A Quick Guide to the Transfer Tests (for Parents in Northern Ireland)

I don’t like teaching children for tests. I really think teaching for mastery is the way to go.
Nevertheless, I accept that the transfer tests are important both for parents and their children.

​Since a few parents have recently asked me about transfer tests in Northern Ireland, here you are a few basic facts:



  • There are two types of transfer tests in NI: the AQE and the GL.
  • Whether you child takes AQE ot GL depends on grammar school you want your child to attend.
  • It is possible and actually advisable to take both tests.
  • The AQE consists of three assessment papers. The GL consists of two assessment papers.
  • Both tests assess your child’s English and Maths knowledge.
  • Many schools don’t prepare for those tests, however some do.
  • A few schools go ahead with thorough preparation which is actually not that great as it sounds since it means reduced content knowledge and limiting children’s learning.
  • If you want your child to pass the test, preparation is vital.
  • Preparation for tests might take several months (12 months to reinforce both literacy and maths, probably longer if these skills are underdeveloped, it happens often with bilingual children).
  • You should talk to your teacher to understand on which areas you should focus.
  • Use revision booklets to prepare for the tests.
  • Find free transfer test online e.g. Belfast Telegraph published sample tests.
  • Children need to develop both their knowledge and  good exam techniques.
  • Parents should work with tutors to maximise the effects.

My son is 6 and I don’t need to think about the transfer tests yet. I would not be surprised if they were actually abolished before he goes to a grammar school. If he were to take the test this year, I would definitely do with him revision papers both for AQE and GL. I would also prepare him for dealing with time pressure and stress. If he didn’t pass I wouldn’t despair. I would have a good contingency plan.
Good Luck!
More information on AQE:
More information on GL: