Senior Schools - What are the Common Pre-Tests?

Modified on Mon, 30 Oct 2023 at 03:56 PM

•       English

•       Mathematics 

•       Verbal Reasoning

•       Non-Verbal Reasoning 


All four tests are online, adaptive and multiple-choice.



We designed the English and Mathematics tests in line with the topics and knowledge pupils learn in class. These tests assess a child's ability to recall what they have learned and apply this knowledge to solve problems in core areas of the curriculum.



The Verbal and Non-Verbal Reasoning tests enable pupils to demonstrate their academic potential through various question types that may be unfamiliar to them. We assess each pupil's ability to analyse, think critically, find patterns, and problem-solve. These abilities are indicators of potential as they relate to a pupil's ability to acquire new information and apply it to situations they have not previously encountered.


What do the tests include?


  • English:
    Questions on reading comprehension and grammar (including spelling).

  • Mathematics:
    Questions are based on the National Curriculum for Mathematics until the end of Year 5.

  • Verbal Reasoning:
    Questions assess a range of English language skills, including word meaning, comprehension, reasoning and logic.

  • Non-Verbal Reasoning:
    Questions assess non-verbal reasoning and spatial reasoning.

For more details about the structure and content of the test, download the ISEB Common Pre-Test Framework.

Test Design

ISEB adaptive testing uses advanced psychometric technology to provide more accurate scores while minimising the length of tests and providing pupils with a better test-taking experience. Adaptive testing works by carefully calibrating each individual question based on extensive pilot data. After the pupil answers each question, we estimate their ability level and select the next question to be the most informative at that level of ability. Pupils who answer questions correctly are gradually tracked to harder questions.   Those who consistently answer incorrectly are tracked to easier content.  


The test continues until the minimum number of questions has been answered. After that, the test completes once the score has reached the required level of accuracy. Pupils who answer consistently will have the shortest tests. Those who are less consistent, perhaps answering an easier question incorrectly but a harder question correctly, will take longer to reach an accurate score. They can still attain a very high score, unlike a static test where any errors will reduce the final score.


There is a maximum number of questions for each test – similar to the length of a fixed test – so the score from the adaptive test will always be at least as accurate as from a fixed test and usually more accurate. For example, in a fixed test, only a few questions at the end will be very challenging for the most able test takers. With an adaptive test, those who consistently answer correctly will quickly be directed to questions with a high level of difficulty.

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