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Boarding School, UK Admissions

UK Boarding School Application: The Ultimate Guide

October 30, 2021 -
By unikey

Choosing the ideal UK boarding school has always been one of the most important decisions for parents who are planning to send their children overseas. You may already have heard of other parents discussing about the benefits of different UK boarding schools, but how should you decide on which schools to apply based on your child’s academic background? What are the hidden truths behind boarding school rankings?

To help you understand the application strategies behind UK boarding school admissions processes, our UK graduates explain how school policies, academic developments, and culture may affect your child’s upcoming admissions plans.



Selecting your
Boarding School


Preparing your



Selecting your boarding school

3 Things to Consider When Choosing the Ideal Boarding School

1. Academic Curriculum

The A-levels and IB curriculum suits different types of students. The A-levels are more exam-oriented whereas IB focuses both on public exams and internal assessments. As such, most local students will find themselves more comfortable with taking the A-levels. However, if your child currently studies at an international school with limited exam experience, the IB curriculum may be more suitable.

2. Academic Development 

Based on our experience, your boarding school’s reputation may directly affect your upcoming university applications. For instance, you may have heard of how prestigious boarding schools such as Eton, Winchester, Tonbridge, Cheltenham Ladies or Headington have created top Oxbridge candidates. While your boarding school does not guarantee an offer from the top UK universities, traditional boarding schools’ academic resources and opportunities will set a strong foundation for any student who is academically driven.

3. Culture

Most parents are concerned with school policies regarding the safety and well-being of students. To make an educated decision in boarding schools will be understand how the school’s culture foster personal and academic development.

Application Strategies

Once you have decided on the boarding schools to apply for, the next step will be to determine the year of entry.

year 9 entry

pre-gcse curriculum

Suitable for:
Academically driven students who are keen to explore UK education

year 10 Entry

GCSE curriculum

Suitable for:
Students who struggle under the HK curriculum and would benefit from UK education

year 12 Entry

A-Levels / IB Curriculum

Suitable for:
Students who struggle under the HK curriculum and would benefit from UK education

Most traditional boarding schools begin accessing student applications 3-4 years in advance. This means students should begin preparing their applications starting from Year 5 or Year 6. If you decide to have your child study in the UK starting from Year 12, you may consider beginning the admissions process around Year 7 to Year 9.

Preparing your application

3 Things to Prepare for Your UK Boarding School Application

1. Admissions Tests

Most UK Boarding Schools require students to take the UKiset as an entry requirement. The UKiset is similar to aptitude tests used by large corporations in recruitment processes and includes (i) Verbal Reasoning, (ii) Non-verbal Reasoning, (iii) Mathematics and (iv) English Reading. Among these sections, most students struggle with Verbal and Non-verbal Reasoning as the exam questions are not taught at primary or secondary schools. To aim for a high school in UKiset, student should become familiarised with the question types involved in the UKiset and train their exam techniques when completing the computerised test.

The ISEB is used by traditional Boarding Schools as part of their admissions process. Similar to the UKiset, the ISEB also covers (i) Verbal Reasoning, (ii) Non-verbal Reasoning, (iii) Mathematics, and (iv) English Reading. However, the question types and exam techniques are slightly different from the UKiset.

Finally, once Boarding Schools decide to proceed on student applications, applicants may be required to take admissions tests based on their selected subjects for GCSE, IB or A-levels. The difficulty of these admissions tests depends on the school you have applied for the subjects chosen.

2. Interview Assessments

Each Boarding School has their own Interview Assessments. For example, Tonbridge requires students to take an individual assessment and a group assessment covering questions regarding social issues, scientific concepts, technological developments and morality. The key is to assess student’s logical thinking and critical thinking. When participating in a group assessment, taking initiative is key but it is equally important to acknowledge other students’ views and express your thoughts accordingly.

3. Profile Building

Other than academic results, competitive Boarding Schools look for students with an all-rounded background. While students may train for admissions tests and interviews, profile enhancement requires time and dedication to extra-curricular activities to demonstrate a student’s interest in a particular field. For instance, parents may encourage students to attend university courses, academic competitions and other external activities during term breaks to showcase their academic skills and strengths.

Application timeable

3 Tips to Planning your UK Boarding School Application Timeline

1. Year of Entry

The first step is to understand which year of entry will suit your child. Whether it is Year 9, Year 10 or Year 12, each entry year has its benefits. For example, Year 9 students get to explore more of UK education, Year 10 students may experience completing the GCSE and Year 12 students typically have a very specific university goal. This decision should be based on your child’s academic background and how he/she is doing at school. Speak to our consultants to learn more.

2. Application Preparation

Each Boarding School has their own application timeline. Traditional Boarding Schools require students to register 3-5 years in advance whereas modern Boarding Schools only require students to register 1 year in advance. A longer preparation period means that traditional Boarding School will assess student’s overall academic and personal background and require applicants to take entrance assessment before the interview stage.

3. Admissions Test Preparation

In our previous webinar, we discussed about the details of different admissions tests. The expiry date of the UKiset and ISEB means that parents have to be aware of when these exams are taken and make sure the application timeline is managed properly. According to our experience, to get a top score for these assessments, students are required to spend around 6-12 months preparing and training for the relevant sections. If the Boarding School you are applying for also requires a subject test (which will be based on your subject choice), you should also plan ahead to accommodate for academic training either in GCSE or A-levels to ensure a high score.

More Questions ?

Reach out to our consultants to learn more about your boarding school plans!

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Read beyond your academic syllabus and get prepared for your application!


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