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The 13+ or Common Entrance Exam is taken by pupils as part of the admissions process for Year 9 entry into academically selective Independent Schools at age 13. Common Entrance consists of examinations in Mathematics (three papers: a mental mathematics paper, plus written non-calculator and calculator), English (two papers), Geography, History, Religious Studies, Latin, Classical Greek, plus either a specialist Physics, Chemistry and Biology or a Combined Science. There can also be a choice of four languages: Spanish, French, German or Mandarin, assessed via listening, spoken and written papers. The only compulsory elements of the Common Entrance Exam are Maths, English and a Science, with each schools offering their own combination and subject requirements.
An increasing number of the most competitive Independent Schools have introduced a process of pre-testing, in response to increased demand for their places. It helps a school short-list the increasing number of applications that they receive, providing them with a earlier indicator of whether a child would be suitable for their school at age 10 or 11, as opposed to age 12 or 13. Pre-testing now often forms the first stage of the admissions process and normally takes place in Year 6 or 7. Children who perform well at this stage are usually offered a place, conditional to them passing Common Entrance in Year 8.
There are three times each year that Common Entrance Exams take place: January, June (the most common month) or November. Candidates usually sit the Common Entrance Exam papers at their own Prep Schools and these are often 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 level of the first-choice school. Many schools also use the Common Entrance Exam results as the basis for awarding academic scholarships, but often may also carry out their own interviews, tests, or further examinations. Artistic, musical or sporting achievements are not examined by Common Entrance, but may be taken into account by reports or other means.