Upon visiting Harrow School, families are immediately struck by the tradition. Students, donning straw hats, blue blazers and grey trousers move quickly between the red-brick buildings which were built as a consequence of a royal charter from Queen Elizabeth I in the late 1600s. Harrovians will tell you that when it comes to admissions, it is if Harrow fits the boy, not if the boy fits Harrow. 

For 13+ (Year 9), the most popular age for Harrow entrance, beginning with registration and submission of references, applicants must pass through three stages to guarantee success. Throughout the process, the best candidate will consistently demonstrate Harrow’s core values – courage, honour, humility and fellowship – in addition to any other traits which convey they are going to become a valued member of the tight-knit Harrow community.

References and the Pre-Test: Stage 1

The process for Harrow entrance begins in Year 6. After registering, references are requested from the candidate’s current school in order to ascertain the character and academic level of the student. At this stage, applicants have the opportunity to declare whether they have a historical connection to Harrow. Although this does not guarantee entry, in our experience students who have a Harrovian sibling, parent or grandparent receive an advantage.

Following registration, candidates sit the ISEB Common Pre-Test at either their current school, or a test centre (if abroad), from which Harrow will develop a greater picture of the candidate’s academic level. The ISEB Common Pre-Test involves four components - English, Maths, Verbal Reasoning and Non-Verbal Reasoning – and is the industry accepted procedure to test a student’s current academic and potential academic standard.

At this stage, organising tuition or mentoring with one of Think Tutors elite tutors or mentors is an excellent way to gain an advantage in the application process. With a 100% success rate for school entrance, our tutors are experts at improving results through practice, comprehensive planning and confidence building.

Meetings with House Masters: Stage 2

After ISEB Common Pre-Test results have been received by Harrow, successful candidates are split into two groups and unsuccessful students are notified by email. The highest performing students in Stage 1 are invited to meet with a House Master, with all successful boys invited to progress to Stage 3.

The Harrow Test: Stage 3

The Harrow Test is a three stage assessment, compromising of five distinct components. Applicants must first sit a Mathematics and English exam, which are designed to last thirty minutes each. Mathematics is comprised of mental arithmetic and problem solving, whereas English is focussed primarily on vocabulary, grammar and comprehension. To test a student’s writing skills (namely clarity) and creativity is the English Writing exam, designed to take a maximum of twenty-five minutes.  

Next, applicants are subject to two interviews. First, the House Master Interview, in which the core traits of Harrow are tested. Successful demonstrate an interest to get involved in the Harrow community, develop and improve, adhere to the core values of a Harrovian (courage, honour, humility and fellowship), and show a genuine interest for learning.

The second interview and final element of The Harrow Test is a Member of Staff Interview. Unsurprisingly, academia will be the focus of this stage, with the primary goal being to assess the boy’s grasp of basic academic principles and vitally, develop a sense of the student’s appetite for learning.

Being relaxed is important at the interview stage, as overly rehearsed answers are obvious to the interviewer. The best way to do this is practice with somebody who knows the format and expectations of an Independent School interview. Our tutors are well-versed in the often peculiar assessment techniques included in a school interview, with many of them having been involved in the interview process itself. At this stage, our mentors have also had great success at building a natural confidence to ensure our students flourish during interviews.


Applicants find out in early December when they are in Year 7. With approximately 160 places, many students are rejected, up to fifty students are put onto a waiting list, and the rest given a place (subject to achieving 65% at Common Entrance and a minimum of 60% in English and Mathematics).