• Penny

The Common Entrance Exam : What to expect

Updated: Aug 7, 2019

Common Entrance Exam: What to expect

Common Entrance Exams change frequently so, whilst past exam papers are useful, be aware that the format and style of question can shift from year to year. Common Entrance papers are currently given a ‘level’ in some subjects. Levels range from Level 1 to Level 3 with Level 3 as the most difficult. Levels were created both to reflect ability but also to give those with less experience in a subject the opportunity to perform without being overwhelmed. For example, a bright child with only 2 years of French might take level 1. The Senior School will determine which Level the applicant sits in each subject. Be aware that the most academic schools will request Level 2 and 3 and not accept the less challenging Level 1 papers.

English, History and Geography

The humanities do not have a system of levels. Differentiation is via outcome as their tasks are open-ended enough to let the less able attempt each question and, at the same time, allow the more able to shine. Click here for Private Tutors in these subjects.


Candidates work towards two papers, one non-calculator and one calculator, each of 60 minutes’ duration, and then also a mental test lasting up to 30 minutes. The non- calculator and calculator papers will be available at three levels: Level 1, Level 2 and Level 3. Level 2 will be taken by the majority of candidates. Level 1 is aimed at those who would typically score less than 40% on Level 2 papers. Level 3 will challenge the more advanced mathematicians. The mental test will be common to all three levels. It will be recorded. Click here for Private Tutors for Maths.


Latin is not typically taught in primary schools so, if entering a Prep School in Year 7, it maybe useful to gap fill. Our tutors have fast track programmes to make this happen and ensure a child is up to the level of his or her peers in as efficient a time frame as possible. Latin at Level 1 is intended for candidates who have studied Latin for 1 to 2 years but not accepted at all Senior Schools. Level 2 is for candidates who have studied Latin for 2 to 3 years. Latin level 3 is for those who have a greater depth of learning. Click here to see Private Tutors for Latin.


French can be on the timetable from the early years whether at a pre-prep, prep or primary school but, if the focus is on singing and dancing, there may be a need for more rigour before tackling the years up to Common Entrance. At Level 1, the past tenses are not required in any paper and in the Writing component, candidates are expected to produce basic language in the final section. Level 1 is rarely accepted in Senior Schools. The reason is that schools are keen for pupils to be of a similar standard when they enter Year 9. In Level 2, exercises in the Speaking and Writing offer open-ended tasks which allow candidates to show knowledge of a range of tenses, should they choose to use them. Senior schools should give clear advice to preparatory schools if they have particular requirements in respect of levels. We have some excellent Private Tutors for languages with heaps of experience. They are ready to advise and guide through a fast track programme or to fill gaps and build confidence according to the individual need.


In the current syllabus, there are two different levels. Level 2 has a number of additional topics so it is definitely worth researching the specific requirements. Have a look here at our wealth of brilliant Private Tutors for Science.

Religious Studies

There are two distinct programmes of study: Syllabus A comprises biblical studies, contemporary issues and world religions. It reflects the fact that the religious traditions of the UK are mainly Christian while taking into account other significant religions represented in the country. Syllabus B, on the other hand, covers the central doctrines of the Roman Catholic Church, biblical studies and contemporary issues. Our Private Tutors for Religious Studies can guide children to success with either syllabus.

When are 13+ Common Entrance Exams?

There are 3 times in the year to sit 13+ Common Entrance Exams. The earliest papers are in November of Year 8, then there is another opportunity mid-year to sit the January version of the entrance exams. However, by far the most popular time to take the exam is in June of Year 8. The Senior School of choice will determine when applicants sit the Common Entrance for their school.

Who marks the 13+ entrance exams?

The Senior School of choice will mark the papers and then give the results to the candidate’s current school. Results are out within 2 weeks maximum of sitting the papers.

Do children choose to take either Scholarship exams or Common Entrance Exams?

Ordinarily, Scholarship exam dates will be ahead of Common Entrance exam dates. If a child wants to take on the challenge of Scholarship, they will usually sit the exam either in the Spring term or in early May of Year 8. If they are successful, there will be no need for them to sit Common Entrance Exams. If they are not successful but still reach an impressive standard, the Senior School will most likely waive the need to sit Common Entrance as well. However, if they do not reach the required standard, they still have the opportunity to sit Common Entrance in June.

2 views0 comments