Entrance Exams

heatherharies.com_YOUR COMPLETE GUIDE TO entrance exams

Expert tips for entrance exam success

Applying to a new school that is educationally selective is daunting for parents and students. Always be careful to balance the pressure you put on your child, also please remember that while tutoring a child will ensure they have much needed exam skills and that they have brushed up on all areas of the curriculum, it does not mean they will be accepted and it does not make it the right school for your child.


Thoroughly research the schools you are applying to. Each school will have a slightly different entrance process and expectation. Most will test English and maths; many will also test reasoning (verbal, non-verbal or both).

Some will hold assessment days, which can come before or after the written exams, or even on the same day. Others will have a more formal interview process whilst some schools will base their decision entirely on the written exam.

Check registration deadlines and know when you have to apply you can usually do this on the school’s website. You may find that two schools that you are interested in hold their exams on the same day. In this case, get in touch with both schools to see if alternative arrangements can be made for your child to sit the exam. If that’s not possible, you will have to choose which school you prefer, as your child won’t be able to sit for both (And you don’t want to end up paying for two sets of registration fees unnecessarily!).

Check exam registration deadlines and know when, where & how you have to apply.


When it comes to preparation, we recommend that you start in good time. In our experience, a ‘good’ time is usually one year in advance. However, this can vary from child to child. You may have to revisit certain topics again and again, and at different times during the year. Learning is not linear. Most children benefit from revisiting areas that they might have struggled with earlier. By taking time to gently reinforce, you will be building solid foundations without even realising it! It also ensures consistency and maintenance of the skills they have acquired.

If possible, try and avoid a sudden last minute dash in the final months leading up to the exams. This can create unnecessary pressure and tension for all the family. If this can’t be avoided, still try the little and often approach, breaking down areas of learning into bite-size chunks.


Similar to the principle of keeping things in manageable segments, it is important to introduce variety. For 7+ or 8+ maths for example, this could mean combining a traditional approach to learning times tables, with some written practice papers for application. Online games and apps can also be useful ways to introduce learning in an interactive yet equally beneficial way.

Practising exam questions is an essential part of the process but there are plenty of other ways to make the experience fun, engaging and interesting for children!


Strategically speaking, the exam preparation process is all about identifying gaps and addressing them. Your child may be in a school which prepares for entrance exams; therefore your current school will be addressing many of these issues. However, if you are unsure, ask your child’s teacher about the process, your child’s current level, and how they are coping.

If you are in a school that does not prepare its students for exams, or you feel your little one needs additional support, then you may need to start with a professional assessment to know which areas to target.

We work with many of children across this age group and are able to benchmark your child’s performance and give an opinion based on our professional experience of the children we have seen and supported. A Tutor assessment from us will give you a good indication of where your child currently sits, their strengths and weaknesses, and areas which need work. As well as an academic assessment, we also take into consideration a child’s approach to learning, their attitude and personality, in order to provide you with pointers on all areas that a school will ultimately be assessing.


Try to get your children into a routine, so they know when they have to work and when they can relax.

Working with your child outside of school is important as it reinforces their formal learning and can positively extend and challenge them. It shows them that you are interested in their learning and support them. This must be kept in balance. The learning process then becomes more mindful. If you feel that you would like external support then engaging the services of a tutor for dedicated one on one support can really help. A good tutor will establish a productive teacher/pupil relationship, which sometimes a parent is unable to do, just by virtue of the fact they’re ‘mum’ or ‘dad’.

Tutors can also help if your child is struggling with a particular area or topic. One-on-one time can be used to explain topics more fully, and allow for targeted practice. For example, in maths, many children find fractions, algebra and multiple-step problems hard; whist in English, inference questions in comprehension papers and creative writing can prove challenging. This is not unusual! Mastering tricky areas like these can be where one-on-one tutoring can really help.


It is essential that you introduce your child to practice papers at the right time for them. Our specialist practice papers are a great resource, and you can choose how and when you use them. You can tackle them in sections to get to grips with certain disciplines, or you can use them as full timed ‘mock’ papers as a diagnostic, or to simply familiarise your child with the actual exam process.

In terms of timing, we recommend taking a first look during the summer preceding the exams and maybe doing a few questions to get a feel for the format and an understanding of the expected level. A whole paper in one sitting might be too overwhelming at first, but you will get a feel for what your child can accomplish. It is essential however, that your child knows what to expect, so they should be doing full papers on a regular basis and under timed conditions in the build-up to the exams.

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