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The Eton List Test: Guide for parents

Exam guide

Jan 31, 2023, 1:22 PM

The Eton List Test: guide for parents

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

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

Read on to find out key information about the Eton admissions process, the entrance exam and get tips on how to help your son secure a place.


What is the admissions process for Eton College?

The process for entry to Eton College at the age of 13 begins when your child is in Year 5, so it is important to get to know the basics as early as possible. Your son can be registered at any time up to 30th June in Year 5; if your son will be in Year 5 in 2022–23, you can register before 30th June 2023 for entry to Eton College in 2026.


You will need to complete the online registration form before 30th June 2023. As part of the registration, you will need to upload a copy of your son's unabridged birth certificate and pay the non-refundable registration fee, which is currently £400.

Stage 1: ISEB Common Pre-Test

All boys who have been registered for Eton College will sit the ISEB Common Pre-Test in October or November while they are in Year 6, either at their current school or at a confirmed test centre.

The ISEB Common Pre-Test is a computerised test with multiple-choice questions in English, maths, verbal reasoning and non-verbal reasoning. The test is adaptive – meaning that the questions will get easier or more difficult, depending on how your child is performing – and takes about two and a half hours to complete.

Eton College will also request a reference from your son's current headteacher, covering his academic strengths, interests and character.

The admissions team will shortlist candidates on the basis of results in the pre-tests and the headteacher's references. You will be informed if your child has been successful in progressing to Stage 2 in the December of Year 6.

Stage 2: The Eton List Test

Boys will be invited to take the Eton entrance exam in the following age groups during the spring and summer terms of Year 6:

  • Mid-January: boys whose families have requested significant financial assistance

  • Late January/early February: boys with birthdays between September and mid-December

  • Late February/early March: boys with birthdays between late December and March

  • Late April/early May: boys with birthdays between April and August

Find out more about the Eton List Test.


After completing the two assessment stages, there are three potential outcomes:

  • A Type: guaranteed conditional place.

  • B Type: waiting list; boys are re-tested and interviewed the following year.

  • C Type: no offer. There is the possibility that a child with a C Type offer could get a place on a music or academic scholarship, but this is highly unlikely.

Candidates who have been given an A-type outcome (guaranteed conditional place) will then sit one of three exams during Year 8:

  • Eton entrance exam: This is normally held for boys who are applying to Eton College from the state sector. Candidates will take exams in the core subjects of English, maths and science (all based on the national curriculum) in January of Year 8, in addition to a further interview.

  • Common Entrance: This is normally held for boys who are applying to Eton College from the independent sector. There is some flexibility over the subjects tested, but all pupils sitting the Common Entrance will take exams in English, maths and science and one from French, German or Spanish. Eton expects that pupils will take higher-level papers in maths.

  • King's Scholarship This is held in late April during Year 8. Every candidate must take several compulsory papers (English, General I, creative writing, maths A and science) and at least three of the optional papers (French, Latin, Greek, General II, maths B and history-geography-divinity). Past papers are available on Eton College's website.

The number of boys with a conditional place who fail to qualify at 13 plus, as a result of one of the above exams, is very small.

What is the format of the Eton List Test?

Boys who have a successful performance in the ISEB Pre-Test will be invited to take further entrance exams and interviews at Eton College.

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.

Boys will also have a 15-minute interview with an Eton College housemaster. 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.

How is the Eton exam scored?

Like the pre-tests, each candidate taking the Eton List Test is given a standardised age score (SAS) based on the difficulty of the questions they answer and their birthday. The most successful candidates will be those who have achieved the highest SAS scores due to answering the hardest questions.

How can I help my child prepare for the Eton College assessments?

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.

Build foundational knowledge

The Eton entrance examinations test a huge amount of knowledge, with candidates assessed across the Key Stage 2 core curriculum and beyond.

Atom Nucleus is an award-winning online learning platform that can help your son consolidate everything he needs to know for the exam. With one subscription, your child will be able to build key foundational knowledge through:

  • Over 90,000 interactive questions in English, maths, science, verbal reasoning and non-verbal reasoning

  • Downloadable helpsheets and tutorial videos for every sub-topic

  • After-school online live lessons and holiday programmes for key subjects and exam preparation

Maths learning journey on Atom Nucleus

Take practice tests

Familiarisation with the question formats and known styles of both the ISEB and the Eton Test is essential to help your son build exam confidence.

Atom Nucleus gives your child access to unlimited practice tests that replicate both the ISEB tests and Eton entrance exams for one monthly cost. All tests are automatically marked, with the results instantly available on your parent dashboard.

Atom Learning has adaptive mock tests available for the ISEB Common Pre-test.

Free practice essays

This set of four free essays is designed to help your child practise for the English section of the Eton List Test. The exercises test your child's ability to identify errors in the use of capital letters, punctuation, spelling and grammar.

Eton List Test practice essays

First, allow your child two minutes to go through the text. There is one error on each line of the text. Your child must find and correct the error as quickly as possible. Each essay comes with answers.

Eton List Test practice essays: download now

Engage with your child's progress

Atom Nucleus will provide you with live, accurate data demonstrating your son's areas of strength and development.

Your parent dashboard will give you detailed insights into your child's progress. With one login, you'll be able to:

  • See a detailed breakdown of your child's progress by subtopic

  • Set weekly targets to help your son stay engaged in his learning

  • Set your child targeted practice in core subjects

  • Set online practice tests for your son to complete

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Get education advice and support

We appreciate that applying to a selective secondary school can be a stressful time for the whole family. Atom Learning provides extensive support from admissions specialists, including:

  • Regular parent webinars on key education topics and concerns

  • Atom Learning community WhatsApp group

  • Ongoing support from dedicated Education Advisors

See our upcoming webinars

Applying to a UK school from overseas?

This comprehensive guide covers all you need to know about:

  • Choosing a British school for your child

  • The application process

  • Visa requirements and practical considerations

  • Preparing for entrance assessments

Read next
Moving to the UK for school: applying to UK schools from overseas

Help your child reach success in the Eton College assessment process – start your free trial of Atom Nucleus today.

Prepare for entry to Eton with Atom Nucleus

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