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Tiffin vs the Sutton SET, and why they're not the same

Because of their relatively close proximity between Kingston and the Sutton area, many families every year plan applications to both a Tiffin school and the relevant Sutton SET schools (Nonsuch, Wallington Girls, Wallington County, Sutton Grammar and Wilson's).

For these families in particular, it is worth understand what is the same and what is different, about the entrance exams at these schools.

Let's take a look.

What's the same?

Quite a lot.

  • Both sets of schools asses only English and Maths (no Verbal Reasoning or Non Verbal Reasoning)

  • The content is built from KS2 national curriculum up to end of of year 6 (despite being sat at the beginning of the year)

  • In all cases there are two exam stages:

    • Stage 1 is always multiple choice and is computer marked

    • Stage 2 is always standard answer (aka not multiple choice) and includes writing tasks

  • The exams are held broadly speaking over September and October

It's easy to fall into the trap of treating both tests as one, when preparing. It is true that the content (i.e. Key Stage 2) is all drawn from the same place (the national curriculum), but the structure of the exams has some key differences that are important to prepare for.

As is often the case, the devil is in the detail...

What's different?

Enough that it matters.

The three most apparent differences between these exams are the Tiffin answer sheet, the Stage 1 English tests and the Sutton Stage 2 girls' English test.

The Tiffin answer sheet

This is really important for anyone applying to the Tiffin School or Tiffin Girls' School.

The Stage 1 tests are multiple choice, just like the Sutton SET tests. However, the answer sheet - particularly for Maths - is extremely unusual.

An ordinary 11 Plus answer sheet involves selecting the correct answer from a multiple choice answer sheet. The designs vary, but it tends to look something like the images below.

This means that every answer has a 1 in 5 chance of being correct. Not so with Tiffin.

In the Tiffin Schools, the answer sheet includes a mix of multiple choice answers and data entry points (about 50/50). Even the multiple choice questions are different, as rather than following the traditional format of ABCDE, Tiffin answers include LMNOP, FGHJK and QRSTU.

But the real difference is the data entry questions.

In a traditional multiple choice exam, the answer 12345 would be logged like this:


Q4. What is 1230 + 4?

a. 1233

b. 1243

c. 1234

d. 1235

e. 1233


In a Tiffin exam the answer would look like this:


Q4. What is 1230 + 4?


It is really important that pupils are ready for the difference in this answer sheet format, so that it does not throw them off on the day. All our Tiffin papers include this feature (that's actually one of our answer sheets above).

Up next...

The Stage 1 English Test This time it is the Sutton SET that is being different.

In the case of the Sutton SET the (Stage 1) English test follows a very particular 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


The Stage 2 girls' English test

For boys, don't worry about this bit as the format of the Stage 2 exam at Tiffin and the Sutton boys' schools is so similar, that you can prepare for them together (we actually sell combined papers for them).

For girls, the Stage 2 English exam is extremely particular and careful preparation can make all the difference.

In previous years the Stage 2 English exam was a mix of comprehension and writing. However, because there is so much comprehension in Stage 1 (since the updates in 2022), Stage 2 has been entirely reshaped around the National Curriculum Writing Triplets.

Writing Triplets is a very specific writing style following the rule of three.

The Sutton SET considers FOUR different writing triplets:

· Analyse, Review and Comment

· Inform, Explain and Describe

· Argue, Persuade and Advise

· Explore, Imagine and Entertain

Each of these triplets covers a different type literary type and each requires a specific structure of answer. For example, there are key differences between how you write when you argue and when you persuade, and your answer needs to reflect both.

Our Sutton SET page has 20 exam papers dedicated to Writing Triplets, specifically designed for the Sutton SET second stage. Each set includes a guide to Writing Triplets and a specific guide on how to write a successful answer for each of the four triplet types.


So, in summary, the Tiffin and Sutton tests share many similarities. However, there are enough differences in their format that it is really important to make sure you are prepared.


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