Back to blog

ISEB countdown: maximising teaching time

By Atom | Jun 21, 2023, 8:34 AM

Boy concentrating on a laptop in front of him at a desk in a classroom


As senior schools seek to select the best and brightest candidates for their incoming cohorts, many schools are turning to the ISEB pre-test as a way of finding the best candidates for their school.

ISEB pre-tests cover English, Maths and Reasoning (both Verbal and Non-Verbal). While individual schools require the data from these at different points in their processes, the results can be shared across multiple senior schools, meaning children take fewer assessments and a more standardised test for primary and prep school teachers to prepare for.

Key facts About the ISEB Common Pre-Tests

  1. The ISEB pre-test is taken by students in Years 6 and 7, between ages 10-12, for entry to selective schools at the Year 7 or Year 9 level.

  2. The tests are adaptive ones taken online, across a variety of multiple choice format questions.

  3. The results of the ISEB pre-tests can be made available to the senior school (or schools) of your choice during the application process.

  4. The test is designed to measure pupils’ potential and attainment across four key learning areas: English, maths, verbal reasoning and non verbal reasoning.

  5. The four ISEB common pre-tests take about 2 and ½ hours to complete altogether; the exam papers are normally administered under exam conditions at a child’s primary or prep school.

Which schools use ISEB Pre-tests?

More than 70 schools across the country currently use the ISEB pre-test to assess prospective pupils' attainment and potential. You can explore the full list for 2022-23 here.

The demands of the ISEB tests require every KS2 teacher ensure children are well-drilled across all four areas of learning, which means that teaching time is more precious than ever. Here are some techniques you can use to maximise teaching time in the countdown to ISEB.

How to prepare your students for the ISEB Common Pre-Tests

Ensuring your students feel confident and ready for the ISEB pre-tests will help them to realise their full potential on the day of the tests. Here are a few ways to maximise your teaching time during the countdown to ISEB and to build confidence and competence in your students.

Familiarise yourself

Ensure you are acquainted with the format of the tests and what they cover. Much of the Maths and English stem directly from the National Curriculum, so with a few tweaks (for example, adding a little extra work on grammar or adding some additional problem solving to your maths lessons) your delivery in those areas will be likely to be on course already. Spend time sharing a past paper, excerpts or resources with parents and caregivers so they too are up to speed on what their child may be encountering in the tests themselves.

Collaborate and communicate

Speak with your colleagues to give them a greater sense of what kinds of questions and tasks the students will be encountering in the tests. Can other year groups or subject teachers identify areas where they might be able to adapt planning to build in tasks and work that can support learners en route to ISEB? Work to create tasks in the classroom that encourage students to be aware of ‘test skills' such as reading questions closely and challenging them with a time limit.

Think outside the box

For Verbal and Non-verbal reasoning you may find these are skills that you would like to teach in a more focused way in the run up to ISEB. While these elements of the tests are designed to see how students reason for themselves and solve problems, teaching them how to approach these question types and how to recognise the different formats presented will help students not to feel over-awed on the day. The Atom Prime platform has a great range of short videos accompanying the verbal reasoning and non verbal reasoning sections which break down each kind of question and work through examples - these can easily be folded into teaching time to give students lots of opportunities to get to know these skill areas.

Support your students with Atom Prime

In addition to planning and delivering your own content, you can utilise Atom Prime to create classwork and homework for your class which stretches their knowledge, and which mirrors the kinds of questions and time conditions they will meet when sitting the ISEB.

As well as having a wealth of papers and practice questions available, the site also allows you to craft tasks that meet your students exactly where they are.

Just as the ISEB pre-tests are adaptive, tasks set on Atom Prime will follow each child’s level, providing stretch and support where needed, as well as providing their teachers' clear feedback on how students fare on each task so you can modify future tasks and planning to best maximise the teaching time you have available.

Watch a video demo, or book a demo with our Education experts to learn more about Atom Prime.


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.