School admissions: Changes to the ISEB Common Pre-Test (CPT)

Oct 14, 2022

For anyone with children in year 6, the time is upon us for senior school admission tests.

In this newsletter, we’ll discuss in detail one part of the admissions test: the ISEB Common Pre-Test. An increasing number of senior schools are using the ISEB Common Pre-Test as an admissions test itself or as a pre-cursor to internal, school-specific entrance examinations.

There have been some changes to the ISEB Common Pre-Test this year, so here we will provide you with some precise details of what will be included in the new tests.

When is the ISEB Common Pre-Test?

This has not changed. Most schools take the test in October and November or Year 6, although the official sessions runs from October – June, and the test can be taken in Year 6 or 7.

Which schools use the ISEB Common Pre-Test?

Senior schools which use the ISEB Common Pre-Test to assess pupils for entry is always changing, so it’s important to check with the senior schools that your child is applying to. Here is an updated list of of senior schools which are currently using the CPT:

Is the CPT the only admissions test that children need to take?

This is where things can get confusing. This can vary depending on whether your child is moving school at 11+ (entry into Year 7) or 13+ (entry into Year 9).

For example, if you are applying for 11+ or 13+ entry to St Pauls, students have to take the ISEB Common Pre-Test in October or November of Year 6. If they are successful, they are then invited back in January of Year 6 to sit written English and Mathematics exams. The final stage is an interview.

An increasing number of schools such as Radley, Charterhouse or Harrodian are using the ISEB Common Pre-Test as their sole admissions test. They may also be invited for interview but there won’t be further academic assessments until they take 13+ Common Entrance in Year 8.

Eton, Harrow and Marlborough all have variations on the entrance procedure. If you have any questions, please get in touch with us anytime.

What’s included in the ISEB Pre-Test

It’s an online and adaptive – meaning that questions will become more difficult if your child is doing well, and less challenging if they are struggling – test in English, Mathematics, Verbal Reasoning and Non-Verbal Reasoning.

How have they changed this year?


This year there are 2 sections.

  1. Reading Comprehension – this year the actual test will contain several short passages (300-500 words each), possibly both prose (fiction and non-fiction) and poetry. In previous years, there was just one passage.
  2. Grammar – this year questions will cover cloze sentences (these are sentences where key words have been deleted) , shuffled sentences (note this is a new section) and SPAG.

This year the English section is 40 minutes (previously it was 25 minutes long).


This year question will include number & place value, calculations, fractions, decimals & percentages, measurement, geometry and statistics. Some questions will assess fundamental knowledge of these topics, and others will involved problem solving. The maths section is 40 minutes this year (previously it was 50 minutes long).

Verbal reasoning (VR)

Elements of English language are tested through question involving vocabulary, rearranging words, letter logic and anagrams. Please note that questions involving numbers will not be covered this year (number sequences, number analogies and fill in the missing number). The VR section will be 25 minutes this year (previously it was 36 minutes long).

Non-verbal reasoning (NVR)

There are 2 main types of questions this year:

  1. Non-verbal reasoning – similarities/differences, codes, completing diagrams.
  2. 3D shapes, 2D shapes – spatial reasoning is an important element of the new assessment.

The NVR section will be 30 minutes this year (previously it was 32 minutes long).

Please note that you now have to register your own child using the Guardian Portal which can be found at:

ISEB have provided this useful walkthrough so that students can get a feel of how the test looks: