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18 Oct 2020

How to Prepare for the ISEB Common Pre-Test 2021

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Over the last few weeks, many schools have been reviewing and adjusting their assessment processes for Year 7 entry in September 2021. Under normal circumstances, selective secondary schools invite students to sit their own 11+ assessments in November or January of Year 6. However, due to Covid-19, and the restrictions this imposes, some schools have concluded that it is not feasible to conduct their assessments in the usual way. Instead, many independent schools will be using the ISEB Common Pre-Test in November and December 2020 to assess candidates.

What is the ISEB Common Pre-Test?

The ISEB Pre-Test is a respected and widely used online test for children moving from primary or prep schools to selective secondary schools. It is mainly multiple choice, and comprises four sections: English, Mathematics, verbal reasoning and non-verbal reasoning. There is a degree of age-weighting in the examination so that younger students are not disadvantaged.

Exam format

The tests take about two-and-a-half hours to complete:

  • English – 25 minutes
  • Mathematics – 50 minutes
  • Non-verbal reasoning – 32 minutes
  • Verbal reasoning – 36 minutes

The four exams can be taken together or at separate times, either in the candidate’s own school or at the senior school for which he or she is entered. Each test will begin with a set of instructions that candidates must read carefully. They will tell candidates how to navigate through the test.

Verbal reasoning questions include common words, antonyms, word combinations, letter transfer, number codes. Non-verbal reasoning questions include shape analogies, matrices, horizontal codes. English questions focus on reading comprehension, sentence completion, spelling and punctuation. Finally, Mathematics content is in line with the National Curriculum. Candidates are assessed on their knowledge of Key Stage 2 National Curriculum topics, which are taught up to the end of Year 5.

The ISEB assessments, designed by GL, are online and adaptive. This means that if a child answers the questions correctly, the test becomes more challenging. Each question must be answered, and candidates cannot go back to previous questions. While taking the tests, candidates are able to track their progress within the test by question number, e.g. Question 7/ 25.

Preparation for the ISEB Pre-Test

No specific preparation is required for the ISEB pre-test. However, familiarity with the different question types, experience of the computerised interface and some knowledge of what to expect can significantly help. If a child enters the exam feeling confident, they stand a better chance of performing to their maximum potential. Here are our top tips for preparing for the exam

1. Familiarise your child with the GL/ ISEB pre-test format

Year 6 students should view the ISEB familiarisation tests to get a feel for the style of questioning and test format before they go into the real exam.

2. Answer questions under timed conditions

Practice GL assessment papers and complete online tests, for example using Atom Learning or Pre-Test Plus, under exam conditions. This helps students to build up the stamina to take a 50-minute exam (e.g. for Maths) and develops key exam skills such as working under pressure, reading the questions thoroughly and time-management.

3. Take a steady, ‘little and often’ approach

The ISEB pre-test is designed to assess a child’s current ability and academic potential. Questions are based on a significant amount of content taught at Key Stage 2 – children need time to learn and consolidate this information.

For English, encourage your child to read for pleasure, write imaginative stories, and debate at the dinner table. This can lead to huge improvements in their written and verbal communication skills. For Maths, regular practice of foundation level skills – the four operations, decimals, fractions, and percentages, shape and space, and algebra – can make a big difference. The 11+ CGP workbook for GL Assessment or flashcards are a great way for children to test themselves.

4. Draw on useful resources to make learning fun

Non verbal and verbal reasoning questions are like puzzles! Use flashcards to gamify the exercises. Mrs Wordsmith’s creative writing tasks, and reading, comprehension and vocabulary activities, can also make learning English enjoyable.

5. Track progress

Use free GL 11+ assessment practice papers or other assessment materials to track and monitor your child’s progress. It’s important not to ‘over-test’, however one exam per week can be very helpful – to check that your child is progressing in the right direction and enable you to identify any knowledge gaps.

Involving children in the process, by sharing test scores and reflecting on their strengths and areas for development, can help to motivate students to work hard and build confidence as they improve. 

The Golden Circle has a range of experienced 11+ teachers available to help students preparing for the ISEB pre-test or other school entrance exams. If you would like further information, please contact us. We wish you the best of luck!

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