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Eton College: 13 plus entry guide

By Atom | Sep 18, 2023, 2:06 PM

Eton College, Berkshire

Chances are that you have heard of Eton College – one of the top private schools in the UK and famous for educating world leaders, award-winning actors and prime ministers.

The boys-only boarding school was founded in 1440 by King Henry VI and has one of the most competitive entrance processes in the country. Each year, around 1,300 children apply for one of 120 places.

We've collated everything you need to know about the admissions process for Eton. Keep reading to find out:

  • What to expect at each stage of the 13 plus process

  • The format and content of the entrance exam

  • How to help your child prepare (with free resources to boost exam prep)

Key information for Eton College

  • Headteacher: Simon Henderson

  • Address: Eton College, Windsor, SL4 6DW

  • County: Berkshire

  • Age range and gender: 13–18, boys only

  • Number of pupils: 1,300+

  • National league table rank (Sunday Times Parent Power): 20

  • A level results: 95.8% A*–B

  • GCSE results: 94.2% 9–7

Year 9 admissions

  • Admissions contact: [email protected], 01753 370611

  • Open day: private tours – contact the admissions team to book

  • Overview of selection procedure: ISEB Common Pre-Test, headteacher’s report, second-stage online assessment, interview, and Common Entrance/Eton Entrance exam (Year 8)

  • Registration closes: 30th June in Year 5

  • Assessment date: October–November in Year 6 (ISEB), spring/summer in Year 6 (second stage), spring in Year 8 (Common Entrance/Eton Entrance)

Eton College fees and financial assistance

The fees at Eton College in 2022-2023 are £15,432 per term. Fees include the cost of tuition, board, lodging, the majority of educational materials, and most games activities. The school fees for each academic year are set the previous May.

Financial assistance

Eton College is able to offer means-tested financial assistance, known as bursaries, to boys who are offered a place but whose families wouldn’t otherwise be able to afford the school fees. Just under 20% of pupils at Eton receive a means-tested bursary, with many students paying no fees at all.

If you would like your child to be considered for a bursary to support school fees at Eton, you will need to complete a bursary application form. An independent company will visit you at home to assess your family circumstances.

Eton College also offers a variety of awards and scholarships to boys entering the school in Year 9. These may be offered based on means-testing, or awarded based on the child’s talent in a particular subject or skill:

Each year, 14 boys are awarded a King’s Scholarship. King’s Scholars live together in the same boarding house. There is no automatic fee-assistance applied to this award, but up to 100% of assistance is available based on financial need.

The King’s Scholarship exam takes place in late April in Year 8. The papers are based on the Common Entrance syllabus but go beyond it in terms of the level of analytical response required.

Eton College term dates

The term dates at Eton College in 2023–2024 are:

  • Term starts: Wednesday 6th September

  • Short leave: Friday 22nd – Sunday 24th September

  • Long leave: Saturday 14th – Sunday 29th October

  • Short leave: Saturday 18th – Monday 20th November

  • Term ends: Thursday 14th December

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Eton College 13 plus admissions process

Each year, Eton College welcomes around 120 boys into the school. Children come from a range of state and independent schools.

While the admissions process formally begins at the end of Year 5, many families begin considering Eton College, including booking a personal tour of the site, much earlier.

1. Research the school

If you’re considering registering your son for Eton College, it’s a good idea to research the school and arrange a visit to explore the facilities. Eton is academically-selective and provides a full boarding environment, so it’s important to get a feel for the school first to check whether your child would thrive there.

The admissions team can arrange personal tours of the school site, facilities, and boarding houses. Meanwhile, make sure to take a look at the school website and read through prospectus materials to find out more about the curriculum, daily life, and the sorts of activities your son could get involved in.

2. Register for 13 plus entry

To register your son for entry to Eton, complete the online application form before the 30th June when your son is in Year 5. You’ll need to upload a copy of your child’s unabridged birth certificate and pay a registration fee of £400.

If you are considering a bursary to support school fees, make sure to contact the fees and bursaries team before completing the application form. They will be able to provide more guidance about your child’s application and may be able to waive the registration fee.

3. Stage 1: ISEB Common Pre-Test

All boys who are registered by the 30th June deadline will be invited to take the ISEB Common Pre-Test. Your child’s headteacher will also be asked to provide a report covering his academic strengths, interests and calendar.

The ISEB Common Pre-Test is taken in October or November in Year 6. Prep schools will normally facilitate this on their own site, but your child may also take the test at an approved testing centre.

