Many independent schools require pupils to take a 13 plus exam for entrance into their school for year 9. The exam is normally taken during the latter part of year 8. However, the exact month can vary from school to school. There are normally two ways that the exam can be set.
1. The school uses the ISEB system of papers. These could either be common entrance or scholarship.
2. The school have their own papers for either common entrance or scholarship.
ISEB stands for Independent Schools Examination Board. This organisation set out a syllabus for each of the subjects for the 13+. Schools can opt to require students to sit for one or more subjects. The full list of syllabi can be found here.
If you look carefully and study the syllabi, you will notice that it is virtually the same as the standard key stage 3 syllabus but slightly extended. This is because the 13+ is designed to stretch and challenge pupils.
Although, primarily it is for more able pupils, I have had great success with getting pupils into independent schools using good teaching techniques. Past papers for the ISEB exams can be purchased through Galore Park.
The books that I use to prepare pupils for the 13+ are in my opinion the best available. I use the Longman 11-14 range.
I choose to use these books as they have 2-3 pages of notes and then one page of questions. The questions tend to be fairly challenging and thus provide good prep for the 13+ exam.
You may wonder whether you should put your child forward for the common entrance exam or the schloarship exam. If you undertand the difference between the two it will help you to make a decision. The common entrance has a fairly defined syllabus and the ISEB papers tend to be quite repeatable. The marking points are also fairly predictable, although different to typical key stage 3. Therefore, it will require training. However, most children with good tutoring and training could achieve common entrance. The scholarship is a different matter, there is often no clearly defined syllabus as the papers are seeking to search for the truly gifted and talented. The best prep for a scholarship paper is a sound knowledge of 13+ and some knowledge of GCSE. However, the questions on scholarship papers do not tend to be very repeatable. In fact they are very different. Also, very few of the questions on a scholarship paper are knowledge based. The vast majority are concept or application based. This will involve linking concepts or thinking outside of the box. This is something that most children have difficulty with. There are ways to train children to think outside of the box and to deal with these types of questions. I have an excellent success rate in achieving this. If you are unsure, then I can give your child a formal assessment and provide you with guidance.
Schools that use their own system.
Some schools use their own common entrance system or scholarship system. This can be as basic as using key stage 3 questions to the schools actually writing their own papers. If you can provide me with a sample paper I can advise you on where the questions have normally been sourced. I have considerable experience in preparing students for 13+ exams.
The schools that tend to write their own papers tend to be the top schools like Eton.