13+ scholarship exam candidates

13+ scholarship prep

“The tutor had a clear road map for my son and, within a short period of time, was able to help him achieve brilliant results due to very targeted and precise preparations. My son was introduced to various titles he would have never considered and debated politics, economics and philosophy with the tutor, widening his outlook and thinking for which I am extremely grateful.”

~13+ NW1 London mother


“What is courage? You have 90 minutes to answer.”


If this sort of essay comes easily to your child, you are the parent of scholarship material!  On this page we answer some common questions about the 13+ scholarship exam process.


What is a 13+ scholarship?

The important thing to note is that different schools treat scholarships differently.

Some boarding schools have scholarship houses, where these young polymaths live and eat separately from the unwashed masses.  The scholars are given substantial fee reductions (regardless of parental income), they dress differently, they have different privileges, they have special support networks and they are even addressed differently!

At other schools the scholarship is an honorific, perhaps attracting a token fee reduction of £50 a term with no differences in classes or lifestyle.  But, let’s face it, if you were an academic scholar at Harrow or St. Paul’s you can dine out on that for the rest of your life.

So before deciding on the scholarship track for your child, first consider whether you are happy with their approach to their scholars.


Who should apply for a 13+ scholarship?

The short answer is: only children who are both hard working and academic.  Of course, if you are the parent of a Stephen Hawking (who got sick on the days of his Westminster Challenge exams and so did not attend that school) perhaps your child might keep to the same pace as his or her peers outside the scholarship.  But the scholarship preparation is an eight month time of shared dedication by the best teachers a school has and its most gifted pupils (the parental dedication normally involves anxiety/lost sleep/wondering why they are asking twelve year olds about Machiavelli).  The vast majority of parents in any case rely on the school to guide them whether to choose this route to a place, but you should make sure your child is right for this entry path to senior school.  If you feel your child is going to struggle, even if the school recommends this track, do not go down this arduous though rewarding path.  You know your child best.


How does my child prepare for the scholarship track?

How do you get to a room in College at Eton?  Practice, practice, practice.

It is not the usual practice, however, of a pre-teen.  Of course different schools have different scholarship entry exams, many in the public domain.  There is an old complaint: teachers have to teach to a test.  A valid complaint, perhaps, but not if the test is a good test. And some of the top scholarship exams really are excellent tests.  They ask copious, wide-open questions requiring logic, creativity, reasoning, knowledge and flair (like the one above).  These questions are not easy and so excelling in them requires wide preparation.  Scholars are determined after, in some cases, 10 to 12 ninety minute tests over four days with two or more interviews: there is no place to hide and little ability to bluff one’s way through.  To prepare for these trials, readings usually required during first year university courses are not uncommon (one former student, currently a King’s Scholar at Eton, swears he won the KS because of our close reading of Yuval Harari’s Homo Deus; the student was twelve at the time).


What if he or she does all of that work and doesn’t get it?  Wasn’t it all just a waste of time?

Grasshopper, you couldn’t be more wrong.  If you decide your child can handle the work, the child will be rewarded.  Instead of doing (in some schools) mindless ISEB Level 2 papers for the better part of a year, they will open their minds to concepts and thinkers most competent adults have never encountered (of course you’ve read “The Apology”, “The Hedgehog and the Fox”, “Harrison Bergeron” and the Melian Dialogue but, if you can believe it, most people have not!).  In sum, the destination achieved, in a properly orchestrated scholarship preparation, is not material.

It is the journey that matters.