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British Boarding school FAQs, ISEB pretests and scholarships

Our Top TWELVE FAQs from parents about the ISEB Pretest – updated!


Which schools ask for the ISEB pretest?


The list has grown! Check here:

Schools like Eton, Winchester, Charterhouse and Wellington will ask your child to sit the ISEB Pre-test ahead of inviting them for an interview. Other schools such as Benenden will ask for the test in addition to their assessment day. Check the admissions pages of the school websites.

1: How do I enter for the ISEB pretest?

Once you have registered with your senior schools, they will enter your child once the appropriate year comes around.

2: Where do I take the test?

Brandon, of course! Notify your senior school that you are taking the test with us and they will send us test codes.

3: When do I take the test?

Your school will give you a window during which the test must be taken. Some schools have early deadlines. You need to check!

4: So what does the pre-test consist of?

The test is taken online and there are four sections:

Maths (50 mins)
English (25 mins)
Non-Verbal reasoning (32 mins)
Verbal reasoning (36 mins)

5: What is the pass mark?

There is no pass or fail mark; schools will use the pretest as part of your application package.

6: Can I see the results?

No – Results go straight to the school(s) and will not be shared with parents! One of the joys of this system is that your beleaguered son or daughter will not have to sit numerous tests: one test can be sent to multiple schools.

7: Can my child take a break during the test?

Students may take breaks between sections but, once started, the test cannot be paused.

8: Can we spread the test over a few days?

Yes. Some schools ask students to take the four sections at the same time. At Brandon, we recognize that our students are already over stretched so you can spread your test out.

9: During the test, how do they know how much them they have?

A timer at the top of the screen shows the student how much time remains and there is an indicator at the bottom of the screen showing which question number the student is on and how many he/she has left to answer.

10: Is it a speed test?

Not really. There are timings but there are no prizes for finishing first! We recommend that our students pace themselves and aim for accuracy rather than racing though the questions.

11: My child has SEN, can they get extra time?

Schools do have the option to allow students with SEN requirements to have extra time. You will need to send over your latest report from your Educational Psychologist. Some schools will also consider adding extra time for EAL students. If in doubt, check with your senior school.

12: How do schools use the results?

Each school uses the results as one part of your application package. Other areas which may be considered include school references, reports and extra-curricular activities.

“My friend says that the ISEB Pretest pass mark is … ” and other myths!

If your child has just taken the ISEB Pre-test as part of their Eton, Winchester, Tonbridge, Charterhouse, Wellington, Cranleigh, St Paul’s (continue ad infinitum, see the list here!) then you may well be surrounded by a fog of panic and misinformation. So here we go, the top myths…

1: There is a pass mark of X……

No… there really isn’t. Schools use the Pre-Test as part of their application process in conjunction with school reports, references and additional information. Most schools will apply a range to the results they receive from their cohort which may be broader or narrower depending on their intake. 

As a rule of thumb: a school with fast-paced teaching and highly academic focus (such as St Paul’s), will take the top end of their cohort. A school with excellent support and a broader intake (e.g. Stowe), will use a wider measure.

2: So and so scored 100%…

The scores of the test are not released by schools…

3: So and so took the test twice…

Not in one academic year they didn’t unless serious trickery was going on! The test may be taken once per candidate in an academic year and all schools who use the Pretest can access your child’s results.

Each school sets their own deadlines but once you have taken the test for your earliest deadline, that is it. 

Some schools have late Y7 applications (e.g. Charterhouse) so it is possible that your child might take the ISEB Pretest again in Y7 but it will be a different set of questions.

Now that the Winchester interview invitations have been issued, we’ve noted brilliant results from the students who used PreQuest this year.   If you cover all the material in Pretest level, you will be in good shape for the assessments. If you are wondering what is on the ISEB Pretest, have a look at some of our videos… 

Which school do you want for YOUR child? 

Eton, Winchester, Wycombe Abbey, CLC …?

Based on our recent seminars, these are the top questions from our parents!

– Is it ever too early to start preparation?

No! As parents, think about what options you may explore for your child and identify different key dates. Your plans may change but this way you are keeping doors open.

– When do we need to choose schools?

Watch out for deadlines. Many highly selective 13+ schools including Eton and Winchester now test in Y6 and close registration in Y5. For 11+ schools, you need to be thinking even earlier! Brandon offers a full consultancy service to help you along your path.

– Should we look at co-ed or single sex schools?

The starting point in school selection is always understanding your child. The second step is to really understand what the school is offering. Open days (even virtual ones!) are a good opportunity to see how students act within your chosen school. You might also want to ask about boarding ratios, weekend activities and the school’s tutor system to get a full picture. My suggestion is to be as open minded as you can and see for yourself before ruling out possible options.

– How do we enter and prepare for school pre-tests (including the ISEB pre-test) and 11+/13+ entrance examinations?

The online ISEB Pretest is usually taken in Y6 and covers English, maths, verbal and non-verbal reasoning and candidates are entered by their senior schools.  We have developed an online practice tool ( which will give you full preparation for the ISEB Pretest.  Our classes are always popular and the results really do speak for themselves. As with any exam, the more familiar you are with the contents, the easier the process becomes.

You or your prep school will enter your child for 11+/13+ Common Entrance. Check with your senior school who will tell you which papers you need to take and when. Typically, girls’ and co-ed schools test in the spring and boys’ schools in the summer. Some schools (such as Tonbridge) have different papers and timings for overseas students. 

– Is my child suitable for academic scholarships?

Is he or she academically curious and driven? Speak to your prep or primary school who can advise. Girls schools (such as Benenden or Downe House) will invite girls to try for academic scholarships following testing. Every year, we prepare boys for Election at Winchester or King’s Scholarship at Eton. The preparation is rigorous and students who are genuinely inspired to learn thrive through exposure to the depth and breadth which a scholarship application entails.

If you have specific questions or would like tailored advice, ask about a consultancy appointment with Dr Jessica.