Many secondary schools set their own entrance exams. In a few cities, local schools have set up consortia, allowing candidates to sit a single exam which is considered by more than one school. Over 200 schools use the Common Entrance exam (CE) – but even they may have their own exams for non-standard applicants; and some have their own preliminary qualifying assessments a couple of years beforehand and then use CE for confirmation and to place pupils in appropriate sets.
Exams are usually held early in the academic year prior to entry, so approach the school well in advance. You may be able to get hold of past papers – each school’s (or consortium’s) will be different. The entrance process can be demanding and stressful for children, so try not to enter your child for more than 2 or 3 entrance exams. That means being careful in your choice and, perhaps, choosing one that is less competitive than the others.
Do not throw your child into an entrance exam without adequate preparation. Many of the hairy anecdotes of childhood exam trauma are rooted in parents failing to ensure proper preparation, particularly when taking an entrance exam from a state primary school or when the exam syllabus is unfamiliar.