What is the UKiset?
Your guide - Part One
Deciphering the UKiset, the crucial exam for British boarding schools.
What is it and Why is it important?
The UKiset is an online test used by independent schools in the UK as part of their selection process. The test looks at the child’s processing skills and learning potential to give school’s an idea of a student’s academic potential.
The UKiset has 5 sections and is 2 hours long. Later in this article, we explain how the test results look in each of these sections.
Section 1-3: Reasoning (Quantitative, Non-verbal and Verbal)
In these sections the student completes online tests in quantitative, non-verbal and verbal reasoning.
Section 4: The Cambridge English Placement Test (CEPT)
In this section the student undertakes a listening and reading (receptive language) test. From this, the student is given a CEFR level: A1 to C1.
Section 5: The English essay
The candidate's English essay is scanned and sent to their selected schools in its raw form (i.e. un-marked). Schools will assess the essay according to their own expectations and mark schemes.
The essay topics are randomly selected and age-appropriate. All topics are expository - this means that they prompt the candidate to write about their opinions on a matter and there are no right or wrong answers. This task is an expressive language exercise, looking at a candidates ability to articulate their own views and ideas.
Why is the UKiset important?
The UKiset is an extremely important exam for foreign students hoping to study in a UK boarding school. Many top boarding schools require a UKiset at the point of application or shortly after, and use it as a barometer to check the English level of foreign students.
There are over 180 independent schools who use the UKiset including Eton College, Charterhouse, Rugby School and many others. Without a good mark in the UKiset it will be impossible to get a place or even make an application in some cases.
Can you re-sit the UKiset?
You are able to take the UKiset once every 6 months. Once you have sat the test and the results have been sent to the schools you won’t be able to get a better result for 6 months.
That’s why it is important to be strategic about taking the UKiset. If you plan far in advance it is perfectly reasonable to sit the UKiset without any fear of getting a bad mark. However, often schools require applications to be made in the Autumn term of year 7 (many sooner than year 7) and decisions are made fairly quickly about whether you will be invited to the school’s own entrance exams; this means you don’t have the opportunity to wait 6 months for a new test if you fail the first.
We advise you plan far in advance if you can, and get a UKiset mark at least 6 month before you are considering making an application to a school. If this is not possible you should prepare thoroughly to make sure you get the best mark you can in the UKiset.
How much does the UKiset cost?
The UKiset costs £295 which includes registration, arrangement of a test date, invigilation fees, and the results being sent to the candidate.
How to register for UKiset
Registering for the UKiset is a fairly simple process, you can register on the UKiset website, available here:
After registering, UKiset put you into contact with your local test centre, the test centre will contact you and you can arrange a time that is comfortable for you to sit the exam.
Where can I sit the UKiset?
UKiset test centres are available in 130 countries. In Moscow, the premier UKiset centre is Academix, run by Anna Savinova.
More information about Academix can be found here: http://academix.info/contact/
How long to receive the test results?
Test results are sent within 3 working days. Reports are fully digital and sent via email to the agent or parent who registered the student and also the chosen schools.
How long are the results valid for?
UKiset results are valid for 12 months from the date of sitting the exam.
Do the schools get to see your results?
In short, yes, when you register to sit the UKiset you should choose the schools you wish to send the results to. However, you can leave it blank and wait for the results before sending if you are worried about getting a bad mark.
If you are required by your testing centre to choose one school, you could choose your least favourite or even register with a school you do not wish to attend so it will not matter if they receive your marks.
If you get an amazing report, you can contact your UKiset agent and tell them that you would like to send the results to the schools you have chosen. You are allowed to send the results to up to 5 schools after this you must pay an additional £50 fee per school.
What do UKiset results look like?
The UKiset report comprises a number of different sections and exists in two different versions, the family or agent get a slimmed down report and the school get a comprehensive report which includes predictions for GCSE or A-level. It can be a little complicated to understand especially as the reports are only sent in English, so we have made a small guide to deciphering this important document.
These are the sections of the UKiset report:
A full student profile sheet, including a photo and full contact details.
Standardised test scores for core processing skills, verbal (vocabulary), non-verbal and mathematics.
Scores include UK national averages, averages for students in private (independent) schools as well as a Stanine ranking - this shows what percentage band of students they are in, 9th Stanine = top 1% of all students.
The school report contains predictions for GCSE or A-level grades.
Current English level as per CEFR and IELTS equivalent English score.
The student’s English essay.
Let’s take a look at each of the parts individually and explain what they mean.
The student profile sheet
This contains all of the key information about your child. When your child sits the UKiset they will be required to bring photographic identification with them (passport).
The Test scores
Families and agents receive this summary information about the student’s performance, definitions are listed below the chart. The ISS score is the student’s score; schools compare this score to the UK Independent School Average.
To get into the best boarding schools, foreign pupils should be achieving at least the same as the Independent school Average.
