Key Differences Between the 11+ and 13+
Choosing the right senior school and establishing the best time for your child to sit entrance examinations can be a complicated and overwhelming experience. If your child is looking to transition to a state selective grammar school, or they are attending a prep school that doesn’t take students beyond age 11, they will have little choice but to move on at the 11+ stage. However, a lot of independent schools now provide the option of either joining at Year 7 or Year 9; in this case, you will need to decide which of these entry points to aim for.
There is great variation from school to school in the chosen exam formats for both the 11+ and 13+. Some schools include computerised testing, some multiple-choice papers, some written papers, and those schools who have more than one stage in their selection process will most likely use two or more of these formats. This means that both entry points test a student’s resilience and adaptivity as well as their academic level and potential. Both exam stages can be extremely tiring and can put students under a lot of pressure. However, there are some key differences between the 11+ and the 13+ that are worth considering when deciding which is best for your child and their needs, both academically and emotionally.
What makes the 13+ different?
The first key difference between these exam stages is that while the 11+ only tests students in maths, English and reasoning, the 13+ covers a much broader curriculum. Students sitting for schools which are using the Common Entrance at 13+ will need to sit at least three compulsory core subjects in English, mathematics and science; they may also need to sit additional papers in a wide range of subjects including geography, history, classics, modern foreign languages, and theology, philosophy and religion. These additional exams are specified by each individual school.
It is also worth noting that the core subjects, most modern languages, Latin and Classical Greek can be offered at more than one academic level. Schools not using the 13+ Common Entrance will often use their own written papers but still test across a range of subjects. This means that a student sitting the 13+ needs to have a wide curriculum knowledge and ability to be successful.
Many schools will expect students to sit the ISEB Common Pre-Test as early as Year 6 as part of their 13+ selection process, particularly if the school is using the Common Entrance. The ISEB Common Pre-Test is taken when a pupil is in Year 6 or Year 7, any time from October to June. These are an age-standardised measure of ability and attainment, are online and adaptive, and in a multiple-choice format. Subjects tested include verbal reasoning, non-verbal reasoning, English and mathematics.
Independent secondary schools usually offer conditional places to those candidates who have performed well in the Common Pre-Test, which means they will still need to sit further exams in Year 8 to gain a confirmed place. However, students only need to sit the Common Pre-Test once, even when applying to multiple schools, so they do not have the same volume of exams in Year 6 as an 11+ student. Because of this, some parents feel that the 13+ process is less pressurised.
How does the 11+ compare?
The 11+ exam journey is much shorter than the 13+. Eleven plus exams are taken either during the autumn term or in the January of Year 6; the 13+ assessments often begin early on in Year 6 and end in Year 8 meaning that the exam process can last nearly four years. Some children prefer sitting the 11+ and having multiple exams over a shorter period so that it is not a prolonged experience, while others find the 11+ process too intense. Additionally, as the 13+ testing is spread over a much longer time span, some children can find the 13+ a long and arduous journey, while others benefit from having more time to prepare. There is also the question of whether your child is mature enough to cope with the examination process in Year 6 and transitioning to a senior school in Year 7, or whether they would be more able to handle this process in a few years’ time.
All of these factors need to be carefully considered when choosing the most appropriate point of entry for your child. However, the choice between 11+ and 13+ is not the only or the most important choice you need to take whilst considering future school options. It is equally important that the potential schools you choose are those that best suit your child. An academic assessment is very important, to establish your child’s academic performance and potential. The assessment results help you to understand how academically competitive their future school should be and whether the 11+ or 13+ are in fact appropriate for your child. In order for children to flourish, they need to feel confident, happy and content at school, and not every school’s ethos and environment suits every child. It is important that you spend time researching each possible school choice, attend their open days and speak to the headteacher, so that you and your child can make an informed decision about which schools to apply to.