ISEB Common Entrance maths Exam


13+ Common Entrance Maths is divided into 3 levels, with each level divided into number, algebra, ratio, proportion and rates of change, geometry and measures, probability and statistics. The levels get progressively harder, with 1 being the easiest and 3 being the hardest. Most candidates will be entered for the level 2 paper.


1. Understand and use place value for decimals, measures and integers of any size.

2. Order positive and negative integers, decimals and fractions; use the number line as a model for ordering of the real numbers; use the symbols =, ≠, <, >, ≤, ≥.

3. Use the concepts and vocabulary of prime numbers, factors (or divisors), multiples, common factors, common multiples, highest common factor, lowest common multiple, prime factorisation, including using product notation and the unique factorisation property.

4. Use the 4 operations, including formal written methods, applied to integers, decimals, proper and improper fractions, and mixed numbers, all both positive and negative.

5. Use conventional notation for the priority of operations, including brackets, powers, roots and reciprocals.

6. Recognise and use relationships between operations including inverse operations.

7. Use integer powers and associated real roots (square, cube and higher), recognise powers of 2, 3, 4, 5 and distinguish between exact representations of roots and their decimal approximations.

8. Interpret and compare numbers in standard form.

9. Work interchangeably with terminating decimals and their corresponding fractions.

10. Define percentage as ‘number of parts per hundred’, interpret percentages and percentage changes as a fraction or a decimal, interpret these multiplicatively, express 1 quantity as a percentage of another, compare 2 quantities using percentages, and work with percentages greater than 100%.

11. Interpret fractions and percentages as operators.

12. Use standard units of mass, length, time, money and other measures, including with decimal quantities.

13. Round numbers and measures to an appropriate degree of accuracy [for example, to a number of decimal places or significant figures].

14. Use approximation through rounding to estimate answers and calculate possible resulting errors expressed using inequality notation.

15. Use a calculator and other technologies to calculate results accurately and then interpret them appropriately.


1. Use and interpret algebraic notation.

2. Substitute numerical values into formulae and expressions, including scientific formulae.

 3. Understand and use the concepts and vocabulary of expressions, equations, inequalities, terms and factors.

 4. Simplify and manipulate algebraic expressions to maintain equivalence.

5. Understand and use standard mathematical formulae; rearrange formulae to change the subject.

6. Model situations or procedures by translating them into algebraic expressions or formulae and by using graphs.

7. use algebraic methods to solve linear equations in 1 variable (including all forms which require rearrangement).

 8. Use algebraic methods to solve linear equations in 2 variables (including all forms which require rearrangement).

9. Work with coordinates in all 4 quadrants.

10. Recognise, sketch and produce graphs of linear and quadratic functions of 1 variable with appropriate scaling, using equations in x and y and the Cartesian plane.

11. Interpret mathematical relationships both algebraically and graphically.

12. Reduce a given linear equation in two variables to the standard form y = mx + c; calculate and interpret gradients and intercepts of graphs of such linear equations numerically, graphically and algebraically.

13. Use linear and quadratic graphs to estimate values of y for given values of x and vice versa and to find approximate solutions of simultaneous linear equations.

14. Find approximate solutions to contextual problems from given graphs of a variety of functions, including piece-wise linear, exponential and reciprocal graphs.

15. Generate terms of a sequence either from a term-to-term or a position-to-term rule.

16. Recognise arithmetic sequences and find the nth term.

17. Recognise geometric sequences and appreciate other sequences which arise.

18. Solving simple linear inequalities (Level 3).

19. Solving simple quadratic equations (Level 3).

Ratio, proportion and rates of change

1. Change freely between related standard units.

2. Use scale factors, scale diagrams and maps.

3. Express 1 quantity as a fraction of another, where the fraction is less than 1 and greater than 1.

4. Use ratio notation, including reduction to simplest form.

5. Divide a given quantity into 2 parts in a given part:part or part:whole ratio; express the division of a quantity into 2 parts as a ratio.

6. Understand that a multiplicative relationship between 2 quantities can be expressed as a ratio or a fraction.

7. Relate the language of ratios and the associated calculations to the arithmetic of fractions and to linear functions.

8. Solve problems involving percentage change, including: percentage increase, decrease and original value problems and simple interest in financial mathematics.

