Common Entrance


Common Entrance Examinations (commonly known as CE) are taken by some children in the UK as part of the admissions process for academically selective secondary schools at age 13 or 11. They are set by ISEB (Independent Schools Examination Board). Most of the secondary schools that use Common Entrance for admission are public schools; most of the schools that routinely prepare their pupils for Common Entrance are preparatory schools.

Both kinds of schools are normally fee-paying, that is, they are particular kinds of independent schools. The name comes from the fact that, unlike many other selective secondary schools which each set their own entrance examinations, the secondary schools concerned agree to use a common set of examination papers. However, the marking of the scripts and all other aspects of the admissions process is still done independently by each secondary school.


English, Mathematics and Science are compulsory core subjects. Other papers can be chosen from French, German, Spanish; Latin, Greek; Geography, History and Religious Studies. Most senior schools expect candidates to offer Geography, History, Religious Studies and one or two languages, but pupils from schools which do not offer the traditional range of subjects or weaker pupils can offer a reduced number of papers: entrance requirements are dictated only by the senior school, not by the examination but some state schools do not require Common Entrance. Sometimes, it can even be up to 70% in every subject. There can also be different levels, in Mathematics and in Latin, Level 1 is the easiest, Level 3 is the hardest and sometimes it is Levels 1 – 2. Schools usually state their preferred level.

Taking the test

There are three times a year the papers are sat. January, June (the most common month to sit) or November. The papers are sat Monday to Thursday. Candidates usually sit the CE exam papers at their own prep schools, at a fixed date, but not a time; but papers are marked by the preferred senior school, who mark them immediately and will, if necessary, arrange with the prep school to forward the papers to a second-choice school should the performance fall below the acceptance level of the preferred first-choice school.