The Common Entrance examinations are used for assessing pupils who transfer to many senior independent schools at 13+, although a small number of schools e.g. Winchester College, do set their own entrance examinations. Most candidates take their Common Entrance papers in June of the Year of entry to their senior school.

The syllabuses for all Common Entrance subjects are produced by the Independent Schools Examination Board (ISEB), which is composed of representatives from both girls’ and boys’ senior schools, together with representatives from preparatory schools. Papers are set in the following subjects: English, Maths, Science, French, History, Geography, Religious Studies and, if appropriate, Latin or Spanish.

Common Entrance is essentially non-competitive, in that if a candidate reaches the required standard then a place will be given. Some schools, however, are now awarding academic exhibitions to those pupils who produce outstanding Common Entrance grades to their schools.

Pupils who are in the Scholarship group have the opportunity to sit papers for Scholarship awards to their chosen school. This is essentially an incentive scheme by the senior schools to attract academic, art, music or all-round scholars and is achieved by setting demanding papers which at times approach KS4 levels of difficulty and applied thinking.

Scholarship exams are generally sat either in spring or summer. Each school has its own syllabus for each of the papers, which pupils are obliged to sit, and set and mark their own papers. A number of schools use the Common Academic Scholarship Exam (CASE), which are set by the Independent Schools Examination Board. The scholarship process normally consists of a series of papers in the main academic subjects, plus an interview and language orals.

The results can be at one of three levels’ an award, which can be a scholarship, an exhibition or a bursary; no award but the pupil is excused Common Entrance based on the strength of their papers and finally no award and the pupil may be asked to sit Common Entrance. Our expectation is for all our Scholarship pupils to be excused Common Entrance on the strength of their papers.

At Downsend School we are very proud of our consistently outstanding levels of Common Entrance and Scholarship results to a broad profile of senior schools.