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Testing times: is the 8+ a second chance for 7+ hopefuls?

Families with children who have unfortunately not been successful with 7+ entrance testing, may often find themselves being offered the advice:

‘Don’t worry, there’s always the 8+ exam.’

The question is however, is the 8+ exam the answer for those who struggled with the 7+? Is the 8+ any easier? What will be assessed? Read on as I guide you through the similarities and differences between the two.


Both the 7+ and 8+ exams require children to sit an English and Maths paper. Similarly, children will be assessed on their ability to work independently, how they cope in new social situations and how they respond to staff members.

Reasoning papers are not often seen in 7+ exams but can feature quite heavily in the 8+, in which results are weighted according to the child’s age.

Both the 7+ and 8+ exams will also welcome children who have been successful in the academic tasks to attend an interview with the headteacher. While prospective 7+ students are expected to display impeccable manners and confidence when answering questions, 8+ students should be prepared to answer questions more fully and perhaps even ask their own questions to find out more about the school.


The 8+ exam is no less challenging than the 7+. In fact, the 8+ is sometimes considered to be more intensive due to the fact that children are assessed on the entirety of the Year 3 curriculum.

In the story writing element of the exam, schools are looking for children who are able to write at length and use a range of vocabulary. Similes, alliteration, onomatopoeia and dialogue are all excellent evidence of a sophisticated writer. Of course, schools are also making sure that children are confident with the basics such as punctuation and spelling. For exam revision, be sure to access the Key Stage 2 English word lists for Years 3 and 4. These can be found on the National Curriculum website here:

The 8+ Maths paper puts more emphasis on problem solving skills, and often children will be required to complete multi-step word problems. Children should also have a firm knowledge and understanding of all multiplication facts.

Below is a comparison of the content of the 7+ and 8+ Maths papers:

Numbers and the number system

7 Plus (7+)

Count on and back in 2s, 3s etc – 10. Recognise 2 digit multiples of 2,5 and 10

8 Plus (8+)

Count on and back in tens and hundreds. Recognise 3 digit multiples of 2,5 and 10.

Place value and ordering

7 Plus (7+)

Read and write three digit numbers in figures and words.

8 Plus (8+)

Read and write four digit numbers in figures and words

Estimating and rounding

7 Plus (7+)

Round two digit numbers to the nearest 10.

8 Plus (8+)

Round two digit numbers to the nearest 100.


7 Plus (7+)

Recognise halves and quarters.

8 Plus (8+)

Recognise halves, thirds, quarters, fifths, sixths and tenths.

Mental arithmetic

7 Plus (7+)

Add three single digit numbers. Add and subtract 20. Multiplication questions (2,5 and 10 times tables)

8 Plus (8+)

Add three or four single digit numbers mentally, or three or four two digit numbers. Add and subtract to 30. Multiplication questions (2-10 times tables)

Where can you find opportunities at 8+?

Whilst not all schools offer a formal route to entry at 8+, some of the top prep schools in London offer entry at this age, allowing your child an additional year of learning the basics in English and Maths before applying their knowledge in an exam setting. Those that do offer entry at 8+ in London include:

· St Paul’s Juniors

· Westminster Under

· King’s College School

· Dulwich College Junior School

· Wetherby Prep School

· Sussex House

· Eaton House The Manor (Prep)

· The Garden House School

· The Harrodian Prep

It’s worth bearing in mind that if you are re-locating and looking to join a prep school beyond the initial year of entry you will be looking for an ‘occasional’ place for instance at 8+, which may be available even if it is not a standard entry point. Like any other non-standard entry point this will usually involve testing to ensure your child can take their place happily in the year group.

In my view

For parents of children who are perhaps summer born, or who simply aren’t yet ready for the demands of the 7+ exam, the 8+ exam can be a fantastic option. What the 8+ exam isn’t however, is an easier version of the 7+ exam. If your child struggled with the 7+, it is highly likely that they will also find the 8+ a real challenge.

Both exams are designed for children who are already achieving results well above the national average and who are showing signs of real potential both academically and socially.

Tips to help you prepare

Although challenging, we believe that the best way to prepare your child for these rigorous exams is a ‘little and often’ approach. At such a young age, children will not respond well to hours of relentless tuition. Instead, we suggest introducing more challenging novels, writing a daily diary and playing quick fire maths games online to encourage quick recall of maths facts.

Some tuition may be necessary if there are genuine gaps in knowledge, but otherwise a happy, relaxed child is the most likely to succeed!

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