria as well. For a full understanding and to confirm deadlines and assessment dates, talk to each school individually.

Nursery and 3+ Entry

If you want your child to attend a particular nursery then registering at birth is advisable. Do not be surprising if asked in for a family interview.

4+ Entry

Early registration is essential for pre-prep entry as well, as most schools register on a first-come first-serve basis. Any assessment is generally done in little groups and family interviews are usual.

7+ Entry and 8+ Entry

London day Prep Schools have 7+ and 8+ assessment days consisting of English, Maths and Reasoning. Whilst at the school for these tests, the children are observed pretty much from the moment they receive their nametag. Invigilators will note how well they concentrate during an extended time, whether they fidget on their seat, look at their neighbour, rock on their chair or generally try to distract the group. The behavioural side is a consideration but it is the marks that are all important in academic and competitive schools. The exams are usually about 45 minutes each and there will be a short break between each one. Children are also observed during group activities and during playtime to see if they fit in socially.

If interested in boarding prep schools, there is usually a more friendly admissions process, ordinarily consisting of a series of short tests and an interview.

11+ Entry

Traditionally, most girls would take 11+ for entry to their senior school. Some boys schools have an 11+ entry as well and also some co-educational schools. The standard subjects that are assessed at this level are English, Maths, Verbal and Non-Verbal Reasoning. Some schools include Science at this stage and there is often some form of interview. The deadline for applications is usually September of Year 6.

13+ Entry

This is the starting point for most boys senior schools and many co-educational schools. Application for 13+ entrance should also be done by the end of Year 5 to ensure no deadlines are missed. Pre-tests will then take place at the beginning of Year 6.

Pre-tests are essentially the first round of the entry process and they are becoming more and more popular in the major public schools. Generally, they consist of computerised verbal and non-verbal reasoning tests but sometimes there is a separate English and Maths paper as well. Again, do check with the school and be sure to target preparation accordingly.

If successful in the pre-tests, children are invited in for an interview and then often need to come back in Year 7 for another assessment. The major public schools are endeavouring to identify bright sparks from an early age but also to give families time to apply elsewhere should their child not be successful.

Having been given the thumbs up at the Year 7 assessments, children will receive a conditional offer dependant on Common Entrance results at the end of Year 8 (ordinarily, taken in the first week of June). This is the last hurdle! Children at Prep Schools take 13+ Common Entrance Exams in all academic subjects. Those studying overseas or in the UK State system will just need to focus on English, Maths and Science. However, these assessments are likely to be earlier, in January of Year 8.


The most popular, competitive and academic schools only offer a handful of places at this entry point. Therefore, it is a good idea to have a back up. Registration can include a personal statement and CV, then the assessments themselves take place in November with offers made before the end of the year but generally conditional on GCSE results.

Source: The world’s most competitive school system, Lucy Fletcher, Bonas MacFarlane

6 views1 comment