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ISEB


What is the digital pre-test and how can you prepare for it?

How Are ISEB Pre Tests Assessed and Graded?


2020 was a surprising year. The coronavirus has had (and continues to have) far-reaching consequences, and the educational sector is now struggling to predict (and therefore prepare for) what will happen in 2021. As such, online testing may become the new norm – a real change for many pupils and parents alike.

Student studies for ISEB Pre Test - but how are they graded?

The news that a number of popular London schools had decided to switch to digital exams for the upcoming 11 plus admissions took many by surprise. Fortunately, Mentor Education’s skilled tutors are well-versed in advising and preparing students for the ISEB Pre Test, which is the exam that was most commonly used. While some schools are eager to go back to written exams for 2022 entrants, others are still others are sticking with the ISEB. Some schools will make their offers purely based on the Pre-Test results forgoing any written paper. These include JAGSStreatham and Clapham, and St Dunstan’s. However others, such as Alleyn’s and St Paul’s, will have all applicants sit the ISEB, and then have only the most successful sit the written entrance exam.

Read on for a refresher about what the ISEB Pre Test involves – and how it’s graded.

What does the ISEB Pre Test Entail?

A digital exam, the ISEB Pre Test was designed not only to measure academic ability – but also to assess overall potential. This is why, previously, the ISEB Pre Test was often used by leading independent schools to predict how likely a student would be to pass the Common Entrance, and also as a supplementary test to give a more well-rounded impression of a pupil’s capability.

However, 2020 has brought with it many changes; and the need to examine students online has grown. The ISEB Pre Test has been delivered digitally for many years and can be taken securely – and safely – online. With this in mind, the ISEB Pre Test is now being used by many schools in place of their traditional entrance examination.

The Pre Test is a multiple choice examination that takes around two-and-a-half hours to complete. It encompasses the following areas:

  • English (including reading comprehension, spelling, and punctuation).
  • Mathematics (includes National Curriculum topics that are taught up to the end of Year 5).
  • Verbal reasoning (including word combinations; letter transfer; common words; synonyms and antonyms).
  • Non-verbal reasoning (including shape analogies and horizontal codes).

How is the ISEB Pre Test Graded?

As mentioned, the ISEB Pre Test is a multiple choice test; this is a departure from normal examination protocol that can be a little confusing (and even daunting) for pupils. Unsurprisingly, therefore, the way it’s scored also deviates from traditional letter ‘grades’.

Once the test has been completed, candidates are given what is known as an SAS (a Standardised Age Score). This takes into account the number of questions answered correctly, as well as the age the candidate was at the time of taking the ISEB Pre Test. In addition, schools can see how much time a student took to complete each element of the test.

Note that parents are not able to view their child’s scores: these are only made available to schools. Similarly, there is a lot of scope when it comes to interpreting the data. It’s expected that academically-competitive schools will look for higher average SAS scores, but the thresholds vary from school to school.

How we can help

So how can one prepare, if the targets are unknown and the format is unfamiliar? Fortunately, the core syllabus for the ISEB is the same as any other entrance exam. In addition, Mentor Education would look to coach students in question practice, general exam technique and time management skills. A thorough grounding in all elements will provide a solid foundation for ISEB Pre Test success.

Mentor Education’s team are very knowledgeable when it comes to the ISEB Pre Test: we’ve worked with it for many years, and have a number of highly-qualified tutors who can provide intensive support and guidance prior to November. Whether your child requires academic support, exam coaching, or a reassuring mentor to help them combat their nerves (thus ensuring they perform to their best ability on the big day), we have a tutor to suit their needs. Get in touch today for a no-obligation discussion with our expert team.


We’re sympathetic to the fact that the information around the ISEB Pre Test can seem vague and a bit daunting. If this is the case, please don’t panic. Mentor Education’s skilled team possess a wealth of knowledge when it comes to dealing with the ISEB Pre Test, and have a number of experienced, expert tutors (from ex-department heads to examiners and even former headteachers) on hand to provide insight into the specific requirements of each school. With our tailored support and guidance, your child will gain the confidence needed to excel at the ISEB Pre Test and the ability to perform to the very best of their ability. Please contact Mentor Education for more information – we’re here to help.

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