Most schools have a fixed admissions process that requires you to apply by the end of October for the following academic year. Some of the most popular UK independent schools require parents to apply up to four years in advance. For example, at Wellington College the closing date for 13+ entry is June 30 of Year 5, so you would need to apply before next July for entry in 2025. There are also schools including Wycliffe Senior School and ACS International Schools that take applications at any point in the academic year, so it's always worth checking.
So, if you are still looking for a place for the 2022-23 academic year, you need to act quickly and apply before the end of October 2021.
There are then entrance exams and interviews in November through to early January.
Read more: Before or after visiting a campus, read our independent review of the school by searching here. And, once you're booked onto a tour check here to find out all the questions you need to ask.
You can submit an online application as a first step, and if living overseas your child may be asked to take part in an admissions interview or exams via Zoom or another video app.
Some schools require UK students to first complete the ISEB Common Pre-test (at the end of Year 6) and to submit their latest school report. Overseas students complete a UKiset Assessment (the UK Independent Schools’ Entry Test), which is an adaptive online test, taken in English. The test can be taken at centres across the world; details can be found here. www.ukiset.com.
Selective independent schools then require prospective students to sit an Entrance Exam and, if they do well in this, they will then be invited for an interview where they will have the opportunity to talk about their interests and achievements, both academic and co-curricular. They may also take part in an Assessment Day, which involves collaborative, problem-solving and team-building activities.
Most independent schools write and mark their own exams for 11+ entry (and all other year groups). For 11+ entrance, exams can be based on the GL and CEM 11+ exams, the Common Entrance Syllabus, and the National Curriculum for England.
Only a small number of independent schools, mainly all-girls schools, use the Common Entrance exam at 11+, which includes English, maths and science tests. (The Common Entrance is more widely used as part of the selective admissions process at age 13.) There are two exam sessions each year, in November and January.
Schools using the Common Entrance 11+ as part of their admissions process are:
The London 11+ Consortium (formerly known as North London Girls' Schools Consortium) is a group of 12 independent schools in North London which have come together to reduce the number of assessments sat by pupils. The London 11+ Consortium exam has replaced lengthy English and maths papers with a 75-minute, multiple choice cognitive test consisting of maths, verbal and non-verbal reasoning.
If applying to any of the schools in this consortium, your child will sit one exam which is then used as an application to the wider group of schools, and most give out their results at the same time – usually in February.
These schools include: Channing School, Francis Holland School (Regent’s Park and Sloane Square), Godolphin and Latymer School, More House School, Northwood College for Girls, Notting Hill and Ealing High School, Queen’s College London, Queen’s Gate School, South Hampstead High School, St Helen’s School London, and St James Senior Girls’ School.
Around 150 independent schools in the UK use the 13+ Common Entrance exam as all or part of their admissions process; these schools can be viewed here.
Students sit the 13+ Common Entrance examination when they are in Year 8. There are three examination sessions each year, in November, January and May/June. The core subjects – English, Mathematics and Science – are all covered in the exam. Students may also sit papers in a range of subjects chosen from French, Geography, German, Classical Greek, History, Latin, and Spanish.
Other independent schools write and mark their own exams for 13+ entry, which will consist of English, Mathematics, Verbal Reasoning and Non-Verbal Reasoning.
Many senior schools that use the 13+ Common Entrance exam at the end of Year 8 also require students to sit 11+ Common Pre Tests in Year 6 or 7; this means that Year 9 places can be offered up to two years in advance, subject to passing the 13+ Common Entrance at the end of Year 8.
Opinion is divided on how to prepare your child for the 11+ or 13+. Should children only go to a selective school if they are genuinely bright enough to cope with the work once they get in, or is it only fair to tutor a child when they may be competing against 1,000 other students for one of just 100 places?
You can choose to prepare their child using resources available, such as the series of Bond 11+ books or past papers, or to send your child to 11+ tuition group. Prep schools tend to prepare their Year 6 or Year 8 students for entry and scholarships assessments; generally, state schools will not provide preparation for the 11+ or 13+ so they may be at a disadvantage.
There are two main exam boards for the Common Entrance 11+ Exam – GL Assessment and CEM. GL Assessment practice papers are available to buy, and its website outlines what can be expected in each test. CEM tests are produced to each school or local authority’s exact requirements, so the exam papers differ by area. Typically, the CEM exam includes verbal (English), numerical (maths) and non-verbal tests. CEM does not produce practice papers.
Many schools will include past/practice papers on their website to help you prepare; check the admissions section on their website to find papers that can be downloaded.
Read more: Are you considering applying to a selective state secondary school in the UK? Here’s an essential guide to the 11+ entrance exams for UK grammar schools.
Yes. The exams can often be taken in the student’s own school and the ISEB, which administers the Common Entrance, regularly sends exam papers to schools in countries including Hong Kong, China, Kenya, Nigeria, the US, and Russia.
All documents must be supplied to the school in English or a certified translation.
Read more: Everything you need to know about scholarships to UK schools
Confirmation of places is sent out by most UK independent schools in early February, ahead of the start of term in September of that year.
Visit whichschooladvisor.com/uk for independent reviews on some of the most popular prep and senior schools in the UK for international students, with information including curriculum, fees, facilities and exam results.