11 facts you need to know about the Common Entrance exam


1. What is the Common Entrance exam?

Firstly, it’s unique and not that 'common'. It's a series of examinations your child will take in the Summer term of Year 8. These are of a standard that prepare children superbly for GCSE. Our teachers facilitate our students to reach their full potential in these assessments. Historically, children from maintained schools sat these for entry into private senior schools as a standard-marker. Today, schools like Brighton College, Lancing College and Hurst require all children to sit them. 

2. What subjects are examined?

The three core subjects are Maths, English and Science. French is usually a requirement for senior schools too. Geography, History, Religious Studies and Latin are also sat, usually in early June.

3. So all these subjects are just one paper?

No. There are three Maths papers: Mental Arithmetic, Non-Calculator paper and Calculator paper. There are two English papers: prose and poetry comprehensions and practical and creative writing assessments. There are three Science papers: Biology, Physics and Chemistry. Also, Geography and Religious Studies incorporate a coursework project, which counts towards the final mark.

4. Do all children do the Common Entrance at Sompting Abbotts Preparatory School?

Yes, all our pupils sit CE. We differentiate it appropriately for each one. Students who struggle with French in Year 7 or 8 will, in Latin slots, do extra work on core subjects or work with Cathy Camfield, our Learning Support Co-Ordinator in one-to-one sessions. This isn't compulsory. It's an option you as a parent might want to choose.

5. But supposing my child isn’t going on to a private Senior School?

Common Entrance is a kite-mark of quality. By sitting the exams, your child will be better placed for future studies. Plus, it's more likely that he or she'll feel able to work on higher tier GCSEs. Sompting Abbotts Preparatory School is a Sussex prep school that's a recognised ISEB examination centre. So our exams are all conducted under strict protocols which require your child to be taught exam technique and conduct. These skills will be invaluable when your child is up against his or her GCSEs and A Levels ahead.

6. So just how hard is the Common Entrance exam?

The standard of work for Common Entrance in most subjects is in advance of a student’s academic age. We scale our learning from Year 6 onwards to meet these demands. Some subjects, such as English, involve working at GCSE level.

7. Does the difficulty vary?

Yes. There are different Levels (1 and 2) in Science and English. English Level 1 involves easier comprehension questions. Science Level 1 involves one single paper, of more accessible questions, as opposed to the three separate papers at Level 2 difficulty. French has Level 1 and Level 2. There are three levels for Latin: Level 1 (most accessible) to Level 3 (most challenging).

8. Do all private senior schools accept Level 1 papers?  

No, Brighton College doesn't. Hurstpierpoint and Lancing College accept Level 1 in French and Latin only. Lancing will accept a Level 1 paper in a core subject if a student has English as a second language and has been in the country for a year. Some other schools, such as Farlington, Sion and the Towers, do allow for Level 1 papers.

9. Do all private senior schools require the same standard at Common Entrance level?

No. Lancing College and Hurstpierpoint expect students to average 55% in their examinations. Brighton College expect 60%.

10. What are Common Pre-Tests?

Common pre-tests are now required by Lancing College, Hurstpierpoint and Brighton College. They're usually sat by students in Year 6. You'll contact the Admissions office of your preferred senior school and pay a fee to enable your child to sit the assessments on Chromebooks at Sompting Abbotts. (Children applying to multiple schools which use the Common Pre-Test will only take the test once per academic year though. The set of results obtained will be shared with all schools registering that candidate.)

The tests are taken online and made up of: verbal reasoning (working with the alphabet and words), non-verbal reasoning (identifying patterns in shapes), a mathematics assessment and a comprehension on an unseen text. These are all timed. They can be sat on different days at different times. Sompting Abbotts has a 100% success rate for students sitting the Common Pre-Tests. The senior school will use this data to offer your child either a conditional place or an unconditional place. A conditional offer requires a strong performance at Common Entrance. An unconditional offer indicates the senior school recognises the potential in your child to sit an Academic Scholarship.

11. How much homework does all this mean for my child?

Around 30 to 40 minutes per subject. These are 'at the most' figures though. We're understanding of your children's extra-curricular commitments (family events, sport clubs, Brownies, Scouts, etc) and make allowances and give support. We use Google Drive to communicate and facilitate students' work much more quickly.

Have other questions? Please speak to Mr Douch or email him at: headmaster@somptingabbotts.org.uk


Post author

Stuart Douch, Headmaster, Sompting Abbotts Preparatory School


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