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11 and 13 Common Entrance

Common Entrance is the most popular method for gaining entry to secondary independent schools. Most girls’ senior schools admit pupils from 11 upwards. Some boys’ senior schools admit boys to their lower schools at age 11, while others require boys to take the Common Entrance examination at 13.

The Common Entrance exam allows independent preparatory schools to teach a similar curriculum which gives children and parents access to a range of independent senior schools.

A child taking the 11 Common Entrance exam in Year 6 (aged 10 or 11) is required to take papers in English, Maths and Science. Increasingly, however, independent senior schools are setting their own 11 test because they believe the 11 Common Entrance exam – which is based on Government-set SATS tests – is not a good enough indicator of ability.

The 13 Common Entrance examination taken in Year 8 (aged 12 or 13) is broader in range than the 11 . As well as taking papers in English, Maths and Science, children may choose to be tested on history, geography, religious studies, English as an additional language, French, German, Spanish, Latin or Greek.

Critics of the Common Entrance exam argue that the fixed timings can disadvantage children who mature late, especially boys who often don’t ‘get it’ until they 14. Some also feel the 13 is taken very late in the school year so children who do not achieve the grades required by their chosen school can end up scrabbling around for a school place. A few senior schools have responded to this by doing a pre-selection exam one or two years before.

At Gateway School we prepare children for 11 Common Entrance by placing an emphasis on study skills and excellent literacy. We offer specialist teaching in all subjects; we work closely with the Heads of independent senior schools and are fully aware of the curriculum differences between schools.

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