Pupil's Success Story

My experience of what it is like to take Academic Scholarship exams





“As one would expect, it is very challenging to take the Academic Scholarship exams. Academically you have to be around the level of a GCSE student. In terms of preparation, preparatory schools provide the relevant support but if you struggle in certain subjects, or you feel certain subjects are not so well taught, then using tutors can help. Practicing past papers that are available is vital to enable you to get used to tackling the exams, as they are very different from anything else you are likely to have done. It is worth noting that not all schools use the standard Common Academic Scholarship exams, some school set their own Academic Scholarship exams for entry. In some cases you have to be ready to take the exam as early as January or February for some schools and this can be tough.


I myself had to take Academic Scholarship exams at three different schools. The process of actually taking the exams itself can be quite intense; typically it is over a couple of days of intensive examination. You will be taking these exams in rooms together with other examination candidates. The schools will provide adequate breaks and refreshments.


My preparation

Unless the child is really self motivated, or a genius, with scholarships there does need to be a lot of input from the parents. Just leaving your child to get on with the work by themselves is often not enough. Sometimes it is not just the most intelligent children who get the scholarships, it is those who are best prepared.


The teachers in my prep school prepared us for the Common Academic Scholarship but at two of the three schools I was examined at, the schools provided their own, slightly different exam papers. So my parents and some tutors had to fill the gaps. I had tutoring for a couple of subjects, which I didn’t mind. If schools prepare you properly for scholarships then expect a lot of homework for every subject in year 7 and particularly in year 8.


I have forgotten my experience of taking the exams in the first school, so it can’t have been that bad! When I arrived at the second school in which I took the exams, the school had everything set up to accommodate the scholarship candidates. There was a chaperone to show us around the school and help us with any questions we might have. In this school, I did the scholarship exams over a period of a couple of days, going home at the end of each day. I had to get up early and I arrived feeling a little bit nervous, however I had done so many exam papers that I felt well prepared. The exams were done in a large room with all the other scholars. Between each exam, we had breaks in a different room to relax and have a snack before resuming the exams.


In the third school, I just did my exams in the school library so it was a completely different experience. The school had specially accommodated the fact I was not able to make the exact date of the scholarship exam because I was taking another exam at the time. There were just two of us taking our exams in the library. We went home at the end of each day. The other candidates had stayed at the school for three days whilst they took the exams the previous week. I suppose this can be fun or daunting depending on what sort of a child you are but I think the staff work hard to put the candidates at their ease.



Don’t be fazed by the prospect of being interviewed by senior members of the staff of the school you are applying to. They just want to get to know who you are as a person. I think one of the things I was asked was to talk about a poem and what I thought it was describing. There didn’t seem to be any right or wrong answers to these questions. I think they were just trying to find out if you are academically curious.



In the first school, I failed to win an academic award. In the next two, I won academic exhibitions. There were about 20 or 25 candidates each time. Scholarships went to around the top five performers and I was in the top ten so I was awarded exhibitions. They are still prestigious and give you some money off the fees but not as much as scholarships. But my parents asked for a bursary too.


My advice

· If at first you do not succeed, try again. Don’t feel rejected and don’t let failure stop you.

· Bear in mind academic scholarship exams are tough and many people do not win a scholarship

· Be prepared for a lot of work

· Prepare well for the exams”