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Understanding the St Olave's SET

Not many entrance exams cover all four assessment subjects, fewer still in one exam.

We take a look at St Olave's Selective Eligibility Test (SET) and it's four sections:

English Comprehension


Verbal Reasoning

Non Verbal Reasoning

1.The exam format

The SET is an entirely multiple choice entrance exam. It lasts exactly 1 hour and is broken into 4 sections. Answers are collected on a separate answer sheet which is computer marked, so it is crucial that answers are logged on the answer sheet in the correct way. Circling answers on the question sheet does not score any points, nor does showing your working. You've either logged the answers correctly on the answer sheet, or you haven't.

It sounds simple, but there have been more than a few tears over the year and it's important to drum this simple concept in early on.

2. Timing

This will likely develop into a personal preference over time, as you practise. However, to begin with, a good rule of thumb is to simply split the time in 4 and allow 15 minutes for each section. Some will fly through Maths but spend extra time checking their English, some may only need 5 or 6 minutes to complete the Non verbal reasoning; whilst others may need 20. Every variation exists, take your time (pun intended) and work out where you can get some minutes back to use in other sections of the exam.

3. Section A: English

There is an important twist to the St Olave's English section. At face value this is a fairly standard English comprehension test with a core text and multiple choice questions. However, the St Olave's SET has a tendency to focus on the grammar, literary devices, word types and sentence structure far more than what is happening in the text. This really is quite unusual and out of sorts with most 11 plus / entrance exam comprehension questions.

4. Section B: Mathematics

The Mathematics section in St Olave's is a fairly standard KS2 multiple choice 11 Plus test, with the small addition that the exam tends to end with a visual numerical reasoning question. We include one in every test to get used to it, but in truth this part of the exam is on par with most other entrance tests. Like all 11 Plus tests, it can be very challenging, but it is line with other schools.

5. Verbal Reasoning

The Verbal reasoning section of the St Olave's test is extremely particular in its structure. Verbal reasoning is a huge library of potential questions and a wide range of test preparation exists on the market. However, most of the questions in the St Olave's VR will fall into the one of the following categories (and in more or less this order):

  • Rearranging sentences

  • Homophones

  • Anagrams

  • Missing letters

  • Hidden words

  • Partial words

  • Odd one out

  • Code breaking

  • Word questions

6. Non-Verbal Reasoning

Non verbal reasoning questions come in all shapes and sizes and in many ways, any practise is good practise. The challenge is often learning and honing a method of thinking and problem solving, more than memorising a particular question type.

The NVR section in the SET contains 15 questions, most of which are found in standard text books and preparation material. The question types that stand out as less frequent in other exams are:

  • Interlocking shapes

  • Reflected shapes

  • Rotating cubes

  • Folded images

  • And peculiarly (as we would usually find this in Verbal reasoning): Magic alphabet


You can find all our mock exams for St Olave's SET entrance exam below, or more information at our dedicated page: here


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