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What is UKiset and how to prepare

By Atom | Jan 31, 2023, 1:20 PM

What Is UKiset And How To Prepare

If your child is applying to a British independent school from overseas, they’ll likely need to take a UKiset test. In this guide we’ll explain the content and timings of UKiset and give examples of the types of questions your child will see. We’ll also share tips for helping your child prepare, giving them the best chance to excel in the exam and gain a place at their target school.

What is UKiset?

UKiset is an online entry test for the independent education system in the UK. It’s used by independent (private) schools to assess whether a student is likely to thrive in an English-speaking school.

The test identifies academic strengths, weaknesses and learning preferences. This information is used by schools to help them identify the most suitable pupils, and by families to find the best schools for their child.

Who is UKiset for?

The exam can be taken by anyone between the ages of 9 and 18 years old. It is open to students of any nationality, including native English speakers. Students are recommended to have a basic understanding of English so that they can follow the test instructions.

Students take UKiset for a variety of reasons, including:

  • To apply to a British independent school

  • To apply to a UK language school or international study centre

  • To track their progress in English language learning (either requested by their English teacher or for their own knowledge)

Over 250 schools currently use UKiset as part of their admissions process. Many schools use it as a first-round test followed by their own exams and interviews. Some schools will request your child’s UKiset results to decide if they are eligible to apply for a school place.

How to apply for UKiset

You can register for your child to take UKiset here. You should register at least 2 months before your chosen schools’ deadlines to make sure there is time for UKiset to arrange your appointment and process the results.

Even if you don’t yet have any potential schools in mind you can still register and sit the test. UKiset offers an optional service to put you in touch with a local consultant to help you find a school.

When you register you'll need to pay a one-off fee of £295. This includes:

  • Registration

  • Test arrangement

  • Invigilation fees

  • Results sent to you and/or your academic agent

  • A full UKiset Profile sent to up to five schools

On the application form you will be asked to select your preferred test location. UKiset can be taken at authorised test centres in over 130 countries around the world, at certain schools, or at the UK office. Or, your child can take the test on the internet at home or in their current school, with an online invigilator.

After you’ve submitted your application form, UKiset will email you with available dates at your nearest test centres, or with instructions for taking the test online.

When your child takes the exam they will get a UKiset Profile which can be used to apply for up to five schools of your choice. (If you would like to apply to more than five schools, it costs £50 for each additional school).

You will get your child’s test results within 3 working days. Your child’s results are valid for one year, after which they will need to retake the test. If you would like your child to retake the test, they can do this after four months.

How long is UKiset?

UKiset takes about two and a half hours to complete. It is split into three sections with the following timings:

  1. Reasoning: 45 minutes

  2. Reading and listening: 30 minutes

  3. Essay writing: 45 minutes

Your child will be offered a short break in between each section.

UKiset exam timings

Calculators and phones are not allowed during the test. A pen and spare paper for notes is allowed and encouraged.

What does UKiset assess?

UKiset is designed to measure skills such as language, maths, problem solving and aptitude for learning. It is split into three sections:

Section 1: Reasoning

The first section of the test explores what kinds of thinking your child finds easy or difficult. It includes:

  • A vocabulary test

  • Non-verbal reasoning – solving problems using shapes, pictures, diagrams and patterns

  • Mathematical reasoning – working with number, value, quantity and sequence

This part of the test is adaptive, which means that the questions get more difficult depending on how your child is performing. If a student gets a question right, the computer will show them a harder question. If they get a question wrong, the computer will choose an easier question.

What is non-verbal reasoning?

Unlike vocabulary and maths, non-verbal reasoning is not usually taught at school. So what exactly is it?

Non-verbal reasoning assesses the ability to use logic and critical thinking to problem-solve without language. This is done through the analysis of shapes and images.

An example of a non-verbal reasoning: nets and cubes question on Atom Nucleus
Learn more about non-verbal reasoning question types:

Section 2: Reading and listening

The second section of UKiset is the Cambridge English Test. This is an online, adaptive multiple-choice test that assesses your child’s English language skills. It helps schools to predict how accessible the British curriculum will be for your child.

