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ISEB Pre-Test: improving your child's performance

By Atom | Jun 21, 2023, 8:50 AM


What is the ISEB Common Pre-Test?

The ISEB (Independent School Examination Board) Pre-Test is an age-standardised test used to assess students in years 6 and 7 for entry into senior independent schools. Your child will be asked to sit one set of tests that will be used by a range of schools to determine their abilities. Once they have passed the tests, they will be asked to sit further assessments for each school.

The ISEB Pre-Tests are a great way of minimising the number of exams your child will have to do for 11 Plus. However, as they apply to many schools it is crucial that your child knows what to expect and feels as confident as possible sitting them.

To Note: you do not need to register your child for the Common Pre-Tests as the senior schools will do this for you.

Key dates

  • 1st September – 16th June: candidates can be registered for the ISEB Common Pre-Tests.

  • 1st October – 30th June: candidates will take the Pre-Tests during this period.

What is tested?

For your child to excel in these tests they must be very confident in all the skills listed in the table below. If you are not sure where to get started head over to Atom Learning where you will be able to find questions that have been developed to test and improve these skills.

Verbal Reasoning

  • Common words

  • Antonyms

  • Word combinations

  • Letter transfer

  • Number codes

Non-Verbal Reasoning

  • Shape analogies

  • Classes like

  • Horizontal codes


  • Reading comprehension

  • Sentence completion

  • Spelling

  • Punctuation


  • In line with Year 5 of the national curriculum in England

Best ways to improve these skills!

1. Reading

Consistently reading challenging books is one of the best ways to improve your child’s verbal reasoning and English skills. Try to find books that relate to your child’s interest and ask other parents what their kids enjoy reading. What matters here is less what your child is reading compared to the amount they are reading.

A great way to start would be to offer a reading time for half an hour or longer each day. You can both pick up your own book at that time and read together. If they need extra incentive, you could suggest that if they are reading, they are allowed to extend their bedtime by half an hour!

Remember that if they aren’t enjoying the book they are reading after a couple of chapters, let them move onto another book. It is more important than it is an enjoyable experience!

2. Numeracy Training

During the Maths test, your child will be allowed a piece of paper to write on to work questions out. However, those who are the strongest at mental arithmetic will complete these questions faster and are more likely to be able to access the questions that will give them the highest score.

While reciting times tables could be a way to improve this skill, it is likely that your child will get bored. On the other hand, learning apps are a brilliant way of making mental maths fun and engaging. These are available on the app store and so there are many your child can choose from so they’re bound to find one they love.

3. Online Testing Platforms

As the ISEB Common Pre-Tests are online and adaptive, there is no doubt that using online testing platforms are a must when preparing your child for these tests. Atom Learning is the market leader for this, providing a highly adaptive platform that quickly identifies a child’s weakest areas and then generates custom tests.

4. Timed ISEB Past Papers

Regularly practicing with ISEB past papers under timed conditions will enable your child to develop the focus and stamina required to take the ISEB Pre-Tests. As they will be in the habit of completing tests in this way, they are more likely to be less nervous on the day and perform to the best of their abilities.

SEND or EAL Candidates

There is no need to worry if your child has special educational needs or disability or English is an Additional Language as the ISEB Pre-Test has been designed to be accessible to these candidates. Based on your child’s needs, adjustments will be applied to their tests. Additionally, some schools may decide that your child may not need to sit certain elements of the Pre-Tests. EAL candidates, for instance, might be allowed to use a standard bilingual paper dictionary.

To maximise your child’s performance, it is important that you always **notify the senior schools **about your child’s specific needs.

Extra Info!

  • All four tests take approximately 2.5 hours to complete.

  • The tests can be taken together or separately.

  • They are online and adaptive to your child’s ability.

  • Each question must be answered, and candidates are not able to return to previous questions.

  • Each test has a fixed number of questions so the candidates should work carefully through the questions rather than as quickly as possible.

  • Candidates are not rewarded for answering all questions right if they only answer a few.

  • Pupils can only take the test once per academic year.

  • Results are provided directly to the senior schools so you will not be notified of your child’s results by ISEB.

For teacher-approved content and adaptive technology that provides a personalised journey to prepare your child for their exams sign up to Nucleus. Nucleus’ adaptive tech makes sure the content is always at the right level for your child, meaning it is an easy way to guarantee high-quality ISEB Pre-Test practice.

To access this on-demand education for your child, sign up today with a 5-day trial!

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Preparing for entrance exams in 2023? Why not join our Exam Preparation group on WhatsApp? Get access to free resources and advice, and ask our Education Experts any questions you have about the admissions process and your child's upcoming exams.


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