9. Solve problems involving direct and inverse proportion, including graphical representations.

10. Use compound units such as speed, unit pricing and density to solve problems.

Geometry and measures

1. Derive and apply formulae to calculate and solve problems involving: perimeter and area of triangles, parallelograms, trapezia, volume of cuboids (including cubes) and other prisms (including cylinders)

2. Calculate and solve problems involving: perimeters of 2-D shapes (including circles), areas of circles and composite shapes.

3.  Draw and measure line segments and angles in geometric figures, including interpreting scale drawings.

4.  Derive and use the standard ruler and compass constructions (perpendicular bisector of a line segment, constructing a perpendicular to a given line from/at a given point, bisecting a given angle); recognise and use the perpendicular distance from a point to a line as the shortest distance to the line.

5. Describe, sketch and draw, using conventional terms and notations: points, lines, parallel lines, perpendicular lines, right angles, regular polygons, and other polygons which are reflectively and rotationally symmetric.

6.  Use the standard conventions for labelling the sides and angles of triangle ABC, and know and use the criteria for congruence of triangles.

7. Derive and illustrate properties of triangles, quadrilaterals, circles, and other plane figures [for example, equal lengths and angles] using appropriate language and technologies.

8. Identify properties of, and describe the results of, translations, rotations and reflections applied to given figures.

9. Identify and construct congruent triangles, and construct similar shapes by enlargement, with and without coordinate grids.

10. Apply the properties of angles at a point, angles at a point on a straight line, vertically opposite angles.

11. Understand and use the relationship between parallel lines and alternate and corresponding angles.

12.  Derive and use the sum of angles in a triangle and use it to deduce the angle sum in any polygon, and to derive properties of regular polygons.

 13.  Apply angle facts, triangle congruence, similarity and properties of quadrilaterals to derive results about angles and sides, including Pythagoras’ Theorem, and use known results to obtain simple proofs.

 14. Use Pythagoras’ Theorem and trigonometric ratios in similar triangles to solve problems involving right-angled triangles.

 15. Use the properties of faces, surfaces, edges and vertices of cubes, cuboids, prisms, cylinders, pyramids, cones and spheres to solve problems in 3-D.

 16. Interpret mathematical relationships both algebraically and geometrically.


1. Record, describe and analyse the frequency of outcomes of simple probability experiments involving randomness, fairness, equally and unequally likely outcomes, using appropriate language and the 0-1 probability scale.

2. Understand that the probabilities of all possible outcomes sum to 1.

3.  Enumerate sets and unions/intersections of sets systematically, using tables, grids and Venn diagrams.

4.  Generate theoretical sample spaces for single and combined events with equally likely, mutually exclusive outcomes and use these to calculate theoretical probabilities.


1. Describe, interpret and compare observed distributions of a single variable through: appropriate graphical representation involving discrete, continuous and grouped data; appropriate measures of central tendency (mean, mode, median) and spread (range, consideration of outliers).

2. Construct and interpret appropriate tables, charts, and diagrams, including frequency tables, bar charts, pie charts, and pictograms for categorical data, and vertical line (or bar) charts for ungrouped and grouped numerical data.

3.  Describe simple mathematical relationships between 2 variables (bivariate data) in observational and experimental contexts and illustrate using scatter graphs.

Assessment details

Assessment of the 13+ syllabus can occur at three levels: Level 1, 2 and 3. The specific topics and learning objective will be the same for all levels, but level 2 will go deeper into each than level 1, with level 3 will go deeper still.

Calculator Paper (100 marks. 60 minutes)

The calculator paper will start with some rounding to a certain number of significant figures and decimals. Throughout Use of the calculator will also be tested early on which should be easier now with the new types of calculators. For algebra, substitution questions are likely, as well as expanding and factorising brackets.

Non-Calculator Paper (100 marks. 60 minutes)
The non-calculator paper will start with questions that require written calculations for addition, subtraction, multiplication and division with decimals. A good grasp of fractions, decimals and percentages and how to calculate these is essential. For algebra, you are expected to be able to solve equations including equations with unknowns on both sides.

Mental Arithmetic Paper (20 marks. 20 minutes)
Instructions and test questions are played back on a CD or digitally. There are twenty questions, each question will be read out twice then a pause for the student to write down the answer. You will be given five seconds to answer each of the first 6 questions, ten seconds for questions 7 to 13, and twenty seconds for questions 14 to 20.

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