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American School in London

(49 Posts)
Tupacca Sun 17-Sep-17 16:40:37

My DS is in Year 7 (6th grade) of a UK school that goes up to age 13. I would like to get him into the American School in London at age 13. Can anyone advise me how I might best prepare him to give him the best chance of getting a place? I see they need either SAT or ISEE results. I contacted a couple of tutoring companies that say they specialise in getting kids prepped for these two tests. They advised trying for the ISEE rather than SAT. But their tutoring fees are eye watering!! £130 per hour. I only found them by googling. Does anyone have a personal recommendation of a tutor conversant with those tests?? There are differences obvs between UK curriculum and US one so he'll need some help to bridge the gap.
I'd also love to get him to know some kids from the school so he feels enthusiastic about it. He's not keen on change, so it'd be easier if he had been to some ASL events (and liked the place!) or knew a couple of kids. Any ideas welcome. He's at a tiny private school now and his friends will be going off to a whole range of different schools at 13 so it's doubtful he'll be with anyone he knows when he moves on age 13 so I want to make the transition as easy as possible for him. I realise ASL is super tough to get into so any advice regarding turtoing/prep welcome. DS is very academic and bright but will deffo need help to bridge the US/UK differences in maths etc. I went to school in the US and it was about 100% more fun than the UK system. Plus ASL seems amazing!

BizzyFizzy Sun 17-Sep-17 16:45:34

If he's in a 13+ prep school, get them to do the prep. That's what you are paying for.

Also, contact ASL and find out about their admissions for a Common Entrance student. CE students do plenty of VR/NVR work in Y5/6/7 so should be well set for whatever ASL wants.

Are they really as picky as you make out?

Tupacca Sun 17-Sep-17 16:52:31

Well Bizzy I only know from reading back through mumsnet forums of Mums trying to get their kids in there that it is extremely tough. Lots of folks on waiting lists etc. DS' school won't prep for those tests. Hopefully it isn't such a specialised test but I'm just trying to work that out. There are these tutoring companies specialising in prepping UK students to get into us schools but as I say they charge a bomb so I'm trying to hear from anyone with experience what I really need to do to prep him.

Tupacca Sun 17-Sep-17 19:02:12


Tupacca Mon 18-Sep-17 07:21:47

Bumping bump

LondonExpatLife Mon 18-Sep-17 09:34:41

If you want your child to apply to ASL, your child needs to take the ISEE or the SSAT (Secondary School Admissions Test). The SAT (Scholastic Aptitude Test) is a test taken in 11th & 12th grade (year 12/13) to apply to a US university. ASL will not accept Common Entrance test results. Your child will need to take the ISEE or SSAT in order to apply to the school.

Having moved around a few times, my children have had to take the ISEE a few times. If you child is doing well in school, they should do well on the ISEE. Honestly, I don't think it is worth hiring a tutor for the exam. However, you should prep your child for the test.

Start prepping about a year before he or she takes the exam. Complete practice tests. A student will do better if they are familiar with the test set-up and type of questions that are asked. Your child also needs to acquire good test taking skills - know how to manage time and eliminate answers. The test is multiple choice: verbal reasoning, quantitative reasoning, reading comprehension, mathematics achievement, and a writing assessment. There is a computer version and paper version. You may have a choice of which one you want. The writing assessment is not graded; only sent to the schools you are apply to for them to review.

You can buy test prep books online (Amazon) that will review concepts tested. You can also get a free "What To Expect" guide from ERB, the company that creates the ISEE. A lot of this material, especially math, is covered at school. But if you know your child is weak, say on fractions, then review and practice. If you want to score well on the verbal reasoning, have your child read more and use a vocabulary workbook. You are allowed to take the test 3 times per admission period. You may want to take a test before prepping, see the results, and then know what areas your child needs to improve on.

If your child is in the UK system, my feeling is that their writing skills will be good. I find UK writing to be more descriptive than the US. With regards to math, I don't believe there are gaps. My child attended a top UK private school and had no gaps when we moved from the US. The biggest issue was "wording". UK math problems are worded differently than US. Even I struggled understanding some word problems - meaning not understanding what was being asked.

LondonExpatLife Mon 18-Sep-17 09:37:17

With regard to ASL events, I'm not sure they are open to the public due to security.

