How to revise for the 13+ Pre-Test


The Common Entrance route to an Independent School is one of the longest and most complex. Beginning with the pre-test, which is sat in either Year 6 or Year 7, the successful applicant must pass assessments in English, Mathematics, Verbal and Non-Verbal reasoning. If successful, they sit the full Common Entrance exam a few years later.

Knowing where to start with your preparations can be tricky so we have put together a handy guide to get you started.

Top Tips to Ace the Common Entrance (13+) Pre-Test

Preparation, Preparation, Preparation!

The whole process is best seen as a marathon, not a sprint. It is therefore important to give yourself and your child plenty of time to acclimatise to the expectations and demands of the paper. Some parents find it useful to begin a year before the assessments as this allows for the gradual increasing of difficulty, without it being too pressurised. This can often be more beneficial than leaving it just a few weeks before the exams start, which can be stressful for all

(Assessment) Practice makes perfect

As the pre-test exams are sat via a computer, it is important that children are familiar with the set up and expectations of the real thing. This can help with nerves as they will, by and large, know what to expect on the day. Happily, over the last few years specialist platforms have been set up to help students complete online assessments:

Atom Learning: This platform is used by several prep schools to help students acclimatise to online assessments. It is a paid for service that provides a range of practice materials covering each of the elements on the pre-test. While we disagree with their claim ‘the best private tutor is a machine’ it is possible to start a 5 day trial on their parent platform

Bofa: Similar to Atom Learning, Bofa provide online assessment practice, presented in a child friendly way, that helps with familiarisation. It also offer a paid for subscription service and is used by some schools to help with preparation

GL Assessments: The ISEB pre-tests are outsourced to GL Assessment, who write the papers. In addition they also provide a few free resources which can help with familiarisation. While these are paper based, the question format and multiple choice format give a good feel for the papers themselves

Mathletics: As might be expected this is a maths focused platform which is also used by some schools. Aside from practice assessments students are able to compete in real time against their classmates or other students both at home and abroad. Although not directly aligned with the ISEB syllabus, it can help students develop their confidence with mathematics. It might be a good idea to disable the easier difficulties well before the assessment, to ensure they are being challenged at the right level

Nintendo Switch: The popular handheld games console produced by Nintendo has a game called “Dr. Kawashima’s Brain Training”. Although in no ways related to entrance examinations it can provide excellent preparation in getting students used to the interactive reasoning components of the tests. It is likely to meet less resistance as well! At the time of writing copies of the game can be purchased for around £20

Study Time

Setting regular, designated time for preparation and study has lots of benefits. Clearly regular practice and study will be more beneficial than irregular bursts of activity. It is also less stressful for both the student and parent as there is a clear demarcation between work and play time. Knowing that there is a clear start and finish to the study time can also help to provide focus. Its really important that regular breaks are built into the study period as well as (healthy!) snacks and drinks. Like all of us, students learn best when happy

Study Space

It’s easier said than done, but if you can designate a neat, tidy and quiet area for your child to study in, it can make a huge difference. The obvious benefit is your child will be able to focus better there but it also has one other benefit. It helps to reinforce that time at the study space is time for study. After the study is complete, your child is free to leave and can leave their work (and maybe their worries about it) at the desk

Expert Support

The benefits of one-to-one tuition are manifold. Each lesson is tailored towards the needs of your child and they benefit from the instant support and feedback a private tutor provides. Our pre-test tutors are all experienced and qualified teachers who have helped many students succeed in their pre-tests and beyond. If you would like to learn more about our tutors, please see below

13 Plus pre-test tutors