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Atom vs. Century Bond: online learning review and comparison

Nov 23, 2023, 6:01 PM

Choosing an online learning platform


Online home learning is an efficient and cost-effective alternative to private tuition and revision books. But how do you choose the right online learning tools for your child?

Here, we hope to make this process a bit easier by comparing two popular options. Whether you're preparing for exams or simply looking to support your child's learning, here are some questions to ask.

1. Does it give you a clear learning plan?

When preparing for an exam like GL 11+ or ISEB, it can be hard to know where to start. These exams cover a vast number of topics. How do you work through all the exam content with your child and make sure they remember it?

Most online exam prep platforms such as Bond offer a generic experience. Same questions, same mock tests. It's up to you to know what's on your child's exam and decide which work to set. There might be a lot of guesswork.

At Atom, we wanted to solve this problem by giving parents a crystal-clear plan.

We know how hard it can be to find out what types of question will be on the exam, let alone cover them all. So, we've built Atom Home to adapt to your child and their exam. Simply choose which schools you're applying to, and we do the rest. You can target up to 5 schools with Atom Home.

Atom Home screen showing Archie's ISEB activities for this week

Each week, Atom calculates the best way for your child to use the time left until the exam. It gives them a clear list of activities, putting extra focus on any areas they're finding difficult.

And when you want more control, you can set extra practices on any topic you like. Setting a practice is quick and easy, and you get your child’s results instantly.

"It helped me simplify a minefield and plan what I need to do to help my child in the best way."

Bhavna, via Trustpilot

2. Does it use quality teaching methods?

Quality teaching should be at the heart of any home learning platform. Our teaching philosophy is based on a growth mindset. We've built Atom Home to develop children's confidence to explore learning independently. To learn from mistakes, keep trying, and feel proud of their progress.

Clear, timely feedback is vital for learning and growth. Not all exam prep platforms offer this, so bear this in mind when choosing. Many platforms only tell a child if they were 'correct' or 'incorrect'. These platforms are more geared towards cramming than learning. Beyond the stress this causes for children and parents – as if you need any more stress around exams – it simply isn't an effective way to embed knowledge.

When a child answers a question on Atom, they don't just see 'correct' or 'incorrect'. They get friendly, step-by-step instructions on how to work through the problem. When they complete a mock test, they get a helpful transcript for you to work through together. It's all designed to set them up for success next time.

Explore the teaching on Atom

"This app makes learning fun and luckily, unlike other apps, there's a helpsheet, video and a 'not sure' button you can press for an easy explanation."

Bidhara, via Trustpilot

questions on Atom
questions on Bond

Is it inclusive?

We believe in accessible learning that empowers all children to do their best. Our learning materials include written, visual and video formats for all learning preferences. This may not be a priority for other platforms, so make sure you choose one that will meet your child's unique needs and learning preferences. (Find out more about our approach to accessible learning.)

We aim to reach as many children as possible who wouldn't otherwise be able to afford quality home learning. We partner with schools across the country to give free access to Atom Home to pupils on free school meals. So when you choose Atom, you support underprivileged children with their education.

3. Are mock tests used appropriately?

Children don’t learn by repeating practice papers. So at Atom, we prioritise developing a strong foundation of knowledge. To help your child become confident with the exam curriculum, we use:

  • Carefully-constructed curricular sequences

  • Regular practice with feedback

  • Precise age-appropriate explanations

Then, at the right stage in their revision, we introduce mock tests to build exam technique and time management skills.

Our mock tests mirror all UK grammar schools, over 70 top private schools, ISEB, CAT4 and other major exam boards for 11+ and 13+, as well as SATs. We've replicated everything, from the curriculum and format down to the scoring.


Does it have adaptive mock tests?

If your child will be sitting an adaptive exam such as ISEB, it's worth finding a learning platform that offers adaptive mock tests.

On adaptive exams, the questions get harder depending on how your child is performing. Getting your child familiar and comfortable with this is an important part of being prepared.

Bond is endorsed by ISEB – but unlike the real ISEB exam, Bond's mock tests are not adaptive.

Atom Home's ISEB mock tests are fully adaptive, just like the real thing. We've copied the layout, question types, topics, controls, colours, timings, and adaptivity.

iseb-comparison (2) (1).png

We also have video lessons to help children develop the specific techniques that work well on adaptive exams!

"Definitely go with the subscription that has unlimited number of exams – very useful in the run up to ISEBs and then having previous papers for the various schools was also great."

Alexander, via Trustpilot

Does it have paper tests?

If your child will be sitting a traditional paper exam, like most GL 11+ grammar exams, it's worth considering whether the learning platform gives you any paper resources.

Although online mock tests are efficient and convenient, many children benefit from practice using a paper question booklet and marking their answers clearly on the answer sheet.

