Northern Ireland

Transfer tests: Thousands of Northern Ireland children receive results

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Media captionAbout 14,500 transfer test results were delivered to P7 pupils on Saturday

Thousands of children in Northern Ireland have received the results of their post-primary school entrance exams.

Most grammar schools have been using unregulated tests to select pupils since 2008, when the 11-plus exam was scrapped by the Department of Education.

The numbers of entrants taking the transfer tests rose again in 2015/16.

Results of both tests are sent to pupils by post on the same day.

There are two testing systems - GL Assessment exams are mostly used by Catholic schools, while AQE exams are mostly used by controlled schools.

There have been attempts to create a single, unofficial exam, and more talks towards that end are expected to take place this year.

However, efforts to find a common transfer test have so far failed.


Currently, children aged 10 and 11 in Primary Seven can opt to sit either exam, both GL and AQE tests or none.

Image caption The 2015/2016 academic year is the seventh year the unregulated tests have been run

A number of grammar schools in the Catholic sector have announced that they will no longer decide their intake by academic selection in recent years.

Earlier this month, Omagh Christian Brothers' School and Loreto Grammar, Omagh, became the latest to abandon selection.

Northern Ireland Transfer Test


Total number of entrants to both GL and AQE examinations

  • 7,772 pupils sat the AQE exam

  • 6,803 pupils sat the GL Assessment

However, the 2015/2016 academic year is the seventh year the unregulated tests have been run and the number of children taking them has increased.

There were a total of 14,575 entrants to the tests this year, although some children will have sat both tests.

A total of 7,772 pupils sat this year's AQE exam - the exam body's highest number of entrants since the unofficial tests began - and an increase from 7290 in 2014/15.

The number sitting this year's GL Assessment decreased from 7061 in 2014/15 to 6803, but this was due to Ballymena Academy switching from GL to the AQE exam.

Pupils take AQE tests on three separate Saturdays, while they take GL tests in English and Maths on the same day.

Image caption The numbers of entrants taking the transfer tests rose again in 2015/16

Both GL and AQE take the age of candidates into account when providing a mark.

Education Minister John O'Dowd wished pupils transferring to post-primary school well, but said he did not approve of the tests.

"My view remains that it is unacceptable that a minority of schools force thousands of young people to sit unregulated transfer tests," he said.

"Gone are the days when a test set at 11 sets the course of a child's educational pathway and indeed their career."

"It is time for the schools who use academic selection to end this unnecessary use of entrance tests."

Although pupils will receive their test mark on Saturday, they will not know which post-primary school they will transfer to until May or June.

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