GoStudent's Handy Guide to the Northern Ireland Transfer Test System


  1. What is the transfer test in Northern Ireland?
  2. Information about the AQE Common Entrance Assessment
  3. Information about the GL Transfer Test Northern Ireland
  4. What schools use both the GL Transfer Test NI and the AQE CEA test?
  5. The future of the transfer test Northern Ireland


Nearly all grammar schools in Northern Ireland require primary school children aged 10 or 11 to successfully sit special entrance exams, called transfer tests, before they can enrol and begin their secondary level education there.child taking exam

What is the transfer test in Northern Ireland?


The transfer test Northern Ireland kids do is popularly known as the 11+ or eleven plus. The Northern Ireland transfer test system has always been controversial for one reason or another. The tests which require pupils to demonstrate a minimum level of language skills and mathematical ability are seen by some as elitist, outdated and discriminatory. Others view the transfer test NI kids do as a way to maintain the high standards that Northern Ireland’s grammar school system is known for. 

The transfer test NI schools use is not organised by the NI Department of Education. Instead, the board of governors of each school decides if they want to admit new students using academic selection tests. 

The last couple of years have seen transfer tests cancelled or amended due to Covid. In theory, the tests are expected to go ahead in 2022 with registration opening in May, closing in September and the transfer tests going ahead in November- December. Check out the key dates for the transfer test NI here 2022 will be the last year the current set of tests will be used as a new system will be introduced in 2023. 

Under the present system, pupils and parents have a choice of sitting two different types of transfer tests set by two different exam bodies. 

The GL Assessment test is run by the Post-Primary Transfer Consortium (PPTC). Around 5,450 children took the PPTC test in 2021. 

The other type of test, the Common Entrance Assessment (CEA) run by the Association for Quality Education (AQE), was more popular last year with about 8,280 children sitting it. 

Children can choose to sit one, both or neither of the transfer tests depending on what plan they have for their educational future. Neither the AQE nor the PPTC are under the control of the NI Department of Education.

Although an overwhelming majority of grammar schools use the transfer tests to decide which pupils to admit, eleven grammar schools and Lagan College are not going to use them to select children in Autumn 2022.

Access Arrangements can be made for children sitting either of the transfer tests. Parents can indicate the type of requirements their child has by filling in the Access Arrangements claim form. 📋


Information about the AQE Common Entrance Assessment


AQE allows kids to sit three test papers and calculates the assessment on the two transfer test NI papers with the best results. This is done to ensure no child is unfairly penalised by having an ‘off day’ due to illness, nervousness or other external factors

The AQE website provides a large number of transfer test NI practice papers Northern Ireland children can use to get to know the exam and prepare for it well beforehand. 

Because of all the upset and uncertainty caused to kids’ schooling by the pandemic, the AQE made some changes to the standard format of the transfer test Northern Ireland kids sat in 2021. They may make the same kind of changes to help children in 2022. 

Some topics in maths that were tested in previous years were dropped for the 2021 transfer tests. In the English sections, some texts were made shorter.

In 2021, every pupil sitting the AQE transfer test in Northern Ireland was given an extra 10 minutes to finish each paper, meaning they had 1 hour and 10 minutes in total. ⌛

What date is the transfer test in NI?

Dates for the 2022  Transfer Test NI Assessment dates have been announced as the following: 

  • 19th Nov 2022
  • 26th Nov 2022
  • 3rd Dec 2022

What schools use the AQE transfer test?

Broken down by area, these are the schools that normally base their selection of pupils on the AQE transfer test NI:


  • Belfast Royal Academy
  • Bloomfield Collegiate
  • Campbell College
  • Grosvenor Grammar School
  • Hunterhouse College
  • Methodist College
  • RBAI
  • Strathearn School
  • Victoria College
  • Wellington College

North East

  • Antrim Grammar School
  • Ballyclare High School
  • Ballymena Academy
  • Belfast High School
  • Cambridge House Grammar School
  • Carrickfergus Grammar School
  • Coleraine Grammar School
  • Dalriada School
  • Larne Grammar School

South East

  • Bangor Grammar School
  • Down High School
  • Friends’ School Lisburn
  • Glenlola Collegiate School
  • Regent House School
  • Sullivan Upper School
  • The Wallace High School


  • Banbridge Academy
  • Royal School, Armagh
  • Royal School, Dungannon


  • Enniskillen Royal Grammar School
  • Foyle College
  • Limavady Grammar School
  • Omagh Academy
  • Strabane Academy


Information about the GL Transfer Test Northern Ireland


The Post-Primary Transfer Consortium (PPTC) GL Transfer Test assessments are used mainly by Catholic grammar schools in Northern Ireland.

