ISEB Common Pre-Tests Explained

Is your child going to sit the ISEB pre-tests?

Don’t panic – we have all the key details you need to know about the ISEB common pre-tests, right here!

What are the ISEB common pre-tests?

GL Assessment has commissioned computerised tests known as the ISEB Common Pre-Tests. Some senior schools use these tests to help identify the most promising and advanced students.

Aspiring grammar school students may be asked to sit multiple ISEB tests over the last two years of their primary education.

The tests cover four subject areas:

  1. Maths
  2. English
  3. Verbal Reasoning
  4. Non-verbal reasoning

What’s the format of ISEB pre-tests?

The format of the ISEB pre-tests is multiple choice. The tests are adaptive, which means the difficulty of the next questions is determined by how well the student has performed in the previous questions. If they get multiple answers correct in a row, the next question will be more difficult – and vice versa.

Although there are four components to the ISEB tests, pupils are not given the same allotted time to complete each one. As per the order of the four subject areas in the section above, students are given 50 minutes, 20 minutes, 36 minutes, and 32 minutes, respectively.

The tests will be sat at their current school in most cases.

SEND candidates and ISEB pre-tests

If your child is a Special Education Needs and Disability Candidate (SEND), you should inform your child’s current school as early as possible. Your current school will communicate with the senior school to find out what provisions need to be implemented for the ISEB pre-tests.

How to prepare for the ISEB pre-tests

Your child should prepare for the ISEB pre-tests by focusing on study materials and resources that cover the four main components, namely Maths, English, Verbal Reasoning and Non-verbal Reasoning.

If you want a readymade solution to prepare for these tests, consider the online 11+ course at 11 Plus Success. Our online course is affordable, and convenient, but best of all, tailored to cover these four subjects specifically. You can read more about our 11+ course online here.

What will the four topics cover?

More specifically, the ISEB pre-tests’ individual components are likely to cover:


  1. Multiplication tables up to 12
  2. Data and probability
  3. Ratios, percentages and proportions
  4. Basic algebra
  5. Measurements
  6. Shapes and properties
  7. Decimals and fractions


  1. Grammar – verb agreement, syntax, and parts of speech
  2. Spelling and punctuation
  3. Vocabulary testing
  4. Analysis of sentences

Verbal reasoning:

  1. Logic
  2. Patterns, sequences and codes
  3. Wordplay and sentence questions

Non-verbal reasoning:

  1. 2D and 2D shape manipulation
  2. Pattern identification and association
  3. Shape interpretation

After the ISEB pre-tests

If the student performs well enough during the ISEB pre-tests, the senior grammar school may invite them to participate in a further assessment at their school, and/or they may be invited to a group/solo interview.

The “pass” mark to get a further assessment or interview invites changes each year and between schools.

Further assessments are created by each school, meaning it is harder to predict what questions will be asked. However, it is usually the case that they focus on maths and English (literature). The best practice is to study the same types of content that was in the ISEB tests.

Within interviews, schools usually look for children who can respond to questions calmly and can convey their message or answers effectively. They may go off-topic to explore children’s take on subtle moral dilemmas or current affairs. 

When do further assessments and interviews take place?

Most of the time the further assessments and interviews are scheduled for the spring and summer terms in year 6. However, don’t be disheartened if you haven’t heard back by then; sometimes these events do not take place until the Autumn term of year 7.

Prepare for the ISEB test with 11 Plus Success

Remember that our online 11+ course is perfect for any student wanting to prepare for the ISEB tests effectively and conveniently online. Read more about our study materials now!

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