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School entrance exams explained

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  1. Grammar schools in the United Kingdom
  2. Primary schools in England


  1. Read the text and find the answers to the following questions:

· When do independent school exams take place?

· What are the most common exams?

· On basis of what are small children assessed?

· What is the admission system in St.Paul’s school?

· Why do parents pay deposit?

· What is the attitude to CEE in independent schools?


For children applying to independent schools, Christmas can be more the season of stress than of cheer. Many of them will be sitting entrance exams in January or February, with the hope of starting at their chosen school in September. These will be the schools’ own exams, usually consisting of papers in the core subjects of maths, English and science. Just over the horizon loom scholarship exams in the spring, and, in June, the Common Entrance Exam, for schools who still use this standardised test.

Entrance to independent schools usually depends on some sort of assessment – most commonly, an exam. Obviously, the younger the child, the more informal the process, with children below the age of nine, within the English school system, at least, generally assessed on the basis of previous school reports, observation and interview.

Entry into senior school is another matter. Some independent schools, such as St Paul’s, in London, offer places to pupils from age 11 from state primary schools, if they pass a specific entrance exam. They will place them in their own preparatory (or ‘prep’) – that is, junior – school for two years, until they can enter the senior school at age 13.

Children coming from outside this system can also apply at age 13, and often take a slightly different entrance paper, which will take into account the fact that the curriculum they have been following will have been different from that of a prep school. Entrance is possible at age 16, too, after GCSEs and before the start of A-level courses, usually on the basis of exams in the subjects that the student wants to offer for A level, and, for non-English students, an English-language exam.

The exam itself is only the beginning of the end of a long process that should have started months (in the case of more popular schools, years) earlier with the parents registering an interest with the school they have chosen. This usually involves paying a non-returnable deposit (which can range from under £100 to several hundred pounds).

Once their interest is registered, parents are told when entrance exams are to be held, what type they will be – either the Common Entrance Exam (CEE), or the school’s own exams – and what the arrangements to sit them will be. This is particularly relevant if applying from abroad. The Common Entrance could soon change, however, with some schools preparing to scrap the 100-year-old exam amid claims it encourages ‘teaching to the test’ and destroys children’s capacity for independent thought. Many independent senior schools, such as Alleyn’s (London), Winchester (Hampshire) and Sevenoaks (Kent), have already brought in their own exams instead.

Figures from the Independent Schools Council (ISC) show that some 169 schools do still use the CEE as an entrance test – if nothing else, as a way of deciding how to ‘set’ pupils into ability-banded groups once term starts. For more-able students, the timetable may be different again. Many schools run their own exams to determine the awarding of scholarships. These are usually held in the spring, later than schools’ own exams and before the CEE.

In other words, parents who are keen for their children to attend an independent school, particularly a popular one (and, by definition, most of the over-subscribed establishments in London) may need to register interest as much as four to five years before a possible move. Add to this the fairly inflexible exam admissions timetable and problems can arise for relocating parents unless they plan well ahead.



loom – виднеться, маячить

GCSE – General Certificate of Secondary Education

non-returnable – невозвращаемый

inflexible – негибкий, не допускающий изменений


  1. Look through the text again and find words and constructions you may use in your professional discourse (scientific terms etc.). Translate and memorize them.
  2. Find the transcription of the following words and practise pronouncing them: horizon, obviously, particularly, senior, scholarships.
  3. Prove that:

· It takes quite long to get into independent schools.

· There is a complicated admission system in independent schools.

· CEE is not favored in many independent schools.


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