Tupacca Mon 18-Sep-17 10:03:35

Thanks London ExPat. I found the "What To Expect on the ISEE" booklet online and he's sat and done some of the sample tests this weekend. He's v strong on verbal reasoning and reading comprehension but the Maths wasn't great. His current school is crappy in Maths. So I might want a tutor to boost his maths. I wonder if spots come up much at ASL at 13 plus.
I was hoping there'd be a school Christmas Fair or something. UK schools have them that are open to the public. I just want him to think of it as a nice place, rather than just scary and new.

LondonExpatLife Mon 18-Sep-17 11:31:35

I have children both at ASL and British private school. I believe that ASL is one of London's top schools - otherwise why would I send my children there. However, it is all relative to what you come from. The facilities and resources are great but not better than what we had back home. The math program is lagging compared to our US private school.

A math tutor in general maybe good for your child if his math program at school is lagging your expectations. The material tested on the ISEE are standard concepts. Buy a prep book. You will see what concepts your child should master such as: probability & data analysis, fraction, decimals, percents, some algebra, geometry, measurement (US units). If you do enough practice tests, you will see repeated concepts such as calculate area, perimeter, mean, median, solve for a variable, compare fractions, etc.
Children generally test high in either Verbal/Reading or Quant/Math.
Your son's math score on the practice test you took maybe due to the "American wording" of problems. Believe me, it is a struggle to understand when you are use to different wording (UK vs US).

ASL has an Admissions open house. Check the website. I don't believe school events are open at all to the public because of security measures. Search for ASL youtube videos online which will give you an idea of what the school is like.

Spots always open up in each grade but they are not many. I would guess the new students in each grade are about 15-20%. I don't recall the statistics exactly for this year but each middle school class had about 20-25 new kids (average). I have no idea how many apply to each grade but it must be a lot given the waitlists even with a 29-30K yearly tuition. About 2/3 of the school population has been at ASL for over 3 years. Some of my child's best friends have been at ASL since kindergarten (reception) and will probably be "lifers". Turnover is not as great as many think. Maybe that will change over the next few years given Brexit. This year about 40% of the new students came from the US and 25% from international schools. More than 1/3 of new students already lived in London. Siblings do get priority for open spots over a new family applicant. This reduces the spots open to new families.

You do see a lot more London families apply to ASL for Middle and High School. You will find ASL students who have been educated in the UK system up until Middle / High School. Typically, they make the switch because they want to attend US universities.

One thing I can assure you is that ASL is very welcoming. Students and staff know how difficult an international move can be or starting a new school. There is always someone who remembers what it is like to be the new kid and wants to help out. Administration has an open door policy where you can reach out to them if you have any issues.

Tupacca Mon 18-Sep-17 11:43:30

Thank you so much for taking the time to post such a long, useful post. I will get a tutor. Do you think it needs to be one conversant with the ISEE specifically? I know US maths differs from UK in some respects. I moved schools from US to UK ,but it was a LONG TIME ago.
I'm v impressed with ASL; it's just that my son hates change, so I was trying to think if there was an event we could attend or it'd be handy to know some parents of 6th graders and get the odd playdate going, so he feels more comfortable with the move when the time comes.
I can't remember where I saw them, but I remember reading some practice questions for ISEE or SAT, and they were full of US words no British kid would know. One I recall was "tardy bell" lol. I asked my son, and he didn't know what "chores" meant either, which was also in a question.

LondonExpatLife Mon 18-Sep-17 12:29:12

Happy to share info. Given my past moves, I know how helpful resources / posts like the ones on Mumsnet can be.

I wouldn't hire an ISEE tutor specifically. I don't think it is worth the money and won't gain much more than a regular math tutor. The only thing I think an ISEE tutor will do over a math tutor, is expose your child to the common problems on the ISEE and offer test taking tips . . . short cuts to answering problems. Remember it is a timed test. In order to do well you must finish the test. There are a good amount of books on that you can buy and use. Practice, practice, practice! Some practice books offer worked out solutions to test problems which will allow your son to understand why one answer is correct while the others are wrong. Believe me, my children had all the necessary formulas, mathematical methods needed to answer a problem drilled in their head because of practicing so much.

The biggest struggle between UK and US math is wording. If your son practices enough, I think he will understand the wording over time. My children did when they entered the UK system. Vocabulary will always be an issue until you learn terms. I recall the first time my child told me she were "cross". I had no idea what that meant. Reading UK literature, there are phrases or words we often have to look up to understand.
Rest assure, that ASL, like other schools, takes into consideration the system / school each child comes from. School records will illustrate a child's capability more than the ISEE. ASL does not have interviews. So they base their decisions on the entire application only.