ISS - Individual Standardised Score
The students performance is compared to other pupils from the same year group. Scores are standardised across the population in a normal distribution, so a student can be compared directly against their peers in the class at school.
NPR - National Percentile Ranking
The NPR ranks students against their peers. The analysis demonstrates a how a student would rank within 100 randomly selected peers from the weakest (1st percentile) to the strongest (99th percentile).
ST - Stanine or STAndard NINE
This is a method of scaling scores on a nine-point standard scale with an average performance of five; and 9 being the highest
Two averages are included, one overall Average and one excluding the Verbal Reasoning (VR) score. This is because the VR score will be affected when English is a second language for the candidate. An independent assessment of English language skills is provided below.
What are Stanines?
The STAndard Nine (CТ-9),is a method of measuring the distribution of scores and placing students into brackets based on their scores. The Stanine scores allow you to quickly understand where students fit compared to their peers and see how far above or below average the student is.
Current English level
The test also comprises a Cambridge English Placement test which gives students a CEFR level. The Common European Framework of Reference for Languages is an international standard for describing language ability with 6 levels: A1, A2, B1, B2, C1 and C2. A1 is a beginner and C2 is complete mastery of the language.
The UKiset tests listening and reading and gives an average score. It also gives a handy scale to compare the results with an IELTS score, another common English exam - used primarily for University entrance exams. For UKiset the ranking stops at 180+ points and C1 or above is the highest level that can be attained.
Information for Schools
The report includes summary information about the year of prospective entry, the current school and the web address of the current school.
Personality and Character
When the parent or agent registers with UKiset they will be required to rank the student’s attributes from 1-10. For example, an extremely athletic might score 10 for the character rating of sporty.
The School Report
We have already discussed in detail the elements which make up the UKiset report which is sent to parents and agents. However, there is another report which is sent only to schools. It is important to understand how it is different from the standard report as it gives a better picture of what schools are looking for. It is also worth noting that this version is next to impossible for agents or families to get hold of, it is only sent to schools.
How it is different?
The UKiset school report differs from the standard UKiset report in two ways. One; it includes more detailed information about the student’s performance in relation to Independent School students. The school version actually includes more Stanine rankings which aren’t included in the standard version as well as an exact percentile ranking.
Below is a table based on the School’s version. We can see that the student scored the 99th percentile and 9th Stanine for Mathematics. In reality, against the Independent school standardisation he scored in the 96th percentile and 8th Stanine.
This may seem insignificant, and at the higher end it shouldn’t make much difference but in other areas it makes a huge difference. For Vocabulary, the student scored in the 74th percentile and 6th Stanine on the standard report. In the school’s report for vocabulary this student scored in the 34th percentile and 4th stanine, which is a significant change.
When assessing the student’s standard report, extra care should be given to the comparison between the ISS and the Independent School Average. This is what schools are looking at and strong candidates will need to weigh up against the privately educated British peers.
GCSE Indicator tables
Another key feature of the School report of the UKiset is the GCSE indicator tables. Schools are sent a graph which shows the likelihood of achieving certain grades at GCSEs. It is unlikely that this is an exact science but schools will favour children who show a high likelihood of achieving A or A*s.
Finally, schools are sent a raw (unmarked version) of the personal essay part of the UKiset. The school’s use these essays as another measure of a student’s English level and their creativity.
The essay titles change frequently. An example a student of ours had recently was: “What is your favourite time of the year and why is it your favourite?”.
It is important for the student to demonstrate a high level of fluency, appropriate and expressive vocabulary as well as a clear grammatical structure.
How to prepare for the UKiset?
The best way to prepare for the UKiset is with an experienced tutor who is familiar with the structure and format of the exam. It is important to make sure the tutor has experience preparing for this exam, ask questions about previous students and if possible ask for references from students/parents from students whom they have prepared.
The amount of tuition required will depend on the level of the student already, a good starting place is twice per week for 1.5 hours for English and once per week for 1.5 hours for Maths. In our experience Russian students are highly capable mathematicians and as Maths is effectively universal more focus needs to be allocated to English.
If you don’t want to use a tutor there are plenty of online resources available to help prepare for the exam especially becoming familiar with the online format.
Atom Learning is a fantastic online learning platform designed specifically to prepare students for entrance to senior schools.
For Mock UKiset tests, there is no better place than Pre-test Plus, they have many different versions of pre-tests used by UK independent schools in the computerised format and are a great way for students to get to grips with computer tests.
Finally, Bond Online are a market leader in 11 plus materials for selective schools, their online programmes are helpful and they will help your children learn important skills needed for UKiset.
N:B We are not affiliated with any of these companies in any way.
Do I have to take more tests after the UKiset?
It depends on which schools you apply for, but the answer is most likely yes. The UKiset is used by over 180 independent schools to assess the ability of prospective students usually at the point of application.
The very best schools in the U.K which use the UKiset such as Eton College will require further testing after completing the UKiset, the UKiset is one of the very first steps and further preparations will need to be made to prepare for the more difficult school’s entrance exams.