Common Entrance Exams

A complete guide to the Common Entrance Exams. We take you through everything you need to know about the 7-plus, 8-plus, 11-plus and 13-plus Common Entrance Exams.

What is the 7-plus Common Entrance Exam?

Typically reserved for independent prep schools, the 7-plus is an assessment for pupils entering the school in Year 3. 

Via the 7-plus exam, the school can assess a pupil's academic ability and judge whether or not they are going to be suitable for the school for the remainder of their primary education. 

At this age, schools feel as though they can detect and test a given pupil's ability, any younger than this and it would become too difficult to tell. Prep schools typically set their own tests, so you should always contact the school your child is applying to before preparing for the 7-plus entrance exam.

Make sure you are aware of exactly what the particular 7-plus exam entails for your child’s desired school.

There are often past papers on offer as well as other materials to help you and your child prepare for their 7-plus exam.

Nevertheless, this is still an extremely young age to be assessed. If your child has an upcoming 7-plus assessment, make sure you help them prepare well in advance to not only increase their chances of being accepted but to reduce any stress surrounding the exam ahead.

When does the 7-plus entrance exam take place?

The exams usually take place at the beginning of the spring term, permitting entry to the school the following September.

Your child could be offered a confirmed place or placed on a waiting list depending on their results. Alternatively, you will be told if your child has been unsuccessful.

How can I help my child prepare for the 7-plus exam?

Make sure your child is aware of everything the 7-plus exam includes. Make sure you leave enough time before the 7-plus exam to allow your child to gain the confidence they need to perform to the best of their ability on the big day. 

Here at Tutor House, we have a selection of dedicated 7-plus entrance exam tutors who can work to ensure your child is prepared in the best way possible for their 7-plus exam. 

All our 7-plus tutors are DBS checked and have a proven track record in helping children attain places at their top choice primary school.

We offer past papers and on-going support for both children and parents who are preparing for the 7-plus exam.

In what becomes a competitive environment for places at top schools it may be important for your child to receive 1:1 tuition from a private 7-plus entrance exam tutor to ensure that they get everything they need to prepare for the 7-plus exam. 

Make sure you have good state alternatives and remember not to add pressure to your child as they revise and learn for this important exam. 

If you have a school in mind and know that your child would benefit from the support and guidance of an experienced 7-plus tutor then browse our amazing range of 7-plus entrance exam tutors on our website.

Additionally, you can always contact a member of our educational team who will be able to answer any and all questions concerning the 7-plus entrance exam.

List London 7-plus specimen papers
List of London Schools that require 7 plus entrance exams:

  • St Paul’s Junior
  • Haberdashers’ Aske’s Boys’ School
  • Haberdashers’ Aske’s School for Girls
  • King’s College Junior School
  • Wetherby Prep School
  • Dulwich College
  • North London Collegiate School
  • Alleyn’s City of London School for Girls
  • Westminster Under School
  • Sussex House

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7-plus vs 8-plus Common Entrance Exam

What is the difference between the 7-plus (7+) and 8-plus (8+) exams?

Several independent prep schools set exams for children aiming to join the school at either Year 3 (7+) or Year 4 (8+).

Some schools only offer the chance to join at Year 3, which means students are required to take the 7-plus exam. Other schools offer entry at both Year 3 and 4, meaning students have the chance to join at Year 4, by taking the 8-plus exam

The only difference between the 7-plus and the 8-plus is that, at an 8-plus level, the exam sections are a little more challenging to account for the extra year of experience. 

Students are still required to take similar tests in Maths and English and are required to take reasoning tests (something which is mainly absent from most 7-plus exams).

For the English section of the 8-plus, students are expected to know at least all the words on the Key Stage 2 word list. And includes a harder text comprehension exercise. 

Maths at 8-plus is based on the Year 3 syllabus and includes written and problem-solving components; including numbers and the number system, place value and ordering, estimating, rounding, fractions as well as mental arithmetic.

Help your child reach their full potential with a 7+ / 8+ private tutor

Whether your child is preparing for their 7-plus or 8-plus exam, Tutor House has a set of dedicated 7-plus and 8-plus tutors who are experienced in helping students attain places at their chosen prep schools.

Whatever stage you choose for your child to change schools, it's essential that you get them the support they need to feel confident about their upcoming exams. This is the best way to ensure that they achieve their goals of securing a place at their chosen prep school. 

Contact a member of our educational team today via our Contact Us page and get free support and guidance on the best next steps for your child. 

Alternatively, call us on 020 3950 0320 or email We look forward to hearing from you!

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What is the 11-plus?

The 11-plus is an exam taken by 11-12-year-olds in England and Northern Ireland in their last year of primary school. The 11-plus is taken as an admissions test into grammar schools and other secondary schools which use academic selection criteria. 
Children taking the 11-plus are required to sit the core subjects of English, Maths, and Science, as well as complete Verbal and Non-Verbal Reasoning tests.

