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Rising Competition and Testing before Applications to UK Schools

With the number of international students entering the UK each year still steadily increasing, how fierce is the competition to study in the UK? 

Many families often feel anxiety about this, given that with increased numbers of applications the level of competition is heightened. How prepared other families are and what preparation their children are receiving are concerns that many families voice during this process. 

Knowing what students have to prepare for is an important first step as there are a range of assessments that students applying to UK Schools will have to sit. 

At this stage in the application cycle, there have been school assessments across November and with further testing due to take place in January too. Here, we’ll break down the tests that students are expected to sit before they are invited to formally apply to a UK school. 

ISEB pretest and UKISET  are crucial to the success of studying abroad.


UK Independent Schools Entry Test is a standardized cognitive ability test for overseas students. Completing the test is required by many British Private Schools as one of the important early criteria for overseas students. 

The UKISET assesses a student’s academic level, developmental ability and learning potential. The test consists of three main parts: verbal reasoning, non-verbal reasoning and numerical reasoning. It also requires students to complete an English reading and listening section and a piece of creative writing. The test is two hours long and results become available within three days of sitting the test.

The test can be taken every 4 months and can be sat at a designated test center or at a designated school.

ISEB Pretest 

The Independent Schools Examinations Board offers a range of assessments, including Common Entrance at 11+, 13+ and 13+ Scholarship assessments and the Common Pretest, which the vast majority of overseas students will be required to sit before being invited for a formal interview and for the schools assessments. 

The ISEB Pretest is usually sat 2-3 years before students enter a UK school and is used by schools as a preliminary assessment to ensure that all students invited to take the next round of school assessments are at the right standard to compete. 

The ISEB Pretest is divided into Verbal Reasoning, Non-Verbal Reasoning, English and Mathematics. The difficulty of the test can be adjusted  based on the age and ability of the student taking it. 

These are the most common assessments schools will require students to take before accessing the formal interview and following assessments. However, the vast majority of schools will require students to take formal assessments after having received the results of either the UKISET, the ISEB pretest or both.

Applying to a UK school from abroad is a project and a process. It requires preparation for multiple steps of assessment, beginning with these pretests and continuing on through a formal interview, entrance examinations and an assessment of suitability. At this point in time many students have completed their school assessments and interviews and are waiting on their offers. We wish them the best of luck and continue to prepare our next cohort of students for their UKISET and ISEB pretests in the coming months. 

Struggling with preparing for the UKISET or ISEB pretest exams?

Receiving the best grades in UKISET and ISEB exams is crucial for your child’s UK school application and affects the offers your child will receive. If your child is struggling, our expert tutors can help your child prepare for the exam.

If you find your child struggling across multiple subjects or unable to perform in an exam setting due to anxiety, our coaches can help your child build skills to overcome these obstacles.

Get in touch today, we will be more than happy to set up a free consultation to discuss your needs in detail.