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SPOTLIGHT ON THE 7+


The 7+ describes the entrance exams set by independent schools for pupils wishing to gain admission into their Year 3. The competition for selective senior school places continues to intensify and as a result the competition for school places at 7+ (and at 3+ and 4+) is also becoming fiercer every year. More parents are realising the advantages of gaining a place in a selective school at an earlier stage, particularly for academic independent schools with a senior school, as they seek a less difficult transition into senior school than applying from the outside via 11+ or 13+ Common Entrance exams.

If a child gains a 7+ place at a selective school with a senior department, and continues to meet its academic standards, they will usually be automatically ensured a place throughout that school. Stand-alone prep schools also remain popular choices at 7+, as their reputations rely heavily on their exit results and they provide in-school preparation for pupils who are sitting future entrance examinations such as the 8+, 10+, 11+ or 13+. This level of help is not provided for in state schools, and in addition parents value the advantages of prep schools’ smaller class sizes and higher academic expectations.

As the 7+ is not centrally regulated, it is best for parents to seek accurate admissions and testing information direct from the schools in which they are interested (or rely on experienced and knowledgeable education consultants to provide this!). The testing is largely undertaken by the individual schools, although some schools might commission tests from external agencies. Many schools in the incredibly competitive London area offer entrance exams at 7+ and some, such as Haberdasher’s Aske’s Boys’ School, share specimen English and maths papers on their website to clarify what 7+ children will face. Within JK Educate, we have great depth of experience and up-to-date knowledge about these exams and what the individual schools are looking for; our senior training and monitoring team provide individual tutors with everything that they need to prepare children effectively for success.

Is the 7+ the right choice for your child?

As with the 11+, you should have your child academically assessed before sending them on this journey. If their academic potential doesn’t match up to the school’s future expectations, then you might be setting them up to fail, even if they can be prepared well enough to secure a place there. Children should not be intensively tutored to get into a school for which they lack the innate aptitude to succeed.

How can you prepare your child for the 7+?

Obviously, the children are very young, but these assessments still require preparation. It’s unfair to send a child into this unprepared, as they will be at a real disadvantage and might find it a demoralising and perhaps even traumatic experience. Tutoring is sometimes officially frowned upon by schools, but your child needs to understand what they will face, what is expected of them and how to do well, so a knowledgeable tutor’s help can be the most effective tool.

There is a significant gap between the end of the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) and the level of curriculum knowledge expected at 7+ examinations. A lot of selective schools are expecting children to be working beyond the Year 2 curriculum when they sit the 7+, so a lot of preparation time needs to be spent covering the additional curriculum. In addition, sitting an exam under timed conditions will be new to this age group, so it’s a good idea for your child to write timed practice papers, to get used to the added pressure and the need to plan their time effectively.

How is the 7+ assessed?

Written exam content will be English and maths based, whilst spelling, dictation and mental arithmetic may also be assessed verbally. English written papers usually focus on comprehension and story writing. The expectation is for above average vocabulary and reading level; good handwriting should be practised as it is a real asset. The written maths exam may include questions on any part of the Year 2 syllabus and sometimes questions will be pitched beyond that level. Mental arithmetic is very important, but quite complex word problems can also be included. More schools are starting to include verbal reasoning and non-verbal reasoning tests; a lot of children enjoy these as puzzles and challenges, but they can also be daunting and should certainly be practised.

Many schools will call children who have done well in the exams back for interview, whilst other schools may interview every candidate on the day of the exams. Interviews may comprise a one-to-one conversation with the head teacher to reveal the child’s social skills, confidence and focus, but most interviews at 7+ are group interviews. Although a child should be encouraged to be themselves (the best version of themselves) on the day, interview preparation is very helpful to show them what to expect and what behaviour to avoid. The JK 7+ Group Mock Interview is a crucial part of the 7+ Journey as it supports young children in developing the personal and social skills that will be assessed by the schools. These include the ability to collaborate, communicate their ideas clearly, listen to others, follow instructions accurately and problem solve as part of a team. 

What are schools looking for?

Children aged six and seven are obviously younger and less established in academic life than those tested at 11+. They will often be as yet incapable of much academic rigour and focus, but the schools are very aware of this. They will place value on social skills demonstrated in group interviews, and on creative, verbal and listening skills that are often assessed through the group tasks. Schools will be looking for well-rounded children, but the fact remains that they are academically selective schools. Academic performance in the exams remains the key measure, with an expectation from many schools that children will be working beyond the Year 2 curriculum when they sit the 7+. The 7+ journey should not be taken lightly, but successful entrance exams at this age do provide an opportunity for long-term security and academic growth within an excellent school.

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