Admissions Guidelines

Admission to Merchiston International School

Admission to Merchiston International School is determined by a number of factors. Applicants are admitted based on their ability to succeed socially and academically in our dynamic learning environment as well as demonstrating a good work ethic, a history of school-appropriate behaviour, and a desire to attend MIS.

To be successful at MIS, students must be willing to work hard and be committed to our programme. Our teachers provide the support necessary for students to become confident, independent learners. Additionally, we expect parents to be supportive of, and involved in, their child’s education. It is the student, however, who is responsible for making the effort to meet the school’s academic expectations. MIS expects students and parents to understand and support the school’s aim to serve a diverse and inclusive population.

Our students come from a variety of racial, ethnic, cultural and socio-economic backgrounds. The entire school community works tirelessly to maintain an environment that is welcoming for all students. The decision to offer a place to a prospective student is taken by the individual Heads of Section to whom the student has applied. The Head of Section is supported by the Head of School and the Admissions Department. Admission is based on academic evaluations and assessments, English proficiency, past school records, student interviews, teacher recommendations and any diagnostic testing that will help the Head of Section to understand any special learning needs an applicant may have. Year level placement will be determined by the birth date of the applicant.

Year Placement Guidelines

Age as of 1st September MIS Year Level US Grade Equivalent MIS/UK Key Stage Curriculum

Early Years



MIS Junior School /Key Stage 1






Merchiston International School Curriculum based on British National Curriculum


5 1 Kindergarten
6 2 Grade 1
7 3 Grade 2


MIS Junior School/ Key Stage 2

8 4 Grade 3
9 5 Grade 4
10 6 Grade 5
11 7 Grade 6


MIS Senior School / Key Stage 3

12 8 Grade 7
13 9 Grade 8
14 10 Grade 9 MIS Senior School / Key Stage 4 International General Certificate of Secondary Education (IGCSE)
15 11 Grade 10
16 12 Grade 11 MIS Senior School / Key Stage 5


GCE A Levels / MIS Diploma

17 13 Grade 12  

Class Sizes

The maximum number of students in each class is as follows

Year Amount
Years 1-6 22
Years 7-11 22
Years12-13 16

Note: The School reserves the right to increase the maximum number of students in each class under special circumstances with approval from the Head of School.

Admissions Process

  • Complete and submit the application form, pay the application fee and include all supporting documents.
  • Admissions Department arranges assessments. Overseas candidates can be assessed at their current school. Application Form approved by admitting Head of Section.
  • Parents are informed whether an offer of a place has been approved or denied.
  • Application approved and offer placed: to accept the offer RMB 18000 is required to secure the place.
  • Application approved and applicant put on waiting list: if there are more candidates than available places the applicant will be placed on a waiting list.
  • Application denied: student can reapply after six months.

Admissions Criteria

Students wishing to enrol into MIS must hold a foreign passport or other identity document. All students wishing to enrol into International School are subject to the admissions criteria set out below and students enter the School at their appropriate year level (there may be some flexibility with this, although it is the policy of the School to place students in age appropriate year groups; any exceptions are to be made by the Head of School).

  • All applicants Year 3 or above will sit an online Cognitive Ability Test (CAT4).    
  • All applicants Year 3 or above will complete an English Language assessment (e.g. WIDA test). WIDA stands for World-Class Instructional Design and Assessment.


MIS Junior School: Key Stage 1 (Years 1 and 2)

Year 1 and 2 students will only be admitted to the School once the Head of Juniors or her deputy has met with one or both of the applicant’s parents. Any previous school reports, observations and assessments should also be made available to the School at this time. Where possible it is strongly recommended that the child spend a morning or day in class in advance of their admission so that the School can gauge the child’s level of readiness to access our curriculum. Applicants not able to be assessed in person will be admitted on a provisional basis at the discretion of the Head of Juniors.