If your son likes sports, consider joining LondonSports ( The group offers baseball and softball in the Spring. A lot of Americans / ASL families attend and volunteer. They are offering flag football (American football / not soccer) at the moment.

Tupacca Tue 19-Sep-17 14:50:53

Thank you so much London Expat. I'll get some practice books and a maths tutor. If the flag football folks don't mind us showing up now their season is already underway, I might bring him along. I'll come to one of the open days at ASL.
I hope there are spaces at 8th grade.

LondonExpatLife Wed 20-Sep-17 09:20:03

My kids have never participated in London Sports Clubs. Our time commitments focus on soccer. However, I have seen the London Sports Club set up for baseball in the spring. If you participate or attend a game, I can assure you that you will encounter lots of Americans and ASL families. Contact the club and see what they say.

There are always opening in each grade (year). The issue is getting one of the few spots that opens up.

The upcoming open houses are:
Thursday, 5 October, 8:45 am
Thursday, 2 November, 6 pm
Tuesday, 21 November, 8:45 am
Wednesday, 6 December, 6 pm [followed by optional financial aid session]
Friday, 27 April, 8:45 am

I think hiring a general math tutor and using ISEE prep books for a year will give the best results / learning outcome.

Tupacca Mon 25-Sep-17 12:37:55

Thanks LondonEXpat. I have signed up to an Open Day. And I'll try to get my son down to Flag Football. Are there second choice American schools in London that are well thought of? Don't want to put all my eggs in one basket, so to speak.

Mary21 Mon 25-Sep-17 13:36:41

There is ACS cobham and Hillingdon,, , Dwight and then there is Halcyon school and Southbank which are international. And ISL

LondonExpatLife Mon 25-Sep-17 13:44:16

In London, I believe the only American School is ASL - meaning it follows an American Curriculum (Common Core Standards). There are a few schools outside of London such as ACS Cobham which follows the American Curriculum or TASIS (Surrey). The US Embassy website lists the schools below as working with the Office of Overseas Schools. These schools may have some link but don't know. Southbank is in London and is an IB School. I am a fan of this educational system. My children's previous schools were IB.

Abercorn Place School (3-13 yrs)

ACS International Schools Cobham (2-18 yrs)

ACS International Schools Hillingdon (4-18 yrs)

American School in London (PK-12)

DLD College London (10-12)

Dwight School London (PK-12)

Halcyon London International School (6-11)

International School of London (3-18yrs)

Marymount International School (6-12)(girls only)

Northbridge House Senior School (PK-12)

Southbank International School (3-18 yrs)

TASIS The American School in England (N-12)

Tupacca Sun 08-Oct-17 15:59:40

Well I went along to an open day. The facilities are amazing.
I was told it's tough to get a place in 7th, 8th or 9th grade :-( I was thinking to try to get him in for 8th grade but was told to try for 7th grade, then if he doesn't get a place, they can bear us in mind for 8th grade. It'll be tricky to get my DS willing to apply to move next year to a school where he knows no-one. He wants to stick with his friends. I am going to try to get him along to those London Sports events, but we are in South London and he's not terribly sporty. He likes art and reading. If you know any South London ASL parents of geeky 6th grade boys, hook me up! I am getting him a Maths tutor starting in a few weeks as that's the weak point at his current school. He's v academic so hopefully the ISEE will be ok.

LondonExpatLife Mon 09-Oct-17 10:29:31

Hi Tupacca,
Yes, the facilities are amazing for London standards. Compared to what my kids had in the US not as much.

I agree that if you apply and do not get in, then reapply your chances of getting a spot increase if you have been waitlisted (meet admission requirements). I have heard of families who had to apply multiple times till they got a spot.

Keep in mind that ASL is a very welcoming community. Your son will easily makes friends. There is always a child who remembers what is like to be the "new kid" and who reaches out.

Besides the math tutor, you need to have your son work on ISEE practice tests or simple, US math worksheets. He needs to get use to the wording. My children struggled a bit with how math problems are worded differently between the US and UK. Keep in mind that the high school ISEE for high school (grade 9-12/ year 10-13 UK) is the Upper Level exam and not the Middle. So it may feel a bit more difficult.

