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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:

  1. Choose a range of schools to investigate
  2. Visit them if you can, and/or get expert agent/counsellor feedback, and/or meet the school reps when they do events in Hong Kong
  3. Get your list of desired schools down to three and apply
  4. Get a clear list of entry requirements from the school for YOU - do not rely on generally published standard requirements
  5. Make sure your child is prepared for interviews, pre-selection tests and entrance tests.
  6. Choose your school

ITS has a long history of working with parents 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. These are 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]. There are a range of other tests which is why we emphasise that you get clear guidance from the school about what they want from YOU. Some of the most common are:

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.

Key Features of UKisets, and ISEB Preselection Tests.
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

The UKiset takes about two hours to complete and they have the following sections:

Section 1: Reasoning (Quantitative, non-verbal and verbal reasoning) 45 minutes

Section 1: Reasoning (Quantitative, non-verbal and verbal reasoning) 45 minutes

Section 3: English Essay (A handwritten expressive writing on a topic which is age appropriate) 30 minutes

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

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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