Preparing for the Common Entrance Exam
The Common Entrance Examination (CEA) is used as a method of determining entrance to a particular private or independent school. These examinations are the only examinations in the United Kingdom school system which are standardised for Independent schools prior to the sitting of GCSE examinations. Most fee-paying schools will test and interview their pupils before admitting them and most independent schools will set out their own timetable of examinations twice a year in a bid to assess pupil performance and accurately identify those areas - or subjects - where help is needed.
The CEA has a variety of subjects that can be covered normally made up of the following compulsory subjects: English, mathematics and science while additional subjects include history, geography, Latin, French, German and religious studies.
As the name might suggest the idea of a Preparatory School (Prep School) for younger children is to prepare your child for the move to an independent - or private school - and also to prepare them for the examinations that will allow them to gain admittance.
Many preparatory schools will offer the chance of preparing their pupils for the chance of admittance into one of a number of designated schools while some will work solely in conjunction with one independent school in the area.
The examination itself is taken at Prep School on a fixed date but the papers are marked by the preferred senior school. At this time if there are insufficient marks to warrant admittance to the preferred school, the school in question will then forward these papers to a second choice school for their perusal. The examination is used by many schools offering bursaries - or scholarships - and is accompanied by their own interviews and possible further tests or examinations.
Schools may have additional criteria which must be met before a position is granted so it is best to consult with your preferred school before setting your child on the route to independent school education. That way you can establish their criteria and also allocate a second choice school in the event that admission is refused.
All schools will be happy to discuss with you their entrance procedure and can offer your practical advice on how best to prepare your child for the CEA.
In addition your Local Education Authority (LEA) will be able to offer practical advice and can provide you with a list of private tutors if you wish for your child to have additional teaching for such an exam.
There are websites offering past Common Entrance Examination papers so that you and your child can see what the examination might consist of but it is by no means a certainty that previous topics will be applicable at the next sitting.
You've just got to do your homework!
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