What is the ISEB Pre-Test?

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May 27th, 2022Last updated: February 22nd, 2024

In this article, Ally, an experienced teacher and school entrance specialist, explains what the ISEB test is and why it has become increasingly popular with independent schools.

The ISEB Pre-Test

The ISEB (Independent Schools Examination Board) common Pre-Test is an online, adaptive set of tests that are usually taken by pupils in Year Six or Seven to assess their ‘potential’ for prospective 11+ or 13+ places at independent schools. 

What does the ISEB consist of?

The assessment consists of four sets of tests in the following disciplines:



Verbal reasoning 

Non-verbal reasoning 

The ISEB common pre-tests are a set of multi-choice tests that take around two hours and fifteen minutes complete.

Tests are usually taken at your child’s school or a senior school (if your child is not currently in attendance at a prep school). Pupils sit one set of assessments, the outcome of which is shared with all secondary schools which you have applied for that have opted into the ISEB selection process (please note, not all schools choose to use the ISEB selection process). For overseas candidates, tests can be taken at an approved centre. 

Some schools are known to select pupils purely from the raw ISEB test score, whilst others use the ISEB score to decide who they will invite for further testing. It is important to understand the process for each school you are applying for as these do differ.

What will be assessed?

English: There are two sections: reading comprehension and grammar. Within these sections, the following skills are assessed: ability to read and understand a text; sentence completion; understanding high level vocabulary; spelling and punctuation; comparing texts. There are several short texts of between 300 and 500 words on which the questions are based, so it is important to practise with different types of text. 

Maths: The content for the Mathematics section of the ISEB Common Pre-Test is in line with the complete Year 5 curriculum; there will also be some extension-style questions based on this. 

Verbal reasoning:This includes shape analogies, classes of shape, missing patterns and sequencing. The NVR section of the ISEB Common Pre-Test includes spatial reasoning. This includes synonyms, antonyms, code words, number codes, word combinations and letter transfer questions.

Non-verbal reasoning: shape analogies, classes of shape, missing patterns, sequencing.

Being adaptive in nature, your child will gain an understanding of how well the test is going if the questions are getting progressively harder.

Some children may find these assessments nerve wracking, and whilst the ISEB website itself states ‘no special preparation is required’, this is not necessarily true. Familiarity with the question pitch and type, will help pupils to feel more at ease with the assessment process and enable them to feel more confident about their ability to perform well. Moreover, there are some great resources available that do help to prepare children to face this task.

What resources can I use?

  1. Galore park have created practise books that are specifically targeted at Independent school preparation (https://www.galorepark.co.uk). Select books that state they are suitable for ‘common pre-test/11+’. These can be found on Amazon.
  2. When your child is feeling more confident with the task at hand why not have a go at the ISEB familiarisation test that can be found of their website. This will be useful in helping your child understand what to expect on the day: https://iseb.eva.tech/walkthrough/
  3. Other online platforms that have been developed that many schools are opting to use in preparation for this set of tests are Atom learning (https://atomlearning.co.uk/) and BOFA (bofa11plus.com): Both resources aim to recreate the same kind of online, adaptive assessment process that pupils will be faced with in the ISEB and are helpful in question and test familiarity. They cover all four areas of assessment and give feedback about the pupil’s performance and areas for improvement.
  4. Answering questions under timed conditions: simply practising the art of answering questions under time pressure will also help to prepare your child for the ‘real thing’ and build up the mental stamina to be able to meet the demands of the test.
  5. Find a tutor with experience in supporting pupils with ISEB Common Pre-Test experience. Finding the right person to support your child on this journey can help the process seem more enjoyable, take the pressure off you as a busy parent and ensure you are accessing up-to-date information..

For further information, on the ISEB Common entrance exams please follow the link to their website: https://www.iseb.co.uk/

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