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What is the Common Entrance?

If you have a young child you may not yet have a complete understanding of the Common Entrance procedure, or indeed if and how it’s changed since you last took them! Here, we share the basic facts.

The Common Entrance was first introduced in 1904 and is the name for a set of examinations taken by boys and girls for entrance to senior independent schools at age 11 plus or 13 plus.

The syllabuses are devised by The Independent Schools Examinations Board which is composed of Heads from the three Associations which represent the leading independent schools in the country: The Headmasters’ and Headmistresses’ Conference, The Girls’ Schools Association and The Independent Association of Prep Schools.

  • The papers are set by examiners appointed by the Board, but the answers are marked by the senior school for which a candidate is entered.
  • Candidates may normally be entered for Common Entrance only if:

– they have been offered a place at a senior school subject to their passing the examinations


– they are entered for internal marking, in which case the papers are marked by the candidate’s junior school.

  • The examinations are usually taken in the candidate’s current school.
  • 11 plus candidates sit examinations in English, Mathematics and Science when they are in Year 6, usually for girls’ schools.
  • 11 plus examinations may be taken in the autumn or spring term of Year 6 prior to entry to senior school the following September.
  • 13 plus candidates also sit examinations in these core subjects, alongside papers selected from a wide range of humanities, languages and classical subjects.
  • 13 plus examinations are taken in the autumn, spring or summer term of Year 8, again prior to entry to senior school the following September. Senior schools decide at which stage in the year the examinations are to be taken.


Latest news: Read why some top schools are dropping the Common Entrance here

Does your child have exams coming up? Read our top tips on how to deal with exam stress


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