Your child’s score for this section will be used to calculate their English CEFR (Common European Framework of Reference for Languages) level, from A1 to C2. This is an internationally recognised score which represents their current level of academic English. It aligns with IELTS (International English Language Testing System) scores.

Your child can try some example Cambridge English Test questions here:

Try questions
Cambridge English Test thumb

Section 3: Essay writing

The last part of UKiset tests your child’s expressive language skills. Your child will have 30 minutes to handwrite a short essay in English. They will be given an age-appropriate topic to write about. Topics are open-ended to allow for discussion, description and comparison, for example:

  • Describe your ideal day.

  • Schools shouldn’t have a uniform. Do you agree?

  • If you won the lottery, what would you do with the money, and why?

The examiners are looking for children to express their opinion clearly and support it with evidence. To score highly, students need to write with a logical structure, broad vocabulary and accurate spelling and grammar.

If your child is taking the exam online, they will be asked to scan or photograph their finished essay and email it to the invigilator.

Tips for a well-structured essay

  1. Spend a few minutes brainstorming ideas.

  2. Next, spend 5 minutes planning the structure of the essay in bullet points. There should be a clear introduction, a few main paragraphs, and a conclusion.

  3. Write up the essay.

  4. Spend at least 5 minutes checking it through thoroughly.

Ato essay tips

What is the UKiset Profile?

A few days after taking the exam, you will get an email with a UKiset Profile for your child. This is a summary and analysis of their results. It will be shared with each UKiset school you apply to.

The profile includes two standardised scores for the reasoning part of the test. One score has verbal reasoning results included, and one does not. This is to make sure that children’s current English level does not impact their overall score.

Schools also get:

  • A copy of your child’s written essay

  • Predicted future grades

  • Recommendations for teaching and learning

What is a good score for UKiset?

A good UKiset score depends on the school you are applying to. The most academically competitive schools can require a standardised score of 125 or more on the reasoning part of the test.

UKiset is a standardised test which compares scores against British students of the same age. As a general guide, children at UK independent schools get an average UKiset score of 111.

For the reading and listening section of the test, schools usually look for an English CEFR level of B2 or above.

Schools mark the essay section themselves. Their scoring criteria will vary, but will almost always include:

  • Clear and well-reasoned argument

  • Logical structure

  • Varied vocabulary

  • Correct spelling, grammar and punctuation

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

How do I prepare for UKiset?

1. Free resources

Here are some guides and downloads to help your child build knowledge and skills that will be assessed on UKiset.

Free guides

Creative writing

How to plan and structure a creative essay.

Tricky subjects on the 11 plus

Preparing for written tests

The science behind written exam questions.

Key Stage 2 statutory spelling list


Help broaden your child's vocabulary.

2. Practice English skills

Encourage your child to read, write, listen and speak in English regularly. Here are some ways for your child to practice their English vocabulary and improve comprehension:

  • Watching English TV with subtitles

  • Listen to audiobooks in English and enjoy reading for fun

  • Ask your child to express and explain their opinions in English

3. Support their wellbeing

It's best to take a little-and-often approach to revision, with rewards and regular breaks. Atom Home keeps children engaged by encouraging them with badges and points. The adaptive algorithm ensures children are working at the ideal attainment level for them, keeping them challenged and motivated.

Preparing for exams can feel overwhelming. Learn how to prepare mentally and emotionally, and how to manage test anxiety.

4. Consider tuition

Although you can prepare for exams without a tutor, a good tutor can help your child with personalised one-to-one lessons, motivation and boosted confidence. Read about how to find a good tutor here.

5. Online learning

Online learning can be a fun and efficient way to prepare for school entrance exams. Atom Home is an award-winning exam preparation platform for children aged 7–11.

Preparing for the UKiset can feel daunting as there are no official past papers. Luckily, Nucleus has all your child needs to become familiar and confident with these types of exam questions:

  • 90,000+ interactive practice questions for English, maths, verbal & non-verbal reasoning

  • Unlimited mock tests, all automatically marked

  • Data on your child’s progress and suggested areas for improvement

  • Support for you and your child, with parent webinars & live lessons from expert teachers

Try answering some questions

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