Skip to main content

The Northern Ireland transfer test: Common Entrance Assessment (CEA)

Northern Ireland secondary transfer test guide for parents
Since the 11+ was discontinued in 2008, pupils in Northern Ireland have taken a transfer test for grammar school entry. We explain what's involved in the Post Primary Transfer Consortium test and the Common Entrance Assessment (CEA).

Schools Entrance Assessment Group (SEAG) will administer transfer tests in Northern Ireland from September 2023 and the tests will be produced by GL assessment organisation. There will be two assessment papers, one will be sat on 11 November 2023 and the other on 25 November 2023. Both test papers will have English and maths questions and will have the option to assessed on Irish rather than English. 

Which schools require an 11+ pass?

In 2008, 11+ exams were abolished in Northern Ireland in an attempt to make the education system more equal. However, many of the grammar schools in the country quickly responded by producing their own entrance exams, or transfer tests, to avoid becoming mixed-ability comprehensives.

The schools then began to collaborate with each other on testing arrangements, and there were two consortia of schools in Northern Ireland – the Association for Quality Education (AQE) and the Post Primary Transfer Consortium (PPTC) – which both use an entrance assessment as part of their selection criteria.

However, from September 2023 GL assessment will be used and will be administered by Schools Entrance Assessment Group (SEAG). 

59 schools have signed up to this test. It is unknown at time of publication if the others will also sign up. You can find a list of member schools on the SEAG website. 

What does the SEAG test involve?

Stephen McConkey, experienced teacher, owner and author of the Transfer Test Learning Together titles explains what's involved in the new SEAG tests...

The SEAG Transfer Test will consist of two papers to be taken in or around November each year. Each paper will test English (or Gaeilge) and Mathematics. Both papers will have an identical format consisting of the following three sections:

Section 1: Practice test section. Five English (or Gaeilge questions) followed by five maths questions. These are designed to help pupils relax and understand the format before the main test begins. This is not assessed.

Section 2: The English (or Gaeilge) main test. This will have a total of 28 questions (Q1-Q28).

There will be a punctuation exercise with five multiple-choice questions, and a grammar exercise with five multiple-choice questions. There will also be a spelling exercise with five multiple-choice questions (Q1-Q15).

This is followed by an English comprehension – pupils must read a passage and then answer 13 questions; seven of these are multiple-choice (Q16-Q22).

The final six questions (Q23-Q28) are described as 'free response'. Pupil's will write the answer for each question in the space provided on the answer sheet.

Section 3: the Maths main test. This has a similar format to the English section.

This section will also have 28 questions (Q29-Q56).

The first 22 Maths questions (Q29-Q50) are multiple-choice questions. The final six Maths questions (Q51-Q56) are again described as 'free response'.

For all multiple-choice questions in the English and maths section, there are five possible answers.

What version of the test is used?

From September 2023 only GL assessment will be used and will be administered by Schools Entrance Assessment Group (SEAG)

How do you arrange for your child to take the test?

SEAG tests will replace AQE and PPTC so you only need to apply to one testing organisation.

Registration is likely to be open between early May and mid-September.

Parents can register their child to take the Transfer Test by using the SEAG website. The Transfer Test takes place in one of the SEAG Assessment Centres usually at a member grammar school.

Only pupils who are registered can sit the Transfer Test. There is a fee of £20 to sit the test. The test is free if your child receives free school meals.

Where are the tests held?

Exams will take place in one of the SEAG schools that use academic selection. During the registration process, you have the opportunity to indicate the Assessment Centres which are the most convenient for you.

When are test results released?

Each pupil will receive a total Standardised Age Score (SAS), a Band and his/her actual SAS scores for English (or Gaeilge) and Mathematics. 

The exact date when SEAG results will be reported will vary year on year but will likely be in the January following on from the test date.

How can I help prepare my child?

Practice papers are free and can be found on the SEAG website.

Transfer Test Papers and On Target Resources sell printed and downloadable mock tests and preparation booklets for both the Transfer Tests.

The information we provide about individual schools is accurate at the time of publication, but please note that admissions arrangements for Year 7 entry change regularly and it is essential to check for up-to-date advice on schools' own websites.

Give your child a headstart

Give your child a headstart

  • FREE articles & expert information
  • FREE resources & activities
  • FREE homework help
By proceeding you agree to our terms and conditions. For information on how we use your data, see our privacy policy. You will receive emails from us but can opt out at any time.