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My son had a CAT 4 UK school entrance exam to prepare for. ITS helped with a mock test and found out several areas that needed improvement. Preparation time was short but after some well planned and intense lessons my son passed the entrance exam and will be attending the UK school in 2021! Can’t thank ITS enough!

How to get into top UK boarding schools

Hong Kong students have been going to school in the UK for many years. The basic process for doing this has not changed, although there have been changes in detail with the way certain schools work and the types of test you might need.

The simple answer to how to access a UK boarding school is this:
How to access UK Boarding School
How to access UK Boarding School
How to access UK Boarding School

ITS has a long history of working with families and has sent hundreds of Hong Kong students to UK schools successfully. Contact us for an in-depth discussion. Note that we are not an agent so we receive no money from schools. Our opinion is completely unbiased.

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There are 3 “normal” points of entry to UK schools in Years 7, 9 and 12. Generally they all involve selection tests, interview and entrance exams. Year 12 entry can be achieved if you already have public exam results such as IGCSE [which you can take at ITS]. For Years 7 and 9, there are a range of other tests which is why we emphasize that you get clear guidance from the school about what they want from YOU. But no matter the test, ITS has the exclusive Hong Kong rights to the UK’s top test taking learning resource for these years – Atom Learning. And ITS students get both free resources and a discount for paid resources.

Award-winning online adaptive learning for Key Stage 2 Sophisticated AI and teacher-made content to keep pupils on their optimal learning paths

In-class Admission Test Preparation:

Atom Prime is an interactive platform Key Stage 2 (9 - 12-year-old), online teaching and learning platform that combines high-quality, teacher-made content across English, maths, verbal reasoning and non-verbal reasoning with sophisticated technology designed to keep pupils learning at their optimal difficulty level. Atom is used to:

  • set high-quality homework. Everything is automatically marked;
  • set fully adaptive mock tests; and
  • monitor individual performance.

*ITS Students will learn essential knowledge in an interactive way via an award-winning platform*

After-class Admission Test Preparation

Atom Nucleus is relevant for all pupils in years 5 and 6 and especially pupils preparing for senior school entry assessments. The platform covers English, maths, verbal and non-verbal reasoning. It includes:

  1. tens of thousands of practice questions individually designed by teachers and professional tutors as well as hundreds of pre-recorded video tutorials and carefully designed summary revision sheets covering the entire Key Stage 2 curriculum;
  2. an algorithm that keeps pupils learning at their optimal difficulty level;
  3. unlimited fully adaptive mock tests that closely mirror the ISEB Common Pre-Tests in scoring and design; and
  4. precision reporting for parents and pupils providing insight into the pupil's learning style, abilities and areas to improve.

Atom Nucleus video explainer

Exclusive offer 10% discount for all families

Start your 5-day free trial now

Use ITS Education’s discount code (fGyMrbei) and get 10% off when you continue past Atom Learning’s 5-day free trial or click here for your discount to be automatically applied

Real Exam Simulation:

Atom's mock ISEB Common Pre-Tests exactly mirror the real ISEB Common Pre-Tests and are supported by Galore Park (an ISEB endorsed publisher). Pupils get an age-standardised score, stanine, and decile ranking. The report gives a clear and accurate indication of which UK senior schools are realistic for entry;

*ITS Students will gain a tremendous advantage as they will be fully prepared to tackle the real test*

Other UK school entry information:

UKiset or ISEB Preselection Tests
The Common Pre-Test is a series of age-standardized tests designed to give UK independent schools more information about prospective students. These exams serve to filter out students based on English, Math, Non-Verbal Reasoning, and Verbal Reasoning exams. Assessment of the exam will dictate which schools the student can apply for the common entrance examination. Some schools have created their own pre-tests, however many of the exams are similar or near identical to the format of ISEB Preselection Tests.

UKisets, ISEB Preselection Tests, and Common Entrance Exams

A pupil can only take a test once. If multiple tests are taken, the first test result will stand. It is taken in Year 6 or 7 when pupils are aged between 10 and 12 years old. Exams are done online in a multiple choice format.

The ISEB Pre-tests take about two-and-a-half hours to complete, and they have the following sections:

  • English – 25 minutes (reading comprehension, sentence completion, spelling and punctuation)
  • Mathematics – 50 minutes (content is in line with the British National Curriculum topics taught up to the end of Year 5)
  • Verbal reasoning – 36 minutes (common words, antonyms, word combinations, letter transfer, number codes)
  • Non-verbal reasoning – 32 minutes (shape analogies, classes like, horizontal codes)

Candidate's results will include the time taken for each test element

UKISETs take about 2 hours to complete(including breaks between each section), it is comprised of the following sections:

  • Section 1 45 minutes Reasoning (quantitative, non-verbal reasoning, verbal reasoning)
  • Section 2 30 minutes English Test (reading and listening section of the test)
  • Section 3 30 minutes English Essay (a handwritten expressive writing on age appropriate topic)

Common Entrance Examinations
The 11+, and 13+ Common Entrance examinations are strongly supported by many of the top UK boarding schools. Schools that opt with their own set of examinations normally use the common entrance as a base, and are often very similar in structure, format and degree of difficulty.

Students sit the Common Entrance examination at 11+ when they are in Year 6. There are two examination sessions each year, in November and January. They take papers in English, Mathematics and Science.

Pupils sit the Common Entrance examination at 13+ when they are in Year 8. There are three examination sessions each year, in November, January and May/June.

At 13+, pupils will sit exams in:

  • English
  • Maths
  • Science

Most pupils will also take papers in:

  • French
  • Geography
  • History
  • Religious Studies

Optional papers are also set for:

  • Latin
  • Classical Greek
  • German
  • Spanish
  • Mandarin Chinese


The Familiarization package is for students who are native English speakers, attend an international school and just need to make sure they have covered all the bases.

The Consolidation package is aimed at students who are at local school and have solid English abilities. The focus is more on learning content not covered in local syllabuses.

The Comprehensive package suits students with less English language experience and who are at school. They will need to learn a range of content and skills to be successful.


10 hours test prep
5 hours interview prep with ITS teacher
30 mins Ask the Head*


30 hours test prep
5 hours interview prep with ITS teacher
3 hours Ask the Head + 2 reports


20 hours test prep
5 hours interview prep with ITS teacher
1.5 hours Ask the Head + report

*Ask the Head is our collaboration with Chris Curl. Chris has spent most of his career so far in Independent Senior and Prep Day and Boarding Schools. His first teaching job was at Haileybury Junior School where he helped children gain entry, and scholarships, to top schools including Eton and Winchester. He has been a Boarding Housemaster, Head of English & Drama, Director of Co-Curricular Activities and, for 16 years, a Headmaster achieving outstanding inspection results. He has also directed international language summer schools based at boarding schools including Dulwich Prep and Stowe. Chris is also a trained Motivational Map practitioner - the maps help to identify what motivates an individual and are invaluable in selecting subjects at school and courses at university. He believes that each student should be treated as a unique individual and enjoys boosting their confidence while helping prepare them for interviews.

Year 12 entry for A-level

Most schools will require entrance exams to be taken in the November before the proposed start date (e.g. take tests in November 2019 if you want to start school in September 2020). They usually use a variety of questions from GCSE past papers. Students who are taking real IGCSEs may be exempt from these tests or will at least benefit from learning the same material. We often find students who take a couple of IGCSEs with ITS do very well in both entering British boarding schools at year 12 and in settling in and doing well at A-level once they are there. Contact us to discuss an IGCSE programme for entrance prep and for taking the real exam.

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All our tutors are subject experts who have years of experience with all age groups entering UK schools.

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