The scholarship exams set by independent schools for entrance at 13+ for independent schools are tested either by use of the Common Academic Scholarship Exam (CASE), or by the individual schools themselves setting their own papers, such as the Eton King’s Scholarship, Winchester Election or the Westminster Challenge. They vary by degree in difficulty. However, for thirteen-year-olds they can be a very tough, challenging, real test of potential and character. It is a prestigious achievement to those both clever and lucky enough to be awarded one. For example, for the hundred that sit the Eton King’s Scholarship, fourteen King’s scholarships are awarded each year. I’m fortunate to have tutored five students awarded the Eton KS since 2013, and other scholars for other independent schools, and have played a part in different learning journeys.
There are two types of student who sit scholarship: those who already have a conditional offer to the school having passed their pretest, and are bypassing regular Common Entrance papers, and those who have not and must win a scholarship to gain entrance.
In my estimation, the quality, if not the quantity, of questioning is bordering on GCSE and A-level material. It can be a daunting prospect for students and requires a significant amount of preparation. They must be curious, be willing to stretch their reading, world awareness and analytical skills. It is a real journey of discovery. They must be willing to push themselves when it comes to writing essay-length answers, for subjects such as English, History, Divinity, Geography and General Papers. General or miscellaneous papers may contain anything from testing language skills, problem-solving, science, data-handling, history, culture or current affairs.
A tutor can come in and be a mentor and motivator in this preparation process to support both the child and parents in what can seem an isolating position; the scholarship exams take place earlier in the summer term and other children in their class are preparing for the later Common Entrance exams in the summer. Their school teachers may know nothing or little about a particular school’s scholarship papers and the preparation process; a tutor can work alongside the student, point out resources and ideas and make suggestions on what he can improve.
There are all manner of children sitting these exams, those who are very bright and gifted, those who work very diligently and those who are quietly confident. Expect that they will all be working hard in different areas depending on their own strengths and weaknesses. Whatever the result of their scholarship exams, they will have learnt valuable independent study skills ahead of their peers in readiness to hit the ground running at their new schools and for public exams that follow in the future.
To apply for and sit the scholarship exams is not a decision to be taken lightly. Explore the options, seek the advice of your child's school and if they are willing and able, it is a worthy endeavour for their educational development.
BA(Hons)(Dunelm), LLM (London), Barrister, FTA