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My son had a CAT 4 UK school entrance exam to prepare for. ITS helped with a mock test and found out several areas that needed improvement. Preparation time was short but after some well planned and intense lessons my son passed the entrance exam and will be attending the UK school in 2021! Can’t thank ITS enough!

How to get into top UK boarding schools

Hong Kong students have been going to school in the UK for many years. The basic process for doing this has not changed, although there have been changes in detail with the way certain schools work and the types of test you might need.

The simple answer to how to access a UK boarding school is this:
How to access UK Boarding School
How to access UK Boarding School
How to access UK Boarding School

ITS has a long history of working with families and has sent hundreds of Hong Kong students to UK schools successfully. Contact us for an in-depth discussion. Note that we are not an agent so we receive no money from schools. Our opinion is completely unbiased.

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There are 3 “normal” points of entry to UK schools in Years 7, 9 and 12. Generally they all involve selection tests, interview and entrance exams. Year 12 entry can be achieved if you already have public exam results such as IGCSE [which you can take at ITS]. For Years 7 and 9, there are a range of other tests which is why we emphasize that you get clear guidance from the school about what they want from YOU.

ITS Education is an official VICTVS centre for taking ISEB examinations

ISEB Overview

Common-Pre-Test (CPT):

The Independent School Examinations Board (ISEB) Common Pre-Test (CPT) is designed to provide independent senior schools with information about a pupil’s current attainment and potential, for entry to Years 6 & 7. It is an online test and the results are shared between any school to which you apply. However, each school may ask for additional testing depending on their own policies.

The Common Pre-Tests are used to identify potential in two areas – ability and attainment. Ability test areas are broken down into two sections:

  • Verbal reasoning section assesses thinking and problem solving with words covering areas such as common words, antonyms, word combinations, letter transfer, and number codes.
  • Non-verbal reasoning section assesses thinking with shapes, space, diagrams and pictures covering areas such as shape analogies, classes like and horizontal codes.

  • Attainment test areas are broken down into two sections:

  • English section assesses reading comprehension, sentence completion, spelling and punctuation.
  • Maths section assesses mathematical ability relative to the national curriculum stage.

Common Entrance (CE):

CE AT 11+

Pupils sit the CE assessment at 11+ when they are in Year 6, mainly for entrance to senior independent girls’ schools. There are two examination sessions each year, in November and January, however most pupils sit the examination in January. The assessment consists of three papers; for English, mathematics and science.

CE AT 13+

CE assessment at 13+ is supported by many of the top prep and independent senior schools in the UK. Covering a wide set of subjects learned in Years 7 & 8, pupils sit the CE assessment at 13+ when they are in Year 8, and there are three examination sessions each year; in November, January and May/June.

All pupils sit three compulsory papers; English, mathematics and science, and they may be required to sit additional papers in a wide range of subjects including geography, history, classics, modern foreign languages, and theology, philosophy and religion. The exact paper combination will depend on the requirements of the individual school(s) to which you are applying and you should be sure to have clear direction on which papers will be needed.

CAT4 Overview

The CAT4 test (Cognitive Ability Test) is used to predict student success through the evaluation of verbal, non-verbal, mathematical, and spatial reasoning. It’s a predictive test to help teachers place students in an academic bracket or set. A CAT4 test is used as a school entrance test to assess student ability and future success.

  • Non-Verbal Reasoning questions test a child’s ability to think about shapes and patterns.
  • Verbal Reasoning questions test for the ability to understand text and connect concepts and words.
  • Quantitative Reasoning questions is all about numbers and number patterns and provides insight into a child’s ability to identify numerical relationships.
  • Spatial Ability questions use shapes to help understand how well a child can generate and transform visual images.

UKiset Overview

UKiset is an assessment designed for entry into British curriculum schools. The UKiset Profile provides schools with all the information they need when considering an overseas applicant. The test includes assessments of academic potential and English language skills, and the results compare candidates against British students of the same age. UKiset provides a level playing field for students from all backgrounds to apply to the best schools in the world.

