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The 13 Plus Entrance Exam

The 13 plus exam is taken in year 8 for entry into year 9 the following September. It is an entrance exam for independent fee-paying schools and is held at various times of the year, depending on whether the school is setting an ISEB exam or not.

This exam is often known as the common entrance exam and is run by independent schools. You need to check with the independent school of your choice to see if they offer a 13 plus exam.

Many 13 plus tests take place in January or February (this can be an ISEB test or the school’s test).

ISEB exams are usually in the first week of June in year 8.


Many schools will have a pre-test that children have to sit two or three years before intended entry. Increasingly these are computerised tests focussing on reasoning and logic (usually verbal and non-verbal)

This process intended to filter down the number of prospective candidates.


Do grammar schools have 13 plus exam?

Occasionally, grammar school will offer an exam in year 8 but usually, it is at very short notice. Usually, you will need to be registered with the grammar school well in advance of the test. Grammar schools often call this an in-year exam, although we have not heard of any computerised pre-tests in grammar school exams.


Is the 13 plus competitive?

The 13 plus exam is not as competitive as the 7 plus or the 11 plus exam. However, on the flip side, there are fewer seats available for entry into year 9 as the majority of places will have been allocated at the start of secondary school in year 7.

Typically in any given area, there will be a limited number of independent schools. Within those schools, there will be some schools that are only prep schools, meaning that they are primary schools. 

The trend over recent years has been for many schools (both state and independent) to become all through schools, meaning that entry would need to be gained into at an early age. 

What does the exam consist of?

Unlike the 11 plus, the 13 plus exam structure can vary greatly from school to school.

All schools will test maths and English in one shape or another. Beyond that, the school may choose to set another subject ranging from science to humanities subject to a modern or classical language.

Generally, the school will not test beyond the National Curriculum levels for their age, but that does not mean that the test will always be easy.

As already mentioned, more and more, there is an element of online testing. Some schools will put straightforward multiple-choice questions online, whilst others will use computer adaptive testing. This is when the question level is adjusted automatically according to how the child is managing with the questions.


What does the school look for?

No matter what age your child takes his/her entrance exam, there are 5 basic skills that all schools will look for. 

  • Maths- in maths, children will be expected to know at least to the expected level in the current National Curriculum.
  • English-it is often said that children ‘forget how to read’ after they leave primary school. This does not mean they literary have forgotten how to read, but they do not extend their reading skills. In the 13 plus English exam, the comprehension will test whether a student can infer from the text the mood and subtext. This comes through reading a variety of text styles.

Learning English is much more of a subtle skill than learning maths. For that reason a wide range of vocabulary and understanding sentence structure is vital.


Are the scores standardised?

No. The overall scores are considered along with the interview.


Does the 13 Plus exam give preference to children in state primary schools or prep schools?

There is no real preference given. The entrance test is designed to spot potential and judge current academic levels. Every child is looked at individually but usually in the context of their exam performance.


Is it better to get a tutor or prepare them at home?

There is no right or wrong with this. Most parents will use a tutor, but some parents work with their child at home. There are plenty of materials available on the market, should you decide to work with your child. 


What are my nearest independent schools that test for 13 plus?

Below is the link for schools that run ISEB 13 plus exams.

If the school you are looking for is not on the list, then click on the following link to find your nearest secondary school’s contact details to find out if they have a 13 plus exam:



Do I need to register my interest?

Yes. every school will have its own procedure. Usually, every school will ask for a completed registration form and a registration fee.


How can Redbridge Tuition help?

At Redbridge Tuition, we can offer a wealth of experience in preparing children for their 13 plus exam. For further information, contact us

How do I find the right tutor?

It is crucial that your child is working with the right tutor. There are hundreds of tutors available but do not base your sole decision on price. 

Also do not just follow the crowd; parents often have a herd mentality which is often fear-driven.

To make sure that you have the right tutor we feel there are some golden rules:

1- Does your child look forward to working with the tutor

2- Is your child comfortable asking questions? 

3- Is the work just right? Is it challenging but not impossible? 

4-Is your child gaining anything from the work they are doing? 

5-Is it stretching their ideas and imaginations, not just their core skills?

6-Are they having fun?


If the answer to most of these questions is yes, then you have the right tutor.

For more information please contact us.

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