7+ or 8+?
Individual prep schools have their own admission policies and entry points. Parents must check beforehand for the schools that they are applying to if it is 7+ or 8+ entry.
(from now on, only the 7+ is referred to. Everything for the 7+ applies for the 8+ except of course everything is one year later)
What is the 7+?
The 7+ is a competitive exam that students sit in Year 2 (usually in January) for entry into Year 3. The 7+ exam is increasingly used by the leading independent schools in London.
What is tested?
The 7+ exams primarily test Maths and English. Many schools also test reasoning (both verbal and non-verbal). The tests are primarily in written form but there can sometimes be verbal sections that include grammar, spelling and arithmetic.
If you child successfully passes the exam, he/she will then be invited for an interview. This will usually be one-to-one with the Headmaster or Headmistress and sometimes can also include group exercises and games. Please bear in mind that some schools interview candidates on the same day as the exam.
What are the school looking for?
Strong exam performance primarily. The schools will take a holistic view when assessing candidates (interview, personality, social skills and behaviour are important). In addition, the school report from your child’s pre-prep Head is important too. Overall though, the primary indicator is exam performance. The schools want to make sure that their new intake will excel in the school’s academic environment.
How to prepare for the 7+
Objectively, every child will need some level of preparation. The exams are extremely competitive and they have their own unique formats; not to mention this will very likely be the first ever official external exam your child will have sat. The primary sources of preparation should be your child’s pre-prep school and you as parents; working through the core content of the syllabus, learning new material and then applying it in an exam situation and honing exam technique skills will be required. It is important to find out as soon as possible how rigorous, structured and consistent preparation for the 7+ exams are at your child’s pre-prep school. Parents too can be a source of help but the realities of balancing work schedules and the demands of other siblings not to mention the difficulties of teaching your own child may soon come to the fore.
Is age taken into account?
Clearly at such a young age, a student born in September is going to have a considerable advantage over his classmate born the following August. Most schools will take into account the age of your child at the date of assessment but what this actually means is a grey area. Some schools will also weight the scores depending on the month of birth. It is best to check with the Registrar of each individual school.
Skills required for the 7+ and 8+ exam
Comprehension: Answering questions in full sentences and using a wide range of vocabulary. Most comprehension will centre around simple fact recollections but some of the questions can be a bit more demanding and probing. Priority for the comprehension is to read regularly (fluency is crucial) and to have a solid technique in approaching the questions.
Schools are testing a candidate’s ability to construct correct sentences in English. Grammar, good spellings, clear handwriting and a wide vocabulary are important. The creative writing piece must of course answer the prompt – you can’t just memorise an essay beforehand. Sometimes, the writing prompt will be to continue the story of the comprehension thereby making a solid understanding of the passage even more important. Writing is often the most difficult part of the exam – especially for boys – so regular practice from early on is important to allow time for your child’s writing skills to develop naturally.
At some schools, the English assessments will also include a dictation. A passage will be read out and then a second or third time more slowly. Candidates may also be asked to correct an incorrectly written sentence. These can be practiced at home.
The syllabus for Year 2 will form the core of the 7+ exams (bearing in mind the 7+ is usually sat in January that means that Maths content for the whole academic year will be tested). At some of the more academic schools, the Maths will be beyond 2 and will include some tricky puzzles, abstract problems and worded questions that require multiple steps to arrive at the answer. A strong arithmetic platform is crucial. Regular practices on worded problems – where the student needs to unravel the English, translate it into Maths and select the right methods to solve the problem – are a key skill that can only develop over time. Needless to say, there will be some very strong mathematicians applying to the leading schools.
Again practice is key in order to become familiar with the questions and the format. With practice students will begin to notice patterns of what they need to be looking for; in verbal reasoning for example this will include symmetry, black vs white, dotted vs straight lines, clockwise vs anti-clockwise. Having a mental note of these patterns in your child’s mind is important so that when he/she becomes stuck he/she can go through what is essentially a finite list of how these non-verbal reasoning questions are structured.
It is important that students score strongly across the board. Generally 100% in Maths and 50% in English will be viewed less favourably than someone who scores 75% in both. There should be a solid performance across the board with no glaring holes or weaknesses.
Which schools offer the 7+ and 8+?
Colet Court, Westminster Under, King’s College Wimbledon, Wetherby Prep, Sussex House and Dulwich. There are others.
For bespoke advice, expert guidance, academic assessments and private tuition on the 7+ and 8+ entrance tests, please contact us.