UK boarding school entrance exams

Boarding school entrance exams: how difficult are they really? Information and advice about the daunting world of entrance exams for boarding school places.
With high competition for places at some boarding schools in the UK, a lot of emphasis is placed on the entrances exam or tests, which are infamously tricky. The exams are difficult, but it’s worth bearing in mind that they are not the only thing taken into consideration when a school is assessing applicants.

Why do schools have entrance exams?

Entrance exams differ in popularity from country to country but are a common feature of academically selective schools, particulary in the UK.

Many of the top private schools in the UK ask prospective students to sit competitive entrance exams as part of the admissions process.

It’s a well-known fact that entrance exams to academically selective schools are difficult and stressful, both for the prospective pupil and the parents.

There are various reasons for the difficulty of these exams.

For schools with a high number of applicants, the entrance exams allow the school to select the most able students and maintain the academic standing of the school.

However, the exams also allow the school to identify those students who are best suited to the rigorous academic atmosphere of the school and those who have the potential to really excel in the school.

It’s not in the interests of either the child or the school to admit a student who will be unable to cope with the pressure of this type of education.

What will my child be tested on?

Some boarding schools administer their own entrance exams, whilst others may use a common entrance test which is used by several other schools.

Each school will decide which entrance test they want to use and what the threshold score is for entry. Finding out this information in advance will give your child plenty of time to prepare for the exams.

The exams usually cover a variety of subjects, including core subjects such as English and Maths. If a child is applying for entry at the start of GCSE or A-level courses, the school may administer exams in the specific subjects that the student wishes to study.

How important are entrance exams in the application process?

While the entrance tests may be gruelling, it’s worth keeping in mind that this is rarely the only criteria that a school will use when assessing a candidate.

Depending on the focus of the school, the admissions procedure is almost always broader than pure exam results.

A child who is not an academic superstar may well have the potential to be a fine artist or first-rate sportsman, and can make an important contribution to the school community through their abilities.

Most boarding schools will recognise the value of having a wide range of talents among their students, so it‘s important to keep in your mind that entrance exams are not the end of the story.

Find out more

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