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The ISEB Common Pretest


The ISEB Common Pre-test is used by independent senior schools to assess a pupil's level of achievement and potential in advance of the Common Entrance exam taken in Year 8.

This guide will help you to better understand the purpose and requirements of the ISEB Common Pre-test.

Essential Information

  • The test is taken by pupils aged between 10 and 12 years old, during Year 6 or 7.


  • It comprises four individual tests of English, Mathematics, Verbal Reasoning and Non Verbal Reasoning.


  • The individual tests must be completed in one sitting, but each test can be taken separately.


  • The tests are taken online with multiple choice answers.


  • The tests are timed. It takes approximately 2.5 hours to complete all four tests.


  • Pupils are registered for the test by the senior school for which they are entered.


  • If a pupil is registered for multiple schools, the results of the test will be made available to all of the schools.


  • The test can only be taken once. If a pupil takes multiple tests, the result of the first test will be used.


  • The tests are usually taken at the pupil's current prep school. However, they can be taken on any computer with an internet connection.


  • The senior school will usually handle registration and other administrative functions, whilst the prep school will be responsible for the taking of the test.


  • Deadlines for applications and the age at which the pretest is taken may vary between schools. It is important to look up the individual requirements of the school you are applying to well in advance.
  • The tests are created by GL Assessment for the UK independent sector.

Purpose of the ISEB Common Pre-test

The ISEB Common Pre-Test allows senior schools to assess in advance whether a pupil meets their academic standards. How the results of the Pretest are used will vary between schools.

Pupils who pass the ISEB Common Pre-test will most likely be offered a place at the senior school, on the condition that they also pass the Common Entrance at age 13+. Particularly competitive senior schools may use the Pretest to de-select pupils, meaning they are removed from the application process or placed on a reserve list.

Taking the ISEB Pre-test

The ISEB Common Pre-test comprises four individual tests. Each test must be completed in one sitting, but they can be taken separately and in any order.

Other than the English test, each assessment gives example and practice questions. The only additional materials allowed are a pen and paper for the Maths test.

Each assessment has a different time limit. The time remaining will be shown at the top of the screen during the test, as well as a progress bar which shows how many questions have been answered.

The time limit does not include the time taken to set up and log in to the test, but does include the time taken for the candidate to read the instructions for the test. Familiarity with the test in advance can therefore leave more time for completing the questions.

The candidate is given a choice of five different answers for each question. They must click on their chosen answer and click ‘Next’. Once they have clicked 'Next', they are unable to return to previous questions to change their answers.

The test will be taken under formal exam conditions. Candidates will be required to complete the test in silence. Teachers will help to ensure that the test is being completed correctly but will not be able to assist with answering the questions.

English  | 25 minutes

This test assesses spelling, punctuation, comprehension, and sentence completion.

Some questions will refer to a passage of text. This will be visible for each question and can be navigated using scroll buttons on the screen. The candidate will need to refer to specific lines from the passage for some questions.



Maths | 50 minutes


This test assesses mathematical ability compared to the national curriculum.




Verbal Reasoning | 36 minutes


This test assesses thinking and problem-solving using words.

Two types of questions require multiple answers to be selected. In order to change one of the selected answers, it must first be de-selected before a new answer is chosen.



Non Verbal Reasoning | 32 minutes

This test assesses thinking with shapes, space, pictures, and diagrams.



Schools that use the ISEB Pre-test

The ISEB Common Pre-test is one of the most common pre-tests used by independent senior schools. It is currently used by the following schools:

Abbot's Hill School Pretest

Alleyn's School Pretest

Ampleforth College Pretest

Ardingly College Pretest

Bedford School Pretest

Benenden School Pretest

Berkhamsted School Pretest

Bloxham School Pretest

Bradfield College Pretest

Brentwood School Pretest

Brighton College Pretest

Bryanston School Pretest

Canford School Pretest 

Caterham School Pretest

Channing School Pretest

Charterhouse Pretest

City of London School Pretest

Cranleigh School Pretest

Culford School Pretest

Dauntsey's School Pretest

Downside School Pretest

Dulwich College Pretest

Eaton Square Upper School Pretest

Epsom College Pretest

Eton College Pretest

Felsted School Pretest

Francis Holland School Pretest

Freemen's School Pretest

Fulham Senior Pretest

Gateways School Pretest

Godolphin and Latymer School Pretest

Haberdashers' Monmouth Schools Pretest

Haileybury School Pretest

Hampton School Pretest

Harrodian Senior School Pretest

Harrow School Pretest

Headington School Pretest

Hull Collegiate School Pretest

Hurstpierpoint College Pretest 11 Plus

Hurstpierpoint College Pretest 13 Plus

James Allen's Girls' School Pretest

Kew House School Pretest

King Edward's School Witley Pretest

King's College School, Taunton Pretest

King's College Pretest

King's School Rochester Pretest

Knightsbridge Senior School Pretest

Lancing College Pretest

Latymer Upper School Pretest

Leeds Grammar School Pretest

Leys School Pretest

Lord Wandsworth College Pretest

Maida Vale School Pretest

Marlborough College Pretest 

Mayfield School Pretest

Mill Hill School Pretest

New Hall School Pretest

Northwood College Pretest

Notting Hill and Ealing School Pretest

Oratory School Pretest

Palmers Green High School Pretest

Pangbourne College Pretest

Putney High School Pretest

Queen's College Pretest

Radley College Pretest

Reed's School Pretest

Roedean School Pretest

Royal Grammar School Pretest

S. Anselm's College Pretest

Seaford College Pretest

South Hampstead High School Pretest

St Albans High School for Girls Pretest

St Benedict's School Pretest

St Dunstan's College Pretest

St Edward's School Pretest

St Helen's School Pretest

St Mary's Shaftesbury Pretest 

St Paul's School Pretest 11 Plus

St Paul's School Pretest 13 Plus

St Swithun's School Pretest 11 Plus

St Swithun's School Pretest 13 Plus

Stowe School Pretest

Streatham & Clapham High School Pretest

Sutton Valence School Pretest 11 Plus

Sutton Valence School Pretest 13 Plus

Tonbridge School Pretest

Trinity School Pretest

University College School Pretest

Uppingham School Pretest

Wellington College Pretest

Westminster School Pretest 11 Plus

Westminster School Pretest 13 Plus

Wetherby Senior School Pretest

Whitgift School Pretest

Wimbledon High School Pretest

Winchester College Pretest

Woldingham School Pretest

Worth School Pretest

Pre-tests used by other schools

Schools use a variety of pre-tests during their selection processes. Some design their own pre-tests, whilst others commission them from providers such as GL Assessment.

These tests may be online or offline, or a combination of both. It is important to check the requirements of the school you are applying to.

Preparation for the ISEB Common Pre-test

Candidates for the ISEB Common Pre-Test are unlikely to have taken a test in this format before, so it essential that they prepare in advance.

Familiarity with the question types and computer interface will give candidates more time during the exam to focus on answering the questions. Our practice papers are designed to replicate the experience of taking the real test, including the timer and the process of submitting answers.

Completing our practice papers gives candidates a better understanding of what the questions are asking of them, and the best methods for approaching different types of questions. This familiarity means that candidates are more prepared and confident when they take the real ISEB Common Pre-test, allowing them to perform to the best of their ability.

The practice papers provide feedback on each question and allow you to compare progress with other candidates.

Our practice papers are available here. If you have any further questions, please do get in touch.

ISEB Pretest Practice Exam 1



ISEB Pretest Exam 1



ISEB Pretest Exam 2