We want to offer you that option, so we've recreated the paper exams from major grammar school consortiums as well as GL practice papers for Atom parents to download and print. Each pack includes a parents' guide and answer key to help you run and mark the test for your child.

Your mock tests on...

Unlimited with an Exam Prep Plus package8 a month
Adaptive and non-adaptive testsNon-adaptive tests
Standardised age scoringBond's own scoring
Free paper test included and extras availablePaper test books can be purchased separately

Know exactly what to expect on exam day.

Try Atom for free
SATs made simple with smart online learning

4. Can you track your child's progress?

Consider how much insight you want to have into your child's progress. Different platforms offer you different levels of tracking.

Atom Home lets you compare your child's scores to other kids applying to the same schools. So, you'll always know whether your child is on track in each topic. We're the only learning platform that gives you this visibility.

Georgie's performance compared to other Atom users applying to St Catherine's School

Does it give you a standardised age score?

Selective schools usually rank children in order of their standardised age score (SAS) and offer places to the highest-scoring children.

If it's important to you to know how your child is likely to perform in their real exam, choose a platform that offers standardised age scoring. Not all of them do – for example, Bond does not have enough candidate data to calculate an accurate SAS.

Each time your child completes a mock test on Atom, they get a standardised age score calculated in the same way as the real exam.

Mock test results on Atom Home with a standardised age score

"The instant feedback with the SAS scores enabled him to focus on areas he needed to improve on and his scores rose steadily. He now has had interview call-backs for his top three school choices."

Anne, via Trustpilot

Always know where you stand for the real exam.

Try Atom for free

5. Does your child enjoy it?

We learn better when we’re engaged with it – even more so when we feel some ownership over our progress. Online platforms have a unique opportunity to tap into the psychology of learning, but some are more effective than others.

Exploring multiple worlds on Atom Nucleus

Atom harnesses children’s natural curiosity to keep them motivated.

  • The thrill of exploring and new worlds as they build knowledge

  • The challenge of completing questions to earn coins

  • The autonomy of customising their experience

When kids enjoy learning, they'll keep coming back for more.

Imagine your child is motivated to learn because they genuinely enjoy it. No nagging or reminding needed. Exam preparation doesn’t have to be a chore when you choose a platform that's designed to be fun!

"My daughters really enjoyed using Atom as it was so user friendly and fun. There was no cajoling them do do their practice and it made for a very stress free process."

Expat Mom, via Trustpilot

6. What support do you get?

Atom is built on the combination of quality teaching and smart technology. But there’s a third ingredient that makes over 75,000 families glad they chose Atom. We hear from parents time and time again that extra support from Atom has made all the difference to their child’s education journey.

Our parent webinars and WhatsApp groups offer up-to-date advice from leading educators and admissions specialists.

We're here to help, whether that's with tips to support your child with key subjects or to secure a place at their dream school.

So when choosing your online learning platform, make sure it has the human touch.

  • Are there real people ready to help you and answer any questions?

  • Do they understand that each child and family is unique?

  • Will they tailor your experience to help your child achieve their goals?

We're teachers, exam specialists, and parents. We want to share what works.

"I wanted to highlight how fantastic their customer service is... super responsive live chats as well as WhatsApp groups for parents on various themes. I'm on the ISEB one, moderated by George, and he's a fount of knowledge... I'm seriously impressed by the whole package."

Sara, via Trustpilot

Compare features

Age 7–11Age 9–11
90,000 questions20,000 questions
Unlimited mock tests, adaptive and non-adaptive8 mock tests per month, non-adaptive
Standardised age scoresBond's own scoring
Set up to 5 target schools
Clear exam prep plan
Compare scores with other kids
Phone, email, WhatsApp and LiveChat support

Compare prices

£39.99 for key stage 2 learning£27.99 for grammar school entry
£59.99 or £69.99 (with unlimited mock tests) for grammar and private school entry£38.99 for private school entry
Discounts available (20% when billed annually, 20% sibling discount, £30 referral bonus)No discounts available

Atom Home is the more expensive option. If you already have a tutor and you're looking for a handful of mock tests, then Bond might be a good choice. If you're looking for a full exam prep plan that's still cheaper than private tuition, Atom Home could be the right choice for you. Why not try it for free and see if it's right for you and your child?

Experience the difference

Discover how much your child can achieve when you choose the right learning platform for them. Start your free 5 day trial today.

Start free trial

Ask us anything

We understand how important this decision is for you and your child. We're here to help with any questions you may have.

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Atom Learning Ltd. is registered and incorporated in England and Wales. Company Registration Number: 10867907 VAT number: 316903508 Copyright Atom Learning Ltd. All rights reserved.