The Exam


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How to Get a Scholarship


What scholarships are available?

Selective Independent schools usually offer 11 Plus scholarships for pupils excelling academically in their entrance tests, or in sport or music. This article is only about applications for academic scholarships. Sometimes there is a considerable financial benefit to the scholarship, but often this is nominal. The scholarship represents a great achievement on behalf of the pupil and participation in ongoing enhancement programmes once they start school.  

Many schools offer academic scholarships to the top performers in their entrance exams automatically. However, with some schools, parents need to apply for their child to be considered for an academic scholarship. 

How do you know if your child is a suitable scholarship candidate?

Schools pitch their academic levels differently and this applies for their scholarship cohorts too. A child who achieves a scholarship at one school may not be in the running for a scholarship at a more selective school. If you have a strong preference on target schools, we can advise whether your child is a suitable candidate for their scholarship programme.

This is not just a qualitative conversation, but data driven. Our Mentor Education academic assessment can give you a clear indication of your child’s cognitive ability score and inform a decision about an academic scholarship application. Our academic assessments are licenced by CEM, part of Cambridge University, the same organisation used by circa 70% of independent schools when setting their entrance exams. This is a test with real relevance to your decisions.

What is the process for getting an academic scholarship?

The process varies by school. However, typically the standard exam is taken and the top 10 – 20% of the performers in the exam are either offered a scholarship or invited back for interview. There is often a question at the back of the exam which is, in effect, the scholarship question. You would only get the requisite score if you got that deep into the exam and then did well on that question. This means that speed on the more routine parts of the exam is key, as well as having the brilliance to be able to answer that final question well.

Some schools offer a scholarship at that stage.

Others then offer a scholarship interview – often with the Head of the school. A different style of questions are asked and students need to be prepared if they are to maximise their chances of an academic scholarship. Many schools will ask advanced mental maths in a scholarship interview.

What other characteristics might an academic scholar display?

Academic scholars are very driven and determined individuals, intrinsically motivated to work hard. They show a desire to learn above and beyond the standard syllabus that is provided in their primary school. They tend to learn quickly from their mistakes and enjoy challenges. Scholars read voraciously, either from the normal fiction syllabus or reflecting a particular passion or interest.

Preparation for the Maths paper

Scholarships are won in the Maths paper by successfully tackling the hard questions in the final quarter of the paper. These questions are specifically chosen to ensure no children have seen them before or had an opportunity to practice them. Children hoping to score well, need to ensure they:

  • Move speedily and accurately through the first sections of the paper, leaving enough time to tackle scholarship questions
  • Practice how to approach all sorts of mathematical problems and feel confident to do so
  • Prepare to tackle subject matter up to GCSE level.

Preparation for the English paper

Scholarships are normally won on the English paper with more advanced comprehension skills and explanation of more sophisticated narrative techniques. For example, scholars need to understand how and why authors might create certain effects, beyond the standard use of metaphors, similes etc. They would be able to differentiate between the voice of the author, the text and the characters in the story in a more mature fashion.

Scholars are expected to write an excellent creative piece, using appropriate yet superior vocabulary, excellent flow and cadence and excellent grammar and spelling. Their stories should be imaginative, well structured, using a good start and good denouement.

How we can help with your scholarship application

We have an exceptional track record in getting students academic scholarships.

Firstly, our academic assessment process allows you to pick the right schools at which to target your scholarship journey.

Secondly, we offer specialist tutors for children applying for academic scholarships to help them crack the exam element of the scholarship process. This is important as successful children will do much more than learn the exam syllabus. They will learn approaches to tackle much more advanced and unknown work. We have experts to teach proven methodologies.

scholarship tutor with little girl

Thirdly, our dedicated scholarship course ensures that the work is reinforced. It is worth reinforcing that the standard 11+ courses remain important here because one must get the speed up on the earlier parts of the paper to have the time on the later scholarship question. It is no good being a genius but being too slow to get to the question which would have shown it.

Finally, we offer a programme to prepare you for the scholarship interview which involves, preparation, practice and video led feedback.

How to help and encourage your bright, scholarship child at home

Extend their reading. Bright children often enjoy exploring different genres of books and magazines and this can help them deep-dive into their passions. Magazines such as The Week Junior can introduce current affairs in an age-appropriate way and can stimulate good family discussions.

Classic novels can be challenging for children. But, Senior Schools use them to create difficult comprehensions and hence identify potential scholarship pupils. If your bright spark can handle the more complex syntax and sentence structure, they might enjoy Little Women, Treasure Island or The Adventures of Tom Sawyer. These books will broaden their vocabulary and more importantly, all of them are great stories! If your son or daughter seems initially daunted by this sort of novel, read the first couple of chapters to them, to get them into the story. 

Finally, don’t forget that even the brightest of scholarship candidates are still small! Give them plenty of time to be silly, time to be bored and lots of time to play with their friends.


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