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Sitting Exams to Gain Entry into Private School

By: Louise Tobias BA (hons) - Updated: 25 Sep 2010 | comments*Discuss
Sitting Exams To Gain Entry Into Private School

Entrance exams for private schools can inspire fear in a parent's heart, but becoming stressed about these exams will rub off on children, so parents should aim to stay calm while providing useful help and support to children who might be sitting their first exams. This article will look at how the exams are usually structured, and how parents can best help their children to succeed at entrance exams.

The Exams

Entrance exams apply for two types of school: state grammar schools, where the exams are called 'AA plus', and selective independent schools. These exams tend to be held in January. Many day schools set their own examinations for their entrance criteria, but others use the Common Entrance exam (CEA), which is taken in June. The CEA can cover a variety of subjects: these will always include English, Mathematics and Science but may also include History, Geography, Latin, French, German and/or Religious Studies. When schools set their own entrance exams, they tend to cover a different range of topics, which are:

Verbal Reasoning - this involves candidates tackling exams in problem-solving questions which will include numbers and words

Non-Verbal Reasoning- this involves candidates tackling exams in problem-solving questions which will focus on identifying shapes and patterns

Mathematics - this will usually involve an exam in the same kind of maths problems that children will be tackling in class

English - candidates may be asked to write a creative-writing story, within timed, exam conditions.

Practice is the Key to Success

Children might not have faced some of the questions in these exams before, so it's a good idea to practice with your child, especially if his or her current primary school does not provide training. It is a good idea to get hold of practice papers (available in high street stores like WH Smith as well as on the Internet), which will show your child the kinds of questioning that he or she is likely to face in the exam.

Some parents choose to employ a private tutor to help train a child for entrance exams. They will be able to provide a large variety of practice questions and will also be able to provide advice about the nature of the exams. Fees are usually start at about £20 per hour for one to one tuition. Other people who may be able to help include your child's current teachers, and/or head teacher, as well as parents whose children sat the exams in previous years. Avoid coaching your child - learning responses and techniques by rote might cause a child to become unstuck if the paper's style of questioning is slightly altered one year, for example.

Further Aspects of Entrance Exams

Often the best schools use the entrance exams as a form of creating a short list of their desired candidates. They will then invite those candidates, plus their parents, to come to the school for interview. Advice on this is available elsewhere on the site.

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