  • Reasoning section test a child’s ability answer questions regarding vocabulary, non-verbal reasoning, and mathematical reasoning questions.
  • Reading and Listening test is a Cambridge English Test which is an online multiple-choice based test.
  • Essay Writing section is a short English essay-based test.

15 Hour ITS ISEB – CAT4 – Ukiset Verbal and Non – Verbal Reasoning Course caters to the Verbal and Non-Verbal reasoning sections of ISEB, CAT4, and UKiset school-entrance examinations.

→ The Verbal section covers questions that are frequently tested in all three tests.

→ The Non – Verbal section is broken down into two parts – the first part addresses questions that are comparable to ISEB and CAT4 examinations, and the second part consists of questions that appear in CAT4 and Ukiset examinations.

→ The coursebook also includes a reinforcement section focusing on typical questions covered in the non-verbal sections so that it can help students develop a strong foundation.

→ Finally, there is an assessment section at the end of the coursebook which will help us to gauge a student’s likely performance in the actual exam.

15 Hour ISEB – CAT4 – Ukiset Math Course Course caters to the fundamentals associated with the quantitative sections of ISEB, CAT4, and UKiset school-entrance examinations and covers questions that are frequently tested in all the three tests.

→ The course will enable pupils to become fluent with essential mathematical concepts, encourage the development of investigative thinking, and develop problem solving and reasoning skills. It will also instill confidence and resilience through an appreciation of the value of learning from mistakes.

→ Students will extend their knowledge developed in geometry and measurement and ensure that they are able to classify shapes with complex geometric properties.

→ They will also achieve fluency in written methods for all four operations, including long multiplication and division, and in working with fractions, decimals and percentages.

→ It will also help them to learn the vocabulary needed to describe mathematical scenarios, geometric shapes and statistical studies and ensure that they read, spell and pronounce mathematical terminologies correctly.


Students looking to go to the UK come from a wide range of backgrounds and have experienced a variety of schooling types. In addition, different schools put very different demands on the testing and interview process. A student at a UK oriented international school whose target school needs English & Maths and some reasoning may only need a few familiarisation lessons and some interview practice (Ask the Head*). Another student who has been at a local Hong Kong school and applies to a top 5 independent school may need long term support across a range of subjects. We therefore tailor all our packages to your needs. Get in touch to start the process.

*Ask the Head is our collaboration with Chris Curl. Chris has spent most of his career so far in Independent Senior and Prep Day and Boarding Schools. His first teaching job was at Haileybury Junior School where he helped children gain entry, and scholarships, to top schools including Eton and Winchester. He has been a Boarding Housemaster, Head of English & Drama, Director of Co-Curricular Activities and, for 16 years, a Headmaster achieving outstanding inspection results. He has also directed international language summer schools based at boarding schools including Dulwich Prep and Stowe. Chris is also a trained Motivational Map practitioner - the maps help to identify what motivates an individual and are invaluable in selecting subjects at school and courses at university. He believes that each student should be treated as a unique individual and enjoys boosting their confidence while helping prepare them for interviews.

Our packages cover the core areas of school entrance regardless of the test you are taking.

For subject specific preparation at ISEB Common Entrance 13+ or independent school entrance tests, you can book standard one-to-one tuition with a subject specialist teacher.

We have prepared hundreds of students over the years and we are a trusted test centre for many, many schools.

Year 12 entry for A-level

Most schools will require entrance exams to be taken in the November before the proposed start date (e.g. take tests in November 2019 if you want to start school in September 2020). They usually use a variety of questions from GCSE past papers. Students who are taking real IGCSEs may be exempt from these tests or will at least benefit from learning the same material. We often find students who take a couple of IGCSEs with ITS do very well in both entering British boarding schools at year 12 and in settling in and doing well at A-level once they are there. Contact us to discuss an IGCSE programme for entrance prep and for taking the real exam.

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All our tutors are subject experts who have years of experience with all age groups entering UK schools.

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