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There are a lot of misconceptions around the independent school application process, however in reality it is a relatively straight forward process that may include some form of pupil assessment.  The objective of the process is simply to allow the school to gain a rounded understanding of your child’s strengths and abilities. 

Independent school entrance assessments are designed to test your child’s latent abilities and to ensure that they are placed in the right environment. This insight will give staff an awareness into how well the child will make the transition to the new school and how staff can support and nurture your child throughout their school journey. 

Whether you’re in the process of applying or just looking to find out more about the process, our guide to independent school entrance assessments will be a useful guide. 

Get a taste for the school before applying

When undertaking an application for an independent school, the most important consideration is what suits the specific needs of your child.

Parents and prospectus pupils can get a taste for the day-to-day at a school during pre-application school visits or at open day events. This usually includes a tour of the school or the opportunity to spend a ‘taster day’ with their year group to get a better feel for the school.

Find out what the intake stages are 

Intake stages vary between schools and many independent schools will accept pupils at most points in their academic careers, however it is most common for children to join in P1, P6, P7, S1 and for S5 and S6. It differs from one school to another, so it is important to ensure you take the time to find out the specific application deadlines for your desired school.

Once you have submitted an application, children will be invited to complete an interview or assessment before a place is offered. Independent school entrance assessments most commonly take place on set dates at the beginning of the calendar year before intake. 

It’s not just about the formal testing

The independent school entrance assessments can test ability in language, mathematics and reasoning, and some schools have sample questions on their website. Alongside the more formal tests, many schools also include an interactive part to the entrance assessment to give them a more rounded insight into your child, particularly in junior school.

The interactive process takes a natural approach and allows the child to relax and let their personality to shine through. Most schools are interested not just in those who can demonstrate their academic capabilities but also children who are authentically engaged in their learning.

If your child is offered a place

The school will get in touch with you to offer you a place. Once you have accepted the offer and completed enrolment forms, the school is likely to arrange an induction day.

Independent schools in Scotland welcome a diverse range of pupils and fee assistance is available for eligible pupils. It might also be the case that your child excels in a particular subject or area, so it is worth enquiring about scholarships.

Unfortunately, if a school is over-subscribed there is a possibility that they may have to disappoint families whose child has performed well in the assessment.

You can always put your mind at ease by contacting the admission team

The application process varies between schools, so it is important to contact the school for answers to specific queries. We’ve also pulled together some hints and tips from an experienced Director of External Relations,Jo Easton at George Heriot’s School, for more advice.

Don’t be afraid to telephone the school’s admissions team who will be happy to help with any questions on admission, from nursery through to primary and secondary levels. 


If you’d like to know more information, have a look at our ‘Information for Parents’ or get in touch with us directly and we’d be delighted to help.