Assessments in the British School System

4+, 7+, 8+, 11+, 13+, Pre Tests, verbal, non-verbal reasoning tests, interview: the assessment list in British independent schools has become almost endless leaving parents confused and anxious. Places are highly limited, competition is fierce, few will succeed, and a considerable amount of work is needed to prepare for these exams. Expect competitiveness at its highest level with mock exam practice and tuition to be your best friends greatest secret!


3 and 4 year old boys and girls take the 4+ in January before their September Reception entry. Registration at birth is essential for some schools, but not all. Expect an interview of brainteasers, social interaction, interest in the world and general knowledge. For most schools your child will need to walk through the door on their own and happily go and play. Are they independent and willing to learn? Do they display initiative? 

7+ & 8+

Sat in November and January proceeding September entry and mainly for boys who wish to enter competitive prep schools at Year 3 and Year 4. Academically selective exams in Maths, English, verbal and non-verbal reasoning. Interviews often involve small group interactive activities (to show leadership, teamwork, general knowledge and initiative). Highly selective Prep Schools are looking for happy, naturally bright confident learners, enthusiastic about maths and problem solving. 

The difference between the 7 and 8+ is purely the level of content: boys can sit for both if needed, while some schools only offer an 8+ entry point. 


In January of Year 6, boys and girls sit these academically challenging exams in English and Maths, sometimes verbal and non-verbal reasoning. Interviews in general knowledge, philosophical thinking, mental Maths, comprehension, interpretation of pictures and objects. Children need to be carefully prepared. London’s highest academic schools look for enthusiastic and mature candidates, displaying logical thinking skills, and offer a ratio of 1 place offered for 8 to 9 children applying. 

Pre-tests & 13+

Mostly for boys and some girls for some London day schools and mainly boarding places, the Pre-test takes place between November and January of Year 6 with English, Maths, Verbal and Non-verbal reasoning (either computerized or written). Heads report counts for 50%. Once passed, children are called back for a challenging interview, which requires preparation, general knowledge and a high sense of adaptation. Additional tests in Maths and English are often also required. 

An acceptance of offers is made on the condition of passing common entrance (each school requires a given %), which children sit towards the end of Year 8 in all subjects. 

The tests dates are given months in advance, which gives plenty of time to prepare academically and emotionally!  Try to put the whole experience into perspective, as after all, if your child does their best, that is all you can expect of them. They need to feel that no matter what happens you will be proud of their achievements. 

Survival Tips

  • Register early for up to 4 or 5 schools
  • Visit the school, ask intelligent and useful questions, meet the Head.
  • Understand the process, don’t miss the deadlines or reply letters.
  • Make Admissions your best friend, but don’t annoy.
  • Be prepared to support your child emotionally: it is a long and challenging run. 
  • Avoid last minute preparation: it is too much stress for everyone!
  • Sit exams only if your child has been well-prepared and be realistic about your expectations.
  • Don’t set your child up for failure, make sure they are prepared.
  • Make sure your child is happy and challenged as a priority.
  • Understand that your child will need to maintain the academic momentum to flourish at the school of your choice.
  • Prepare your child for success and failure and think carefully about how to break the news.
  • Don’t over test your children at the very last moment or the day before with mock exams.
  • Don’t lose sight of what is important: your child’s happiness and love of learning is the most important aspect of your child’s childhood and your family life. They may thrive at a later date.