MIS Junior School: Key Stage 2 (Years 3-6)

Students applying for admission must undertake assessments to ensure they can access the curriculum. Students are required to take the Cognitive Abilities Test (CAT4) consisting of verbal, quantitative, non-verbal and spatial assessments and an English language assessment (e.g. WIDA). The Admissions Department will arrange a time for the student to sit the assessments and communicate this to parents. This assessment may be done at the student’s current school under the supervision of a teacher.

Ideally, the candidate would spend a morning in the classroom with the other students of the correct age group. The class teacher will then assess the candidate using the following guidelines:

  •     Can the student access the curriculum?
  •     Can the student relate to others in the class?
  •     Will the student benefit from the education offered at MIS?
  •     Are there implications to the class and school of accepting this student?
  •     Will the student need additional support for EAL or to access the curriculum?
  •     Will the student need boosting to reach the level of others in the same year group?
  •     Will the student affect the learning of others in class?

The class teacher is responsible for giving feedback to the Head of Juniors regarding the suitability of the candidate and whether the school can support their educational needs. If the class teacher feels that the student may need additional learning support, the Student Support specialist will be contacted to also meet with and assess the child.

In some cases, the applicant, along with their parents/guardians after their trial classroom experience will go through an interview process with the Head of Juniors. The objective of the interview is to determine the language and/or learning needs of the student and to ascertain their suitability for that year group.

If a student is identified as in need of EAL support by the parents and/or class teacher on the day of the initial assessment and scores below 90 on the Verbal section of CAT4, and/or below 2 in the WIDA English Language assessment, the Head of Juniors will assess whether the school can, and how it will, support the learner if admitted to the school.


MIS Senior School: Key Stages 3,4 and 5 (Years 7-13)

Students entering the Senior School are required to take the Cognitive Abilities Test (CAT4) consisting of verbal, quantitative, non-verbal and spatial assessments. Additionally, all candidates will be asked to complete an English language test as an additional language assessment (e.g. the WIDA test). All applicants will also be interviewed by the Head of Seniors. Candidates applying for a place in Year 12 or 13 will also be interviewed by the Head of Sixth Form who will make a recommendation. During interview all Key Stages 4 or 5 candidates will be asked to select examination Subject Option choices.

EAL needs

If the CAT4 Test indicates a low verbal score (below 90) and low English language level ability (e.g. WIDA scores under 2) the Head of Seniors and the Student Support teachers will discuss whether the school can and how it will, support the student if admitted.

Overseas Candidates

Special arrangements can be made for the assessments to be administered in an applicant’s current school.

Waiting Lists

Placement on a waiting list is determined by the date the application and fee are received, except in cases where priority is given. Priority will be given to:

  •     a child of a full-time faculty member
  •     a qualified sibling of a current student who has completed the application process
  •     a child transferring from another Merchiston Castle school.

If an applicant does not obtain a place during the term for which they have applied, the applicant will be automatically transferred to the relevant waiting list for the following term. At the end of the academic year an applicant’s name will be transferred to the appropriate year level for the new academic year. Waiting list positions are not disclosed to parents.

To avoid disappointment, we would always advise early application.

Acceptance and Placement Deposit

Applicants accepted for admission will receive an invoice following the acceptance letter. Upon notification of acceptance, parents are invited to confirm their intention and pay a security deposit of RMB 18,000. If payment is not made by the date specified on the invoice, the applicant’s place will be forfeited and may be given to another applicant. No student will be allowed to attend class until his or her tuition and placement deposit has been paid.

Admission Appeals

If we do not offer a student a place at the School, this will be because the student has shown through assessment procedure that they are unable to meet the standards required to access the curriculum. Students are permitted to re-sit the assessment tests after 6 months have passed. The School is under no obligation to release the results of the assessment tests.

Appendix A

The following is meant as a guideline to assist the Heads of Section in making the final decision on whether to offer a student a place at MIS or not. It is a guideline and not binding. Heads of Section are free to base their decisions upon other factors such as the desire to readdress ethnicity or gender imbalance, etc.

