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The UKiset is taken by many international students applying to join British independent schools. This article explains what the UKiset is, how it works, and what you can do to prepare for it.

What is the UKiset?

UKiset stands for the United Kingdom Independent School’s Entry Test. It was created to allow non-native English speakers to be more accurately compared to their native English-speaking peers. It provides British independent schools with the information required when considering an overseas applicant. It is a computerised test, similar to the ISEB pre-test and CEM Select Test, which takes place online and is a prerequisite for many UK independent schools’ admissions process. The purpose of the assessment is to identify English language capabilities and academic strengths and weaknesses, as well as learning-style preferences. The results are then compared to British candidates of the same age.

The assessment can be taken by any student between the ages of 9 and 18 and is open to all nationalities, including English native speakers. UKiset is also used to apply for UK language schools or international study centres. It is even used to track a student’s English language progress, and is sometimes requested by teachers for this purpose. The assessment also serves as a useful tool to help families make better-informed decisions about which schools are most appropriate for their child and so reduces the number of entrance exams they take.

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How to register

You can register your child through the UKiset website registration form here. It is important to note that each independent school will have their own deadline for applications and so we recommend registering for the UKiset at least two months before your earliest school’s deadline. This is to make sure there is plenty of time for UKiset to organise your appointment and process the results. However, even if you do not have any potential schools that you would like to apply for, you are still able to sit the exam. If this is the case, upon registering UKiset will offer an optional service to put you in contact with an education consultant to help with your school search.

There is a registration fee of £295 which includes: registration, test arrangement, invigilation fees, and results. These can be sent to you or your education consultant as well as up to five schools. If you wish to add more schools, there will be an additional fee of £50 per school.

Once you have registered

Once you have registered, UKiset will make contact with you to provide you with local test centres and arrange your test date. There are around 130 authorised UKiset test centres globally as well as an option to take an online invigilated exam, in the case that no test centres are available. For more information about the online invigilated exam please see here.

What is tested in the UKiset?

There are three key elements within the UKiset test:

  1. Reasoning
  2. Reading and Listening
  3. Essay Writing

Reasoning (30-45 minutes)

The reasoning part of the test is designed to understand which ways of thinking a candidate finds easy or challenging. It includes:

  • A vocabulary test
  • Verbal reasoning (comprehension, grammar and language-centred questions)
  • Non-verbal reasoning (solving problems through shapes, pictures and logic)
  • Mathematical reasoning (exploring number, value, quantity and sequence concepts)

The style of this part of the test is adaptive. This means that the questions are designed to assess a student’s ability level – the more questions the candidate answers correctly, the more challenging the questions will become and vice versa. It is important to note, therefore, that not being able to answer a question does not mean that the student is performing badly.

Reading and Listening (60-90 minutes)

This part of the test is partnered with the Cambridge Linguaskill English test. It is an online multiple-choice test that assesses receptive language skills. The Cambridge Linguaskill English Test uses its own internationally-recognised scoring system which will determine the candidate’s English language level.

Essay Writing (30 minutes)

In this section, the candidate will be asked to spend 30 minutes writing an essay on a subject that will be given on the day. This is the only part of the test which is hand-written and is designed to allow the candidate to demonstrate how well they can express themselves in the English language.

The candidate will need to take into consideration vocabulary, grammar, tone and structure in order to answer the question. We recommend thinking logically when approaching the answer and to give an opinion which is relevant to their argument. A tutor can be invaluable here. Boys in particular find creative writing challenging. Often having a tutor’s help can be transformative in understanding what the question is asking, and writing more creatively, emotively, and with a wider vocabulary.

The questions may ask students to describe an experience, a feeling or a person. Some examples include:

  1. Compare your favourite and least favourite subject at school.
  2. If you were Prime Minister for the day, what would you do and why?
  3. ‘No school should have a uniform’ – Discuss.
  4. Describe your favourite character from a book and what you like about them.

How is the UKiset scored?

The UKiset results will be processed and made available within 2-3 working days after the assessment. Each test will produce a report called ‘The Profile Report’ which gives a summary of the candidate’s performance and abilities in each section of the test, allowing teachers to determine the student’s strengths, weaknesses and potential.

The computerised adaptive element of the test generates a Standardised Age Score (SAS) which will place their level amongst their UK peers. The profile will also generate an English CEFR (Common European Framework for Language) level which indicates the candidate’s English academic language level. It is important to note that although the average SAS score of students in the UK is 111, each school will have their own threshold for admissions.

How to Prepare

UKiset does not release any past or practice papers so exact preparation which replicates what will happen on the day is limited. However, there is still plenty of opportunity to prepare for the UKiset exam by practising the skills which will be tested.

Bond and CGP assessment workbooks are useful resources to practise both verbal non-verbal reasoning. They also offer a range of maths, literacy, grammar and English language workbooks.

There are online resources available that claim to offer similar online adaptive tests to UKiset for practice. However, these tools are best used by professional tutors working with a child. While they are useful in building a student’s familiarity with the test, they won’t improve their understanding at a deeper level. The real learning comes in one-to-one time with a personally matched, highly qualified and experienced tutor.

The Cambridge English Language Assessment website offers sample tests for the reading and listening tests which are great resources to familiarise your child with the format of that section of the assessment.

For the essay section: an essay will be marked on content, structure and language (vocabulary and grammar). Therefore, practising opinion-based essays that are structured and well-expressed are the best way to prepare.

In general, spending time reading books, practising grammar and widening vocabulary will help leverage your knowledge and ability when taking these tests as the more familiar and confident you feel writing, listening and speaking the English language, the better your performance will be.

How SLT can help

Simply Learning Tuition provides expert tuition to help your child prepare for all parts of the adaptive online UKiset test.

Each of our tutors is known personally by us, and we will take care to match a tutor with just the right character and teaching style to help your son or daughter excel in their language, literacy and verbal and non-verbal reasoning.

Working with a tutor who is familiar with the particular entry requirements of  specific day and boarding schools will provide invaluable advice about what the school is looking for.

For more information regarding our private tutors please contact us.

  • What is the UKiset?

    UKiset stands for the United Kingdom Independent School’s Entry Test. It allows British independent schools to compare overseas applicants to those based in the UK. It is an online, adaptive test, similar to the ISEB pre-test, CEM Select Test etc. which is used for many UK independent school’s admission process. The purpose of the assessment is to identify English language capabilities, academic strengths and weaknesses, and learning-style preferences. The results are then compared to British candidates of the same age to allow schools to make an informed decision on admissions.

  • What is a good score in the UKiset?

    The UKiset is divided into three sections:
    1. Reasoning (Vocabulary, Comprehension, Verbal & Non-verbal Reasoning,
    2. Reading and Listening (An online multiple-choice test that assesses receptive language skills)
    3. Essay Writing (a 30-minute essay)

  • How do I study for the UKiset?

    In general, we advise reading widely, practising grammar and broadening your vocabulary. This helps students taking the UKiset as the more familiar and confident you feel writing, listening and speaking the English language, the better your performance will be.
    For more details and advice on how to prepare please see above in our ‘how to prepare’ section of the page.

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