Pre-Test revision on the go
By Sarah Collins
19 Nov

‘If you want something done, give it to the busiest person’. You are, no doubt, familiar with this saying and the likelihood is that it applies to you as a parent of school-aged children. Of course, time management isn’t a new problem: throughout history prominent figures have expressed their thoughts on how to fit a seemingly impossible number of tasks into a day. The trouble is that there is a limit to how many tasks you can juggle at one time, so fitting in Pre-Test revision as well may seem like one step too far.

In this blog we look at what Pre-Test actually entails and ways to include meaningful preparation into everyday life, with some advice from our forebears!

1. What is Pre-Test?

Pre-Tests are taken at the same age as the 11+ prior to taking Common Entrance in Year 8 for admittance into Independent schools. The tests are designed to find out whether a child is likely to reach the academic standard required by their chosen school. In the case of some over-subscribed schools, Pre-Tests are used to pre-select pupils (assuming they pass the Common Entrance test later) and deselect others.

The tests cover similar content to the 11+ and are made up of four tests in: English (including specific questions on grammar, spelling and punctuation), maths, verbal-reasoning and non-verbal reasoning. There is a clear emphasis on logic and problem-solving in all these assessments.

The senior school that your child is applying to is responsible for registering your child, and their current school is generally responsible for administering the test.

The tests are electronic and adaptive, which means that your child will face increasingly difficult questions if they answer correctly.

Because of the nature of the tests, both timing and accuracy are important in achieving a high score.

The most common Pre-Test is produced by the ISEB (the Independent Schools Examination Board), who also create bespoke tests for some schools. Consequently, there is some variation between the tests taken by different children.

The tests tend to change year by year so that, in theory, they can’t be revised for. Having said that, the ISEB give clear information about the categories of questions that children will encounter.

2. So does my child need to prepare for the Pre-Test?

Theoretically, if your child is doing well in school and has a good grasp of basic maths and English skills, they have enough knowledge to sit a Pre-Test. However, the unfamiliar electronic format and questions in verbal and non-verbal reasoning, which they may not have encountered, can be daunting and are very likely to affect their ability to score highly. 

Preparation can build confidence and temper understandable nerves associated with test taking. Practice in answering similar questions to those they will encounter in timed conditions will also help to reassure your child that they are able to answer the questions at the pace and to the accuracy that will be expected of them in the assessments.

Abraham Lincoln, who no doubt had a number of demands on his time, was quoted as saying:

“If I had six hours to chop down a tree, I would spend the first four hours sharpening the axe.”

So, in order to do a little axe-sharpening of your own, finding short bursts of time to strengthen your child’s basic skills will not only help them prepare for the challenging problem-solving questions they will encounter, but will also help them to speed up their accuracy and response time to all the other questions. The areas to concentrate on are:

  • Rapid recall of maths facts

  • Confidence in punctuation, grammar and spelling using a wide vocabulary

3. Making time

Revision can take many forms and be worked into very small time-slots in your day.

A good way to begin is to consider standard week and weekend days and where these slots may be. Even five minutes on a drive to school or waiting for a sibling in the car is time when you can practice a few times tables!

Think of where … 

  • two five-minute slots can be found each day

  • five 10-minute slots can be found each week

  • three 30-minute slots can be found each week

This adds up to three and a half hours of revision– more than you might expect and much more effective and rewarding than a lost Sunday afternoon.

4. Making it count

Talking to your child about areas of maths and English in which they feel practice would be helpful can ensure they are engaged in the revision process from the start. You can then focus on these areas as part of the first stage of revision.

Variety is key to making short time-slots interesting and will encourage your child to concentrate fully. Here are some suggestions to get you started.

Five-minute ideas​

Sample a skill for the week

Print out facts or a rule for a defined area of maths or English and use it for five-minute quizzes.

Listen to a news programme together​

Asking questions about a discussion on the radio can help your child to gain a better understanding of higher-level vocabulary and follow logical arguments. 

Ten-minute ideas

Download maths and English Apps

Since many children are rarely without a phone or tablet, these are readily available tools for quick revision. A number of Apps are adaptive too, such as IXL Maths and English. This particular App has a clever feature which discourages children from giving random answers; if several incorrect answers are given the exercise takes longer, so there is a real incentive to get the answers right!

Other Apps use puzzles to make learning entertaining, such as cZeus Maths Challenger and Equii (challenging word puzzles using combinations of letters, text and images). There are, of course, many more, and a ten-minute session or two can be spent exploring which ones to download.

Reading together

Read a short article together and set challenges such as find ten interesting verbs or guess how many pronouns are on this page (then count them). Use a glossary of words, such as the one on page 122 of the Galore Park 11+ English Revision Guide, and add to it so that your child is very familiar with common words and phrases relating to grammar.

Workbook exercises​

Any of the Galore Park workbooks listed at the end of this article are good resources for 10-minute exercises. Keep a pen and book in the car for times when you are sitting waiting in a traffic queue or to pick somebody up. The exercises are in short sections and are not timed, so unexpected distractions are unimportant.

The Verbal and Non-Verbal Reasoning workbooks explain new skills and then give a few puzzles to solve. You can even have a go at some questions yourself - as long as the car is parked!

30-minute ideas

Take a test

Ask your child to set you a ten-question grammar or maths test. Take the test and ask your child to talk you through the correct answers.

Set a Revision Guide page relating to the week’s skill

The Mathematics and English 11+ Revision Guides are written in 2–4 page sections, designed for 30-minute study periods. 

Pages 20–21 of the Galore Park Mathematics 11+ Revision Guide is all about prime numbers, prime factors, highest common factors and lowest common multiples and so a good follow-on exercise from the five-minute maths example above. Working through the guidance and exercises will help your child to reinforce knowledge from the five-minute practice periods.

Set a Study Guide page on a new verbal or non-verbal reasoning skill

The Galore Park Verbal and Non-verbal Reasoning Study and Revision Guides follow the same format and introduce these new types of questions step by step for short bursts of revision. The books cover all the skills your child is likely to encounter in the Verbal and Non-verbal Reasoning Pre-Tests.

5. A strategy for success

There is a large amount of research that shows short bursts of revision are more effective than long hours of study. Nevertheless, keeping this up is very challenging and we suggest keeping a diary.

Note how many five-, ten- and 30-minute slots you manage to fit into each week and plan how many you aim to fill in the week ahead. Monitoring progress at a specific time each week is more likely to keep you on target.

To help get you going, here are five verbal reasoning questions for a five-minute time slot, based on the content of the ISEB Pre-test (answers available at the end of the blog):







In the words of another American president, Benjamin Franklin:

“By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.”
Which, we like to interpret in a more positive light …

‘By successfully preparing you are preparing to succeed’.

We wish you the very best of luck with your Pre-Test revision challenge. And remember – we are at the end of the phone if you need any help or advice.

Browse our 11+ and Pre-Test Revision Guides here:



1. B        fame, slide         

Moving the l in ‘flame’ after the ‘s’ in ‘side’ makes the two new words: ‘fame’ is a noun meaning a state of being well known, ‘slide’ can be a noun (a piece of games equipment in a park) or a verb (meaning to slip).

2. C, F    invent          
Verb meaning to create something unique. 

3. B, F    energetic and lethargic      
These are both adjectives and are opposite in meaning: energetic means to be active, and lethargic means to be slow and sluggish.
4. tap, wheel      

A tap is an important part of a sink and a wheel is an important part of a car.

5. 2764



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