THE BLOG
08/10/2012 09:57 BST | Updated 05/12/2012 05:12 GMT

Common Entrance - Made Easy

The Common Entrance English exam assesses a child's ability to critically think about new, never seen before, passages. They'll have to think on their feet, read the passage and then qualitatively describe what the piece is about. Not an easy task.

What is Common Entrance?

The Common Entrance exam sat either at 11+ or 13+ is used by senior Schools (secondary) to assess pupils' academic ability. Exams are set and regulated by the Independent Schools Examinations Board. (ISEB)

Now, some schools, for example St Paul's and Westminster, have their own admissions test. While the discrepancies between their tests and the standard Common entrance exams are minimal, the difference is about 10%, this is worth noting.

Click here for more information regarding Specific School admissions and exam entry.

The standard Common Entrance:

11+ Exam

Assessment:

➢ English (A writing (story writing / personal description) and reading paper (fiction/non- fiction passage - questions are ask thereafter)

➢ Maths (Numbers/ Measurements/ Algebra/ Analyzing data (Including Stats) and Shapes)

➢ Science (Energy/Forces/Earth/Solar system and Life (living) things.

13+ Exam

Assessment:

➢ English

➢ Maths

➢ Science

The majority of pupils will sit:

➢ French

➢ History

➢ Religious Studies

➢ Geography

Optional papers include:

➢ Latin

➢ Greek

➢ German

➢ Spanish

Your child's current school will be able to provide you with more specific information about the content of the 13+ exams. Exam papers are set based on a child's ability and time spent on the specific subject. It wouldn't be fair to give a child a Latin paper when they starting learning the subject the week before.

Each of the compulsory examinations (English, Maths and Science) is more in-depth than the 11+.

Key dates for Common Entrance 2012-2013:

11+

5-6 November 2012

21-22 January 2013

13+

5-8 November 2012

28-31 January 2013

3-6 May 2013

Pass rates

The Common Entrance pass rates vary from school to school, some pass rates being as high as 70%!

My 5 top tips for Common Entrance success -

1) Don't panic, although there is only 6 weeks to go until the first sitting of Common Entrance exams, children still have time. With enough exam preparation, time management and some additional support and tutoring the Common Entrance will appear easy.

2) Buy some decent textbooks relevant to the Common Entrance exams. Both www.iseb.co.uk and www.galorepark.co.uk are great websites where you can purchase books.

3) Practice makes perfect - working through past papers and devising revision sessions are a must. Leading up to the exams I would advise an hour a day on Common Entrance exam questions.

4) Ask for advice - speak with your current school, seek advice from an educational consultant or call a tutoring company who has specialist advisers to help and assist you.

5) Additional educational support, even for a short period of time will work wonders. Children need to feel comfortable with the exams, what the questions are like and how to answer them. Don't forget there is plenty of interpretation in the English Common Entrance exam. Children have to identify how the writer in communicating, only a specialist tutor can really help children answer these complex questions.

Some example of how parents can help children prepare for the Common Entrance English exam.

The Common Entrance English exam assesses a child's ability to critically think about new, never seen before, passages. They'll have to think on their feet, read the passage and then qualitatively describe what the piece is about. Not an easy task. I'm sure at this stage parents are thinking, what can I do to help? Start by getting children to think laterally.

"Writing a short story at the end of a revision session is a fun and interesting way to practice the important C.E English skills." Says Ally Mackie, Tutor Houses' Common Entrance specialist.

The story can be about anything - being stuck on a desert island is a good one, or find a poem for children to read. Typical questions asked: Describe the weather in the passage?

Why do you think the poet uses long sentences?

These questions will only be worth 2-4 marks. So be concise and think about what the questions are asking.

It's key to get hold of some past exam papers. These can be downloaded for free on line.

Best of luck everyone.

Contact Tutor House for any additional help, advice and support.