Preparing pupils in Hong Kong for the UK school entrance process
By Adam Muckle
05 Aug

Living in Hong Kong? Preparing for the UK pre-tests and school entrance exams? International tutor, Adam Muckle, share his top tips and guidance from his experiences tutoring in Hong Kong.

I have tutored internationally since 2012, when I was first asked to prepare children transitioning to British education and entrance to UK independent schools. And from Shanghai, to Hong Kong, to KL, Beijing and India I have experienced different factors at play in preparing children for the pre-tests and school entrance exams.

Children may already be boarding at a prep school in the UK and are back in their home country during the holidays, their families wanting support in their study and preparation. However, more often than not, families are looking for guidance as to the UK school entrance process and the transition to British education from an international school environment. The choice for British education can be for many reasons: work, family or lifestyle-related, a historical family link or tradition of their father or mother wanting their children to receive an education from the same school as they did, or an appreciation of western culture. Britain’s ‘soft power’ is significant when it comes to education.

When I was in Hong Kong, the family had children at aptly-scheduled points of school entry - for 8+, 11+ and 13+. Much of my time was spent preparing the eldest son for scholarship, the youngest for entrance to prep school, and subject-specific areas for their daughter seeking entrance to a girls’ school. However, at all these stages, areas of English reading and writing play a key role. There will be an understanding that it may not be of a similar standard to their British counterparts, but it still needs a high level of proficiency. In maths, I have found international pupils to be very strong compared to British-schooled pupils. For verbal reasoning, the same preparation as for British children applies, familiarising children with all sorts of question-types and technique, and is there to test innate cognitive ability.

There are some cultural areas to transition children to, or improving their English spelling, punctuation and grammar, as well as their vocabulary and pronunciation. This will be particularly important if the child is bilingual or English is not their mother tongue. This will improve both their English and verbal reasoning.

A big part of the preparation process is also recommending books that British children are reading in the UK and that the child has some awareness of current affairs in the UK. The selected reading may be pitched slightly lower than their age group, depending on their English reading level and steadily read towards more challenging material. Practice in writing and conversation, the ability to express themselves appropriately, is important in preparation for the following stage beyond the computerised ISEB pre-test, and for interview.

Investigating and expanding the child’s interests is part of the process too, as schools like to see children who are well-rounded, enthusiastic and resilient, who can make a positive contribution upon admission and upon their arrival.

Adam is originally from Belfast and studied Classics at Durham University. After training as a Barrister, a chance conversation led him unexpectedly to tutoring. Over the past 11 years, Adam has tutored in London, throughout the British Isles, Europe, Asia and online. He is an Honorary Fellow of The Tutors’ Association, the professional body for tutoring in the UK, and served as its President from 2016 to 2019. For more information, please visit

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