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6 things you need to know if your child is taking the ISEB Pre-Test


As a result of the coronavirus pandemic, many senior schools have announced this year that they will use the ISEB Pre-Test entrance exam to assess prospective pupils.

An entrance exam already used by approximately 45 senior schools in the UK, there are now over 70 schools confirmed to be using the Pre-Test this year for their entrance assessment, with the list growing. This means many parents are worrying about preparing their child for an exam they may know very little about. Fear not though, we’ve created a list of all the important information you need if your child is taking the ISEB Pre-Test exam this year.

1. Subject knowledge

The Pre-Test covers four subjects: Maths, English, Verbal Reasoning and Non-Verbal Reasoning. These are the same as those covered in most senior school entrance exams. Pupils will need to be confident with the Maths and English national curriculum syllabus up to the end of Year 5 if sitting the exam in Year 6, or up to the end of Year 6 if they are sitting the exam in Year 7. They may need extra support with Verbal and Non-Verbal reasoning as these subjects are not always taught in schools. 

2. A unique format

Although the subjects used in the Pre-Test are similar to other entrance exams, the Pre-Test format is unique and often challenging for pupils who are not familiar with it. As well as being confident with the exam’s content, for Pre-Test success pupils will need to understand how best to approach the exam’s unusual structure.

3. Where is it taken?

Pupils may be asked to sit the Pre-Test exam in their current school, or in one of their prospective schools. Pupils can only sit the Pre-Test once a year and their result can be accessed by the any of the schools they apply to. The exam is taken on a computer. Questions are not numbered but pupils can see where they are up to by looking at the progress bar at the bottom of the test screen. 

4. Adaptive Testing

The Pre-Test is adaptive, meaning it will become easier or harder depending on whether a pupil is answering questions correctly. This can be tricky for pupils as it will be hard for them to gauge how well they are doing. Unusually, pupils are not able to leave a question blank, so they must get used to triaging questions as they appear. It is vital they do not waste time on questions they are unlikely to answer correctly, instead ensuring they do not make silly mistakes on those they are able to answer. 

5. Timing

As a timed exam, pupils have approximately a minute per question. Pupils need to be able to remain calm and not stress if they see a difficult question. Questions are normally multiple choice. If a pupil does not think they will be able to answer a question correctly, it’s best to make a quick guess and move on so they have more time to spend on those they can.

6. Comprehension

For the English section of the Pre-Test exam, pupils are required to answer comprehension questions based on an extract. They are not given any extra reading time and so must learn to quickly scan the text for the answer having read the question first. This in itself is a skill that most pupils will not be used to.

BOFA Pre-Test was created after some years ago after several prep-schools asked for a resource that would give pupils insight into what the Pre-Test exam would be like. We offer packs of online mock Pre-Test exams that mirror the style and content of the official exam. They are highly effective in building a pupil’s exam technique while also improving their confidence.

You can buy a pack of mock Pre-Tests here: pre-test.co.uk/shop

Learn more about the ISEB Pre-Test here.

Read our other Pre-Test blog posts