we used the indie exams as a SATs warm up...no way as close as the grammar exams in terms of toughness.
Did your DS really say that?! Maybe he had become a real pro by then and took it all in his stride
I must say that my DS came out looking quite stunned after the KES exam and said that although it was not as time-pressured as the KEGS exam, the questions were tougher. He felt the KES exam was the most challenging, followed by KEGS, then Solihull then HGS. I wonder what the feedback of other people was? On the other hand, I suppose the multiple choice nature of the grammar exams can lull them into a false sense of security too.
wrt OP, I think some people might just prefer the indie option - the facilities are fantastic, they have a wide curriculum, offer the IB route, beautiful grounds etc. We have some excellent grammars though in Brum with great facilities and results too, so for many people they would not feel the added expense or study is worth it. As someone once said: 'horses for courses'.