What does the 11- plus exam consist of?


There are 4 different types of the 11-plus Maths exam. Typically the maths exam is a multiple-choice test, however, the Independent School Maths exam is a written answer paper. If you are unsure about which format your child’s 11-plus paper will be, make sure to get in contact with your child’s school.

The test follows the syllabus of the National Curriculum and covers the fundamental topics including those covered in Year 5-6. However, many schools expect students to push themselves beyond their Year 5-6 knowledge so it’s important to encourage your child to face Maths questions slightly more advanced than their current level.

Children sitting the 11 plus exam will complete a one-hour paper following the guidelines of the National Curriculum, with no calculator.

Topics Included:

  • Algebra
  • Addition
  • Measurement
  • Number and place value
  • Division
  • Multiplication
  • Ratio
  • Proportion
  • Geometry
  • Fractions
  • Percentages
  • Statistics 
  • Subtraction
  • Decimals


The English section of the 11-plus is composed of a reading and writing section, in which the child’s understanding of poetry and prose will be examined. Whatever version of the 11-plus your child is taking the same topics are covered:
These include:

  • Spelling
  • Grammar
  • Creative Writing
  • Comprehension
  • Creative Writing
  • Literacy
  • Vocabulary

Pupils are also expected to demonstrate knowledge of the following concepts: Antonyms, Synonyms, Homonyms, Compound words and Word groups.

Verbal Reasoning

As Verbal Reasoning is not taught in most schools this is a test of skill rather than learned knowledge and can be one of the more challenging aspects of the 11-plus. In this section of the test, children are given 80 questions which evaluate a student’s ability to do the following:

  • Process verbal information (Comprehension)
  • Apply logical thinking and problem solving
  • Determine word meaning
  • Follow written instructions
  • Find a letter to complete two other words
  • Solve codes based on letters and numbers
  • Spell accurately
  • Identify letter sequences 

Your child should also be aware of concepts such as synonyms and antonyms. 

Students are expected to demonstrate an understanding of reasoning using concepts framed in words allowing the examiner to evaluate the ability of the student to think constructively around their vocabulary. 

For students to be successful at this stage of the 11-plus, pupils should have a wide vocabulary (of approximately 2000 words). Children who are widely read perform better at this stage of the 11-plus.

Non-Verbal Reasoning

Put simply, Non-Verbal Reasoning tests your child's ability to process graphic and pictorial information as well as their spatial awareness (how objects related to each other in space).

The test may appear in one of two different formats:

Standard format - where answers are written directly onto the test paper
Multiple-choice format - where students are given a separate booklet for their answers

Examples of additional areas assessed in the Non-Verbal Reasoning section include problem-solving, logical thinking, ability to follow patterns and rules, application of maths skills (specifically rotation, reflection and symmetry), as well the pupil's ability to work systematically. 

Students are given 40 minutes to complete 4 sections. Each section contains 20 questions giving students 10- minutes to spend on each section. 

As another section that is not specifically taught in schools, students should take time to practice this section to ensure they are prepared ahead of their 11-plus exam.

How to prepare for the 11-plus exam

Like all exams practice makes perfect. Make sure you start preparing well in advance of the 11-plus exam to allow your child to build up their confidence in their skills, giving them plenty of time to engage with practice papers and perfect their time management and exam technique. 
Make sure you check what format your child’s 11-plus will take.

The 11-plus is generally consistent in the topics that are covered, however, the format may differ slightly depending on the school or child is applying and where you live. The two main exam boards for the 11+ exam are the CEM (Durham University) and GL Assessment. 

If your child is struggling with any aspects of the 11-plus or would like some additional support prior to the exam, we provide experienced 11-plus tutors who are well versed in coaching pupils to perform to the best of their ability on exam day.

Click  to explore our range of dedicated 11-plus exam tutors and ensure your child secures a place at the secondary school of their choice.

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The 13-Plus Exam

What is the 13-plus Common Entrance Exam?

The 13+ Common Entrance exam consists of a set of rigorous tests set by selective independent secondary schools for students wishing to gain entry into Year 9. These exams are usually sat in the Spring, or more commonly the Summer, of Year 8.

They are either part of the standard ISEB assessment or individual schools devise their own (CE) Common Entrance papers. It’s important to note that the content, structure, and expectations of the 13-plus can vary widely between each school. Schools that set their own tests are more often more prestigious and of a higher difficulty level than those set by the Schools Examination Board (ISEB).

Another important thing to remember is that pass marks fluctuate from year to year. This is generally calculated according to the number of applicants and spaces available per school per year.

What's included in the 13-plus Common Entrance Exam?

