The 7 Plus Entrance Exam
The 7 plus exam is taken at the end of year 2. It is an entrance exam for independent fee-paying schools and is held mostly in the January of when the child is in year 2, for entry in September of year 3.
It is a very competitive exam – almost as competitive as the 11 plus entrance exam.
Why is it so competitive?
There are several reasons why entry at 7 plus is so competitive. 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. An even fewer number of independent schools in your area will be secondary schools.
The trend has been for many schools to become all through schools, meaning that entry will need to be gained into at an early age.
If the school contains a pre-prep school, then this means that in turn, there will be fewer places available at 7 as those children who joined at 4 will typically go straight through to the prep school.
On average, for every 1 place available in an all-through school, there are anything between 7 and 15 applications.
How can they test children so young?
The tests consist of what they would generally be taught in school and the schools are usually very sympathetic to that they are so young.
From the school’s point of view, they are almost always oversubscribed and so they have to have some criteria for selection, so what better way than to see where they are on their academic journey?
What does the exam consist of?
All schools will test maths and English in one shape or another. 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.
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.
Some schools will also include reasoning (verbal and/or non-verbal).
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. For example, not only will they be expected to know their 2, 3, 4, 5 and 10 times tables, they will be able to apply them. There will also be the more challenging questions, where they will be expected to interpret the information given and then using the appropriate method, produce an answer. The following 2 questions have been taken from the Dulwich college website 7 plus examples and are fairly typical of the style of questions asked:
1. The café is open for 6 days each week. It is open for 9 hours each day. How many hours is the café open each week? Show how you work it out.
2. There are six faces on a normal dice. Each face has a number of dots on it corresponding to the numbers one to six. How many total dots are there on two normal dice?
Reading – reading is an absolutely key skill as it feeds into every subject. Children will be expected not only to read out loud but also be able to discuss what they have read and be able to talk about the topic in context.
Writing – here spelling, punctuation and grammar (using the right tense, for example) will be very important. Where they struggle with complex words, they will be expected to spell the word phonetically, and use the phonics skills they will have learnt in previous years. Children will be expected to show structure in their wring with clear demarcations with punctuation and paragraphs. The following is a 5 mark question as part of the comprehension and a composition question worth 25 marks. The questions are from Kings College, Wimbledon.
1. How would you feel if you got lost on a school trip? Try and answer in as much detail as you can.
2. Write about what happens to Sam next in the museum. Call your story: Lost in the Museum
Before you start writing, think about:
- How Sam is feeling
- Where he goes
- What he does next
Conversing – This skill is usually observed during the interview process. Staff will almost always be very gentle and supportive of all children. They will usually be asked to talk about something that is of interest to them. Often there will be a collaborative activity where children will be observed in their interaction with other children. Often their conversation skills will be assessed here as well.
Reasoning – reasoning, especially mathematical reasoning is a big part of the new curriculum. Many schools will also include some verbal and/or non-verbal reasoning questions.
Are the scores standardised?
No. The overall scores are considered along with the interview.
Does the 7 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 so 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 there are also parents who work with their child at home. There are plenty of materials available on the market, should you decide to work with your child.
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.
When and where does the exam take place?
The 7 Plus exam is held mostly in the January of when the child is in year 2, for entry in September of year 3.
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.