Thinking of Applying for a Boarding School? Don’t Leave it too Late!

Senior schools’ admissions process

Years ago, the switch from prep school to senior school was relatively simple. Parents would choose a boarding school for their child, register and then the child would sit Common Entrance at the end of prep school (Year 8). If they passed, they were in. Today the senior schools’ admissions process is very different and increasingly over the last decade fewer and fewer schools are using Common Entrance alone as the entrance test.

Box Hill School, Surrey exterior
Top photo and above: Box Hill School, Surrey

Senior school entry requirements vary considerably, and all have admission procedures that need to be met. Some are highly selective and heavily oversubscribed, while some admit children of all abilities. The entry process for the highly competitive schools is frequently long and academically rigorous. Most boarding schools are now switching to the Independent Schools Examinations Board (ISEB) Common Pre-Test and school assessment, rather than the traditional Common Entrance exam, and they are doing this a lot earlier.

Many pupils at prep school are now required to sit their assessments for senior school in the autumn term of Year 6 (age 10-11). Consequently, parents need to start having the conversation about senior schools when their child is in Year 4, or Year 5 at the latest, to ensure they have time to find the right schools and prepare the child for the assessment process.

A Brief Overview of Boarding School Entrance Tests

ISEB Common Pre-Test
For pupils aged 10-12, the ISEB Common Pre-Test assesses potential and competitiveness for admission.

11+13+ Common Entrance Exams
Many UK boarding schools require applicants aged 11+ or 13+ to take the Common
Entrance exam as part of their admission process.

For international students aged 9-18 who have learned English as a second language.

16+ school specific examinations
Schools usually set their own tests and the admissions process for 16+ starts in Year 11 and registration is recommended at least one year prior to entry.

Many schools offer scholarships and awards for pupils aged 11+. 13+ and 16+. Candidates sit more advanced papers than the normal exams.

It is not surprising that many parents find the senior schools’ admissions process daunting and confusing. Not only are they having to decide which school best suits their child, but they are also faced with decisions about when they should start looking, how to prepare, how far in advance to apply, how the testing works and when it takes place. The timescale can vary from school to school and that can mean starting as much as four or five years before your child joins the school. In short, it is never too early to start!

If you are considering a UK boarding school and need advice about the application process please don’t hesitate to get in touch.

British Boarding School Network approved Agent 2023 - 2024