Unfortunately, I don't know any 6th grade boy families.

You say you live in South London. Is the commute feasible? You don't find many families at ASL that live in South London.

Tupacca Mon 09-Oct-17 10:45:44

Thanks London expat. Yes most London schools look quite shabby. I have been round a few US schools, so I've seen some amazing campuses. I know my son will be fine once he's there and given a warm welcome. I just have to think how to overcome his reluctance to even try for a school that none of his friends are going to. Hence the search for a friendly fifth or sixth grader. Lol.
We're not in the Deep South. Apparently it's 25 min journey, so long as the tube's running! Plus I'm toying with the idea of moving back to North London.
Applying for 7th grade doesn't guve me as much time to get him used to the idea and get him ready for the ISEE as i'd like, but it might be feasible.

LondonExpatLife Mon 09-Oct-17 11:28:57

You would need to take the ISEE by January's test date. So this only gives you 3 months to have your son get use to it's format and acquire some test taking skills.

I understand a child's reluctance to start a new school. I've been through it with my children - not only new school but a new country. It is not easy. When they are young they cry a lot about the change. When they are older, they look unhappy and complain. But with time, they adjust and become resilient. Change I believe is good for a young child / adult. It teaches them a lot.

It is typical for students to start at ASL knowing no one. They are assigned a buddy over the summer to answer questions, and help them adjust to ASL. Students also meet each morning in their advisory group (small group of students and teacher from grade). Kids get to know their advisory really well and tend to create strong friendships in this group. My kids love theirs.

This year's 6th grade had the highest number of new students in the whole school. So I would guess next year, less students in this grade will leave.

I forgot about having a child/student take the tube. Mine use ASL transportation. Given you live in South London have you looked into ACS Cobham.

Tupacca Mon 09-Oct-17 13:21:18

Yes it's worrying that it's only 3 months away. I was aiming for Jan 2019 until the school said it might be best to try to get in for 7th grade instead of 8th. I know my son will be absolutely fine, but his reluctance/fear of change might make him less likely to try hard on the tests!
Actually the journey to Cobham is way longer. I got to the open day in 30 min. I forgot about school buses! But quicker by tube no doubt.
Dilema as to whether to go for the Jan 2018 test (less time to prepare him for test or prepare him for change, but good to be in wait pool for 8th grade if we don't get a place) or Jan 2019. I'm looking at other schools obvs. But ASL looks so lovely. Bad news about the huge 6th grade. I may send him to a summer camp thing there next year so he hopefully meets other kids. And still keeping my eye on London Sports but our weekends already pretty full. A friend of my Mum's taught at ASL for many years..but has been retired quite a while now. I went to school in the U.S and did the whole moving every few years ex pat thing (though I'm a Brit) DS was abroad as a baby and has done lots of US holidays and we have lots of US guests visiting but been in London in the main.

LondonExpatLife Mon 09-Oct-17 15:55:42

If you live in South London, tube is probably your best option. Bus would take much longer and cost you over £2000. But if you can afford the tuition, the bus fees don't seem like much.

If I were you, I would have him either take an official test soon and see how he does. You don't have to report your scores to schools. You will get an idea of strengths and weaknesses. Other option is to take an online or paper version practice test. His results will give you an idea whether you should wait or not and what you need to work on.

I am sure some spots in 7th grade will open up. Some always do. With Brexit pending, there maybe more turnover as families leave London.

I forgot about the summer camp. Yes, that would be a great way to meet some ASL students. It is open to the public after spaces are offered to the ASL community.

Adapting to ASL is not hard. Getting a spot is!

endsoftheearth Fri 27-Oct-17 14:29:34

Any clues as to what ASL considers good ISEE scores? I know the ISEE is part of a broader set of application data, but just trying to suss out what types of scores are needed/regarded for ASL.

LondonExpatLife Fri 27-Oct-17 15:34:09

What scores do they look for? It's hard to know. The school has a range of academic achievement. I think the school may use the scores to figure out who gets a spot versus is waitlisted assuming the rest of their application criteria is equal.

FreeSpiritWithin Thu 26-Apr-18 12:04:35

Might sound like a silly question but do non expats go to International Schools? We have been thinking about Dwight School for our son although we are British. We ideally would love for our son to be able to apply for International Universities rather than Oxbridge which is why an international school appealed to us. Any advice on this would be very helpful.

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