The GL Transfer Test NI is made up of two multiple-choice papers based on the Northern Ireland Key Stage 2 curriculum for English and maths

To ease kids into the exam they are given a brief practice test before each paper.

Paper 1 is an English test and has 50 questions. Pupils have 50 minutes to complete this part of the test.

There is then a break between paper 1 and paper 2 to allow time for a snack or a bathroom visit.

Paper 2 tests pupils’ maths abilities and has 45 questions. This second paper lasts 45 minutes.

The GL Transfer Test NI is available in Irish for children who attend Irish medium schools.

In 2021 the questions on the GL Transfer Test Northern Ireland pupils took were changed significantly to allow for the disruption kids experienced to their education because of the coronavirus.

Kids born between the 2nd of July 2010 and the 1st of July 2011 were eligible to take the 2021 GL Transfer Test NI, but those born outside this age range were able to register if their primary school principal provided a written statement recommending their suitability for the transfer test NI. 

The results of the GL Transfer Test NI are quite complicated. First, your child will get an overall grade of A, B1, B2, C1, C2 or D. 

The PPTC also gives a ‘Standardised Age Score’ which is the combined total of the two scores from the maths and English papers. 

Then they get something called a ‘Cohort Percentile’ which is calculated according to the total of the Standardised Age Scores.

Once you register your child for the GL Transfer Test NI, they will receive booklets with sample questions and answer sheets to help them get familiar with the types of questions in the exam papers. There are also transfer test practice papers Northern Ireland children can download from the PPTC website to help them prepare. 📂

What date is the GL transfer test in NI?

Dates for the 2022  GL Transfer Test NI Assessment dates have been announced as the following: 

  • 12 November 2022
  • 10th December 2022

What schools use the GL Transfer Test NI?

These are the schools that normally base their selection of pupils on the GL Transfer Test Northern Ireland:

  • Abbey Christian Brothers Grammar School
  • Aquinas Diocesan Grammar School
  • Assumption Grammar School
  • Christian Brothers’ Grammar School
  • Dominican College-Belfast
  • Dominican College-Portstewart
  • Loreto College
  • Loreto Grammar School
  • Lumen Christi College
  • Lurgan College
  • Mount Lourdes Grammar School
  • Our Lady and St Patrick’s College
  • Our Lady’s Grammar School
  • Portadown College
  • Rainey Endowed School
  • Rathmore Grammar School
  • Sacred Heart Grammar School
  • St Colman’s College
  • St Columb’s College
  • St Dominic’s High School
  • St Joseph’s Grammar School
  • St Louis’ Grammar School-Ballymena
  • St Louis’ Grammar School-Kilkeel
  • St Malachy’s College
  • St Mary’s Christian Brothers Grammar School
  • St Mary’s Grammar School
  • St Michael’s College
  • St Patrick’s Academy-Dungannon
  • St Patrick’s Grammar School-Armagh
  • St Patrick’s Grammar School-Downpatrick
  • Thornhill College
  • Victoria College


What schools use both the GL Transfer Test NI and the AQE CEA test?


Some grammar schools accept both Northern Ireland transfer tests, including:

  • Antrim Grammar School
  • Campbell College
  • Hunterhouse College 
  • Victoria College
  • Wellington College


The future of the transfer test Northern Ireland


This year is supposed to be the last time the present system of transfer tests run by the AQE and PPTC will be used. The vast majority of NI grammar schools have agreed to a single common transfer test run by a new company called the Schools' Entrance Assessment Group (SEAG). This new NI transfer test will start in November 2023.

It will take place on Saturday the 11th and Saturday the 25th of November 2023.

There will be a mixture of multiple-choice and longer written questions covering topics in English and Mathematics.

Whichever test your child is sitting in 2022 or beyond, GoStudent tutors are ready and waiting to help them prepare for these life-changing exams. Click here to book a free trial class today. 🎓