Banishing 7+ myths: the truth about school entrance exams
We’ve listed the top 5 myths that make the rounds each year on the run up to the 7+ exams; including some which are complete hearsay, and others which you should take heed of!
The 7+ exam is an elusive creature, where we can only find out what has been assessed through our children’s accounts. This interesting conversation can result in many misconceptions about the exam, so we are here to iron out the wrinkles.
1. You need 100% to pass the 7+ exam
Our verdict: Not entirely untrue
Many prep schools will insist that successful children are not those who simply achieve perfect scores in the exam papers. Children are also assessed on their social skills, interview performance and a solid school reference. As much as this is true, we must face the fact that the 7+ exam is becoming increasingly popular, meaning that schools can afford to be fussy and select the cream of the crop. If a few hundred children are battling for 24 spaces, it is sadly the case that those who don’t perform as well during the English and Maths papers will be much less likely to be accepted.
2. Children are removed from exams if they have a tutor
Our verdict: Be careful
Over the past few years, word on the street has been that before children sit the 7+ exam, they are asked to raise their hand if they have a tutor. Rumour has it that some schools even single out well-known tutors in the area and remove children from their exams if they admit to the fact that they have received tuition from the said individual. We have a feeling that removal from exams is a bit of an urban myth, however it is true that schools are wary of tutors and often explicitly advise against tuition. Schools can sense a perfectly prepared interview question a mile off, likewise they can tell from an initial glance if a story has been regurgitated from hours of extra tuition. Tuition should be little and often, otherwise it may seriously affect your child’s chances of achieving exam success.
3. All prep schools offer a sibling policy
Our verdict: Myth
Do not bank on your child attending the same school as their sibling. Unfortunately, with the top prep schools becoming vastly oversubscribed, many do not offer a sibling policy. It is sadly the case each year that schools reject as many siblings as they accept – each successful child is instead accepted due to their own personal performance. It’s well worth checking which schools offer a sibling policy, as it may make life much easier in the future! Notable schools that do adopt a family style approach are Wetherby Prep, Fulham Prep School and Bute House.
4. Over 50% of the Maths exam consists of problem solving questions
Our verdict: True
The Maths exam is designed to assess children’s knowledge and understanding of the entirety of the Year 2 curriculum, but it’s also used as a tool to see who has the ability to think outside of the box. Maths papers can often consist mainly of multi-step word problems, where children need to be able to think logically and show resilience. Incorporating problem solving questions into an exam also helps to make the entire process ‘tutor proof’ – something which schools are extremely keen to do. Papers that follow a similar format year after year are being overhauled – Latymer Prep have actually scrapped their reasoning tests as they believed they were more of a reflection on how much tuition a child has had.
The world of entrance exams is often very ‘hush hush’, making it difficult for prospective parents to get a true sense of what to expect. The rumour mill kicks into gear each year regarding what schools are looking for, what will be assessed, and which children will get in, but it’s important to remember that none of us will ever have the secret recipe to exam success. School open days will provide the most accurate source of information, but perhaps the key ingredient to exam success - one which is far more likely to trump any nugget of insider info – is a happy and relaxed child, with happy and relaxed parents.
About the Education Consultant
Judith Aitkin runs Wicked Smart, a company which specialises in providing exam papers and games for children preparing for their school entrance exams.
William Clarence Education offers unbiased advice on UK School and University Placement, Oxbridge Admissions, US College Applications, UCAS application and extensive support for parents and students in all aspects of preparing for entry to the UK.