Education Blog

By Bella Audsley

Continuing our series on key decisions in education and schooling, we discuss the range of entry points for admission into preparatory and secondary school. The nuances of the British admissions process can be bewildering at times, both for parents and children! Selecting the appropriate entry point for your child is an important step that can sometimes be clouded by the dazzling gloss of school brochures.


Places for entry at 7+ (starting in Year 3) and 8+ (Year 4) tend to be competitive, particularly for ‘all-through’ schools which continue up to 18 years old. However, as preparatory schools typically finish at the age of 13 (Year 8), applying to a through school at 7+ or 8+ can be a good way to alleviate the popular 11+ entry point into secondary school.

When choosing between the 7+ and 8+, it is worth checking with individual schools that it is possible to apply for both points, as some schools have restrictions. For later developers and those born in the summer, waiting a year until the 8+ admission can make a noticeable difference. These earlier entry points tend to benefit children who really enjoy studying and are happy sitting while preparing for the academic exams.


The choice between 11+ and 13+ entry can be challenging, but with the right level of preparation and planning, pupils can enjoy their journey towards ‘big school’.

Traditionally, boys preparatory schools were designed to prepare students for ‘Common Entrance’ at 13+, to start their secondary education in Year 9. Although the 13+ is often associated with entry to boys’ boarding schools like Eton College, pupils can also apply for entry to a number of co-educational or single-sex day schools. Nevertheless, given the higher proportion of places, it is usually more common for girls to start secondary school at 11+ than at 13+.

In today’s competitive arena, preparatory schools are keen to ensure that their pupils are equally prepared for the 11+ or 13+ pre-tests, which are also taken in Year 6. While the tough competition for a secondary school place is renown in London, these processes need not cause panic. If you feel that your child might benefit from additional support when preparing for entrance exams, you may like to consider tuition or courses to help with exam technique and build their confidence. This is particularly important if your child has been educated in the state sector up to this point.

While at times it can feel overwhelming to face so many choices before selecting specific schools (co-ed or single sex, boarding or day school, city or country), we hope that these suggestions will help to narrow down the pile of shiny school prospectuses. It won’t be long before your child steps out in their new uniform, wearing a smile to match the happy faces on the cover!

Year of Exam

Age at Exam

Year of New School Entry

7+ exam is taken in Year 2

6 or 7

Year 3

8+ exam is taken in Year 3

7 or 8

Year 4

11+ exam is taken in Year 6

10 or 11

Year 7

The Pre-test exam is usually taken in Year 6 or Year 7, followed by the Common Entrance exam in Year 8

10 or 11 = Pre-test

12 or 13 = Common Entrance

Year 9


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