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The new Sutton S.E.T. - What's changed?

The Sutton S.E.T. is one of the most competitive entrance exams in the country, serving as all or part of the entrance evaluation for Nonsuch School, Sutton Grammar, Wallington Boys, Wallington Girls and Wilson's. Countless book shops, tutors and websites are armed with a seemingly endless collection of guides, commentary and question tips. However, in 2021 the exam changed its format for the first time in nearly two decades, leaving a treasure trail of out-of-date material and many people unsure as to the best way to prepare for the test.

So, to take the sting out of the experience, here's a quick, simple guide to help you navigate the changes in the Sutton S.E.T. entrance test.

1. Only one paper has changed

There are four papers in the Sutton S.E.T.:

  1. 1st Stage Maths - multiple choice

  2. 1st Stage English - multiple choice

  3. 2nd Stage Maths - open answer (NWSSEE)

  4. 2nd Stage English - open answer (NWSSEE)

Only the 1st Stage English paper has any significant changes, as of 2021. Although the content of the other papers does, of course, change year by year, the format of that papers does not. The multiple choice stage papers are a gateway to the final round of tests and it is essential that you prepare for the question types your child will face in the new English paper.

2. The new format is - in some ways - actually easier to prepare for

Pre 2021 the S.E.T. English multiple choice paper covered a huge syllabus of possible questions including sentence structure, spelling, comprehension, word classes, grammar, literary devices and more. The new paper focuses exclusively on comprehension and spelling.

Here's the basic structure:

  • Section A is a short collection of multiple choice spelling questions, in which you select the answer with the correct spelling.


A. Sarcasam

B. Sarcasm

C. Saracasam

D. Saracasm

E. Sarucasm

  • Section B is a multiple choice comprehension section which can include different types of multiple choice answer

Select ONE Answer

Select TWO answers

Select up to FOUR answers

Select ALL that are correct

It's really important that your child familiarises with these different question types and practices reading each question twice, to make sure they answer in the correct format.

  • Section C is very similar to Section B, but with fewer questions and usually using a text from a different literary genre. As with Section B the question types vary across ONE, TWO, FOUR and ANY.

  • Section D uses the same variety of multiple choice questions, but compares the texts in Section B and Section C.


Which of the below is correct? Select ONE answer

A. Only Text 2 contains onomatopoeia

B. Only Text 1 contains onomatopoeia

C. Both passages contain onomatopoeia

D. There are no onomatopoeia in either passage

E. Both passages contain onomatopoeia, but Text 1 has more

3. Be careful what you buy

Although there aren't many sites that provide SET mock papers, some are better than others. Whether you get your papers here or somewhere else, make sure they are updated to the new 2021 standards.

4. Beware the Tiffin Trap!

Many parents choose to apply for both the S.E.T. schools and the appropriate Tiffin school. This makes perfect sense as for many they are in equal proximity.

For many years the difference between the entrance exams for the S.E.T. schools and the Tiffin schools has been so negligible, that one set of mock papers would help you prepare for both. This is no longer the case! The Tiffin English Stage 1 remains unchanged and broadly follows the old S.E.T. format. So, make sure that if you are going down the Tiffin route, you make time to revise the right materials for each school.

That's about all you need to know.

To find out more about our S.E.T. papers, click here, and for Tiffin, look here.


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