ISEB Common Entrance science Exam


Common Entrance Science is divided into biology, chemistry and physics. The following topics make up the biology: cells and organisation, nutrition and digestion, gas exchange systems, reproduction in animals, reproduction in plants, health, material cycles and energy, cellular respiration, relationships in an ecosystem, variation, classification and inheritance. Chemistry: the particulate nature of matter, atoms, elements and compounds, pure and impure substances (physical changes), chemical reactions. Physics: energy resources, changes in systems, conservation of energy, describing motion, force and rotation, force and pressure, density, sound waves, hearing, light waves, circuits, magnetism, electromagnets, space Physics. There are three assessment objectives, which are specified for students. Please find our full breakdown of CE Science, as well as the requisite assessment details and objectives below.


  1. Cells and organisation: cells are the fundamental unit of living organisms, similarities and differences between plant and animal cells, role of diffusion in plant and animal cells, structural adaptations of unicellular organisms.
  2. Nutrition and digestion: content of a healthy human diet, consequences of imbalance in diet, food as a fuel during respiration.
  3. Gas exchange systems: structure and function of the gas exchange system, the mechanism of breathing, impact of exercise, impact of smoking and asthma.
  4. Reproduction in animals: structure and function of male and female reproductive systems.
  5. Reproduction in plants: flower structure, seed dispersal, pollination, fertilisation, fruit formation.
  6. Health: effects of recreational drugs, viruses.
  7. Photosynthesis: word summary of photosynthesis process, dependence of almost all life on Earth on the ability of photosynthetic organisms, the adaptation of leaves for photosynthesis, the role of stomata in gas exchange, the role of root hairs in absorbing water and minerals.
  8. Cellular respiration: aerobic respiration, word equation for aerobic respiration, differences between aerobic and anaerobic respiration, the reactants and products of respiration.
  9. Relationships in an ecosystem: the interdependence of organisms in an ecosystem, the importance of sustainable development, how predation and competition for resources affect the size of populations.
  10. Variation, classification and inheritance: the variation between individuals within a species being continuous or discontinuous, that differences exist between species, the classification of living things into the major taxonomic groups


  1. The particulate nature of matter: properties of the different states of matter (solid, liquid and gas), gas pressure and diffusion, Brownian Motion, changes of state.
  2. Atoms elements and compounds: the simple (Dalton) atomic model, chemical symbols and formulae for elements and compounds, the differences between atoms, elements and compounds, how elements vary widely in their physical properties.
  3. Pure and impure substances (physical changes): the concept of a pure substance, the identification of pure substances, relating changes of state to energy transfers, conservation of mass for physical changes, mixtures (including dissolving), the composition of the atmosphere, simple techniques for separating mixtures such as filtration, evaporation, distillation and chromatography, the variation of solubility with temperature, the formation of saturated solutions, the differences in solubility of solutes in different solvents.
  4. Chemical reactions: conservation of mass in chemical reactions, combustion reactions, the productions of carbon dioxide by human activity and the impact on climate, thermal decomposition reactions, oxidation and displacement reactions, the order of metals and carbon in the reactivity series, the use of carbon in obtaining metals from metal oxides, the definition of acids and alkalis in terms of neutralisation, reactions of acids with metals, reactions of acids with alkalis, the pH scale for measuring acidity/ alkalinity, the chemical properties of metal and non-metal oxides with respect to acidity, the effect of acidity on the environment.