The test is taken online and is completely adaptive, meaning the questions become easier or more challenging depending on how your child is performing. Children will answer questions in four subjects:

  • English: covering comprehension and spelling, punctuation and grammar

  • Maths: questions cover Key Stage 2 national curriculum taught up to the end of Year 5. The main topics are number, measurement, data, algebra and geometry

  • Verbal reasoning: tests logic and problem-solving with written information

  • Non-verbal reasoning: tests your child’s ability to understand and analyse visual information

How is the ISEB Common Pre-Test marked?

Each child will be given a Standardised Age Score (SAS), which is calculated based on the number of correct and incorrect answers, the level of difficulty in each question and their date of birth in years and months (to prevent younger children from being disadvantaged). Your child's ISEB Common Pre-Test score will be sent directly to Eton.

As a guide, competitive selective schools like Eton College will generally require candidates to reach a score of 125 or above in the ISEB Common Pre-Test.

Guide to the ISEB Test

Find out everything you need to know about the ISEB Common Pre-Test, including tips and hints and downloadable resources to support your child’s exam prep.

Learn more
Prepare for ISEB exams the smart way

4. Stage 2: second assessment and interview

You will be informed of your child’s outcome from stage 1 by mid-December in Year 6. Boys who have performed well in the ISEB Common Pre-Test and who have a positive reference from their current headteacher will be shortlisted for the second stage of the process.

The timings of the second stage will depend on when your son was born:

  • Birthdays between September and the first half of December: your child will be assessed in late January or early February. This is known as Tranche 1.

  • Birthdays between the second half of December and March: your child will be assessed in late February or early March. This is known as Tranche 2.

  • Birthdays between April and August: your child will be assessed in late April or early May. This is known as Tranche 3.

If you have indicated on your child’s application that he will need significant financial assistance, he will be assessed in early January – irrespective of the date of his birthday. However, your child’s age will still be taken into consideration. This is known as the Early Group.

The second stage of assessment is an online predictive test of your son's ability and future potential, developed by cognitive testing experts at Cambridge University. Candidates are tested with a very large bank of questions in maths, English, verbal and non-verbal reasoning. Like the ISEB test, the Eton List Test is adaptive. Your child will not need extensive IT skills to complete the test.


Your son will also have an individual interview with a member of Eton College staff. There will be relatively standard questions that assess each child's academic and extra-curricular interests, their knowledge of current affairs, and their interest in attending Eton.

Successful candidates are those who are authentic and spontaneous in their responses and can provide detailed explanations to their answers.Find out more about the sorts of questions your child might be asked in our guide to private school interviews.

Free Eton practice exercises

Help your child practise for the English section of the test with these four free essays. These exercises will test your child’s ability to identify errors in spelling, punctuation and grammar.

Download now
Example from a practice essay for the 13 plus second stage assessment at Eton College

5. Offers and boarding house visits

You will find out whether your child has been successful in the second stage of the admissions process depending on which Tranche he was assessed in:

  • March in Year 7: Early Group and Tranche 1

  • May in Year 7: Tranche 2

  • July in Year 7: Tranche 3

There are three potential outcomes to your child’s application – a conditional place, a place on the waiting list, or no offer. If your child is offered a place on the waiting list, he will be invited to a reassessment in the summer term in Year 7.

Boys who are offered a conditional place will be invited to visit their prospective boarding houses and meet housemasters in the autumn term or early spring term of Year 7. Eton aims to find a house for each boy where there is a mutually good fit with the family.

6. Year 8 exams

If your child has been offered a conditional place, he will need to pass entrance exams in Year 8 to qualify for an unconditional place. These will take place in the spring term.

Boys will usually take either the Common Entrance exam (if applying from an independent school) or the Eton Entrance exam (if applying from a state school). Children who have applied for a King’s Scholarship will take a separate exam.

The Common Entrance exam is set by the ISEB (Independent Schools Exam Board). All boys will take compulsory papers in English, maths and science, and one language (French, German or Spanish). The school expects that boys take higher level papers in maths.

Boys will also take optional papers in other subjects, but Eton is flexible in terms of the number of subjects your child chooses to be assessed in.

Top tips to prepare for entry to Eton College

If your son's academic ability is at the very top of his year group, he may be a suitable candidate for Eton College – speak to your child's current school teachers to discuss his potential and see if they think he should apply.

In the meantime, here are our top tips to help your child prepare for the selection process.

It can be tempting to jump straight into practice papers to prepare for school exams. However, this is not an effective way to learn and can cause children to feel demotivated.

Your child should have a good understanding of the content they’ve been taught in Year 5 before testing their knowledge with practice papers. Using a ‘little and often’ approach when recapping content is key, as our brains encode new information more effectively when dealing with smaller ‘chunks’ of information. Experts recommend study sessions should last no longer than 30 minutes for children aged 10–11.

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We understand how important this next step is for them, and for you. Please don't hesitate to get in touch with any questions you may have about applying to Eton College or other leading schools.

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