The 13+ is notoriously competitive as it requires the student to have developed their exam technique, critical thinking faculties whilst assessing their English, Maths, Science Verbal and Non-Verbal Reasoning skills, as well as some additional humanities subjects. 

The 13+ Common Entrance encourages students to consolidate their knowledge gained from their understanding of the subjects taught under the National Curriculum, whilst also enhancing their critical and analytical skills.

The 13+ is challenging in a new way to most students, and in some cases, children may not have covered all the topics that appear in the 13+ Common Entrance exam. For this reason, many parents choose to seek help outside the school system for their child’s 13+ exam.

How does the 13-plus work?

Unlike other Common Entrance exams students need to be registered with their desired school somewhere between 1-4 years before intended entry, with 2-3 years being the average amount of time. 

Students who wish to join a school at Year 9 undergo “pre-testing” which occurs 2-3 years before intended entry. This pre-testing is done to filter down the number of prospective entrants and consists of computerised exams focused on logic and reasoning (both verbal and non-verbal).

Those that are successful then receive a firm offer, on the condition that they pass their 13-plus Common Entrance papers in the required subjects.

When does the 13-plus Common Entrance exam take place?

The 13+ Common Entrance can take place in the autumn, spring or most commonly the summer term of Year 8. 

What does the 13-plus involve?

The Science Common Entrance Exam tests not only the student's knowledge of Biology, Chemistry, and Physics but the cultural context of such disciplines. The exams follow the outline of the National Curriculum. The paper is split into two levels.

Students achieving higher marks in lessons will sit the one-hour paper, and students in Level 2 will sit a 40-minute paper. For the 13 plus exam, children could also sit a variety of humanities and any languages they are studying.

Making sure you get the right support to prepare your child for these examinations is key. At Tutor House, our Common Entrance tutors are experienced in helping children prepare for both the 11+ and 13+ Common Entrance exams. 

With our supply of Common Entrance past papers and support with exam technique, your child will be in the best hands possible for their 13+ plus Common Entrance Exam.

How Tutor House can help with 13-plus Common Entrance Exam


Our tutors will ensure that pupils are able to work independently and can rise to new challenges that will stretch them academically. We aim to build on and further develop skills that allow your child to:

  • Demonstrate that they can analyse the text
  • Express themselves clearly, precisely and eloquently on paper
  • Respond to open questions in a thoughtful manner
  • Display a good grasp of grammar, spelling, punctuation and appropriate style suited to varying tasks
  • Write creatively


The common entrance will test pupils secure knowledge and understanding of mathematics concepts. Our tutors will prepare pupils for Level 5+. It is important that pupils practice under exam conditions.

Tutor House will provide ample opportunities for your child to demonstrate their newly acquired skills and potential under test conditions. Since most pupils will opt to be taught in larger groups as opposed to 1:1, they will benefit from competition with peers who are also prepared for the entrance exam.

The following concepts will be taught:

• Number place value
• Properties of numbers
• Positive and negative Integers
• Fractions decimals
• Percentages calculations
• Pencil and paper procedures
• Estimations/Approximations
• Checking solving problems
• Using appropriate operations to solve problems
• Shape and size shapes
• Angles
• Perimeter and area

Non-Verbal Reasoning

Non-Verbal Reasoning (NVR) tests require recognition of similarities, analogies, patterns in unfamiliar designs- which can include series completion, codes and analogies. These tests indicate a pupil’s ability to understand and assimilate new information independently of their language skills. 

They indicate the potential ability of a child and are used widely by selective schools, as they tend to be highly reliable in indicating the future academic results that your child is likely to achieve. There is, of course, no set syllabus for NVR tests however our experiences show that the more a child is exposed to the wide range of these tests the better their score in entrance exams.

Tutor House will use a range of NVR material to familiarise your child and to remove their fear. Common Entrance tutors will go through the questions and provide detailed reasoning so that the child gradually moves away from dependent learning to mastering the techniques. Weekly testing will help rank your child within the group so that they understand how they are doing in comparison to their peers and what more they need to do to improve.

Verbal Reasoning

Schools will also test your child’s verbal reasoning ability. The larger your child’s vocabulary the better they will do in these tests.

Tutor House will support your child in developing their verbal reasoning skills by incorporating regular testing to help keep your child learning new vocabulary weekly as well as practising with past VR papers to ease their nerves.

Tutor House tutors are well placed and highly experienced in providing Common Entrance tuition. In some cases other Liberal Arts subjects are included in the Common Entrance exam.

Subjects selected are dependent on the particular school your child is applying to. Always check with the school to make sure your child is prepared for the correct Common Entrance exam content. 

Once your child has been successful in the exam they will be invited for an interview, schools may interview:
• Individually
• In groups or in pairs
• With parents, or without parents

Tutor House offers a ‘preparation for interview’ session and further information will be provided on request

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