  1. Energy resources: the distinction between renewable and non-renewable energies, the Sun as the ultimate source of most of the Earth’s energy resources, electricity is generated using a variety of energy resources.
  2. Changes in systems: energy as a quantity that can be quantified and calculated, ways in which energy can be usefully transferred and stored.
  3. Conservation of energy: total energy has the same value before and after a change, although energy is always conserved, it may be dissipated, reducing its availability as a resource.
  4. Describing motion: scientific units, determining speed, the quantitative relationship between speed distance and time, relative motion, forces as pushes or pulls, measuring in Newtons, forces causing objects to stop or start moving, using force arrows in diagrams, adding forces in one dimension, balanced and unbalanced forces, opposing forces and equilibrium, Hooke’s law, rubbing and friction between surfaces, pushing things out of the way, resistance to motion of air and water.
  5. Force and rotation: forces can cause objects to turn about a pivot, simple machines give bigger force but at the expense of smaller movement, moment as the turning effect of a force, the principle of moments and its application to situations involving one pivot.
  6. Force and pressure: measuring pressure by ratio of force over area, the quantitative relationship between force, area and pressure and its application.
  7. Density: density and its measurement.
  8. Waves: sound needs a medium to travel, the speed of sound in air, water, solids, echoes, reflection and absorption of sound, vibrations in objects producing sound, relationship between the loudness of a sound and the amplitude of the vibration causing it.
  9. Hearing: sound causes the eardrum to vibrate, the auditory range of humans and animals, some effects of loud sounds on the ear, the relationship between the pitch of a sound and the frequency of the vibration causing it.
  10. Light waves: light travels in a straight line at a finite speed in a uniform medium, light can travel through a vacuum but sound cannot, light travels much faster than sound, non-luminous objects are seen because light scattered from them enters the eye, how light is reflected at plane surfaces, the use of a ray model in mirrors, how light is refracted, the transmission of light through materials, light dispersal.
  11. Electricity and electromagnetism: designing and constructing series and parallel circuits, how to measure current in amperes, current in circuits, differences in resistance between conducting and insulating components, energy transferral from batteries to other components in electrical circuits.
  12. Magnetism: magnetic fields as regions of space where magnetic materials experience forces, magnetic fields by plotting with a compass, Earth’s magnetism.
  13. Electromagnets: currents in coils, magnetic field patterns, construction of electromagnets.
  14. Space Physics: movement of the earth, seasons, the earth’s tilt, day length at different times of the year, the relative positions of the earth, sun and planets in the solar system, the light year as a unit of astronomical distance, gravity forces acting on earth, movement of planets around the sun, stars as light sources.

Assessment details

Assessment of the 13+ syllabus can occur at two levels: Level 1 and Level 2. The syllabus is common for both levels, but Level 1 Candidates will be given more explanatory text and, where calculations are required, formulae and units will be given. It is envisaged that candidates who are expected to achieve less than an average of 35% on the three Level 2 papers should consider using the Level 1 paper.

Assessment details level 1 (80 marks. 60 minutes)
There will be one paper with approximately equal numbers of questions based on 13+ biology, chemistry and physics syllabuses. Preliminary knowledge from the 11+ syllabus will be assumed (legacy, 2010, syllabus until autumn 2019). The paper will consist of a mixture of closed items, e.g. multiple-choice, matching pairs, completing sentences and some open questions. Open questions will have several parts, some of which will require answers of one or two sentences. These parts will carry a maximum of three marks. At least 25% of the paper will be testing Working Scientifically. For quantitative questions which require the use of formulae, equations will be provided. Rearrangement of equations will not be required. There will be no choice of questions. The use of calculators and protractors will be allowed in the examination.

Assessment details level 2 (40 minutes per paper. 60 marks per paper)
There will be three papers, one in each of biology, chemistry and physics, and preliminary knowledge from the 11+ syllabus will be assumed (legacy, 2010, syllabus until autumn 2019). Some of the questions may be closed, although most will be open with several parts requiring candidates to answer in sentences. These parts will carry a maximum of 4 marks. In addition, 1 mark may be given for an acceptable standard of spelling, punctuation and grammar in one part of the paper. The maximum number of marks per question will be 12. At least 25% of the paper will be testing Working Scientifically. There will be no choice of questions. The use of calculators and protractors will be allowed in the examination.

Assessment Objectives

  • AO1 remembering and understanding
  • AO2 applying and analysing
  • AO3 evaluating and creating