Assessments Junior School (Years 1-6)

Children entering the Junior School undertake baseline assessments to ensure that they can access the curriculum with reasonable ease. Children who cannot access the curriculum can become demotivated and demoralised. As a result they do not make the progress of which they would be capable in a school better suited to their needs. We use standardised Cognitive Abilities Tests (CAT4) consisting of verbal, quantitative, non-verbal and spatial assessments. These tests are taken online.


Admissions Criteria

Required scores for automatic consideration of acceptance.

  •     Quantitative – 100    
  •     Non-Verbal – 100
  •     Verbal – 100
  •     Spatial – 100 

English as an Additional Language

If a child has English as an additional language and for example,

  •     a Non-Verbal score of 120+
  •     a Quantitative score of 110+
  •     a Verbal score of 90

They will be considered favourably for entry according to the availability of support and the percentage of EAL children already within the Class/Year group. Parents will be advised to secure external support for their child and will be asked to agree to their removal from the Mandarin Programme – during which EAL lessons take place. Where applicable the Head of Section can insist that the admission of the child is dependent upon the student entering the intensive English programme.

Special Educational Needs

If a child applies with certain learning needs, they may be considered for learning support on receipt of an educational psychologist’s report. These applicants will be approved on an individual basis.

Children with behavioural difficulties will, similarly, be considered on an individual basis.

Assessments Senior School (Years 7-13)

Students applying to the Senior School at MIS must undertake a series of assessments to determine their suitability for the programme offered at the school. These assessments are as follows: Standardised Tests (CAT4): Verbal, Quantitative, Non-verbal and Spatial.

Admissions Criteria

The primary indicator of a student’s suitability for a place in the Senior School is the Cognitive Abilities Test (CAT4). Statistically, students who achieve an average of 100 or more for the four tests will score A*, A, B or C for their IGCSEs. In fact students scoring 120 or more will tend to achieve A*, A or B. Generally, as English is the language of instruction at MIS, the Verbal component of the assessments carries the most weight. Moreover, a number of the students who apply to the school have English as a second language. A table guide to the criteria for acceptance can be seen below:

Score Action
Non Verbal scores 100 and above Accepted
Non Verbal scores below 80 Rejected
Score Action
Non Verbal scores 100 and above Accepted
Verbal 90 - 99 (other scores 100+)

Provisional acceptance. EAL support will be provided.

Verbal 90 - 99 (other scores < 100)

Individual cases considered by the Head of Section.  

Admission will depend upon the student agreeing to enter an accepted intensive language programme and an appropriate package of other subjects being available.

Please note that the CATs have a margin of error of three points either way.

Applications outside designated year groups

Any applications for a student to join a year group outside that designated by their age will be assessed on an individual basis by the Head of Section and subject to review and agreement by the Head of School. The primary motivator will be the specific learning and social needs of the individual student.

As a rule of thumb, Heads of Section will review every application individually based on:

  •     evidence submitted by parents (e.g. reports or work samples)
  •     testing done by MIS
  •     personal interviews with the student

For promotion into a year group above the age of the student, evidence should demonstrate academic capability of at least above average in the desired year group alongside social maturity.

For admission to a lower year group, evidence should demonstrate attainment significantly below the average for the year group and / or a level of social maturity well below the average.

Other issues that may be taken into account for moving a child ahead of their age or to a class below the expected age range are:

  •     placement in previous school or national education system
  •     students coming from schools using a southern hemisphere calendar
  •     learning or developmental delays

Any change in year group is subject to regular review and throughout the process parents will be fully consulted. In all such applications, the professional opinion of the Head of Section will be the determining factor.

Overseas Candidates

Special arrangements can be made for candidates to take assessment examinations in their home country. If a candidate cannot be interviewed, the application will still be processed. However, the letter of acceptance will state that, as the child has not been interviewed, the offer of enrolment is provisional and can be withdrawn if the school determines it cannot meet the child’s needs upon arrival at MIS.