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Saturday, 28 February 2009

Admissions Guide: Eton College

Eton College is the icon of British private schools and even those who may never have visited the UK may know Eton College. Eton College is located in Windsor, close to Windsor Castle. This school has produced the most Prime Ministers than any other schools and a favorite for the Royal family with the likes of Prince Harry and Prince William. It has also become to some extent, a tourist attraction with scheduled tours and a museum. It produces some of the best exam results in the country. With its prestige and long history, it has become one of the hardest schools to get in. You can look at their website and it will tell you all you need to know but I will not only tell you that but also what actually happens inside! I have personal recent experience of their admission system. I won't tell you my results as that will give away what school I eventually went to!

The Basics (What the website tells you)
The prospective student tour (not the tourist one!) should be taken at age 10 and this tour includes areas of the school that are not normally seen by the tourists. The candidate must be registered by the age of 10.6 years. At age 11 or the candidate will be invited for 'pre-assessment'. This consists of an interview, a reasoning test and a report from the candidate's current school. If successful the candidate is offered a conditional place and then must pass the Common Entrance Examinations at age 13 or pass the scholarship exam. About a third receive offers and others are placed on a waiting list and others are declined. Those declined or placed on a waiting list may gain admission by being awarded the 'King's Scholarship' or the Music Scholarship. This is very challenging and very rare to happen.

So, you are probably thinking 'wow that's very competitive!'. Well hold that thought and read my version of their admissions system.

On the day of the admissions assessment day
There 2 groups with around 10-15 other boys and the boy is put into one of them. This is totally random and means nothing. With parents, you meet a senior staff and he/she gives a talk about Eton. Afterwards the boys split and one group is taken to the computer room for the computerised, numerical, perceptual and verbal skills test. Just before, everyone has their photo taken so that cheating is prevented. The test is a set of questions similar to verbal and non-verbal reasoning tests, except harder. One test I remember is a text on screen, which moves up at a steady speed and you must find and highlight the grammatical errors and you must work fast otherwise the text gets hidden. Then you get taken to a small classroom and while you watch the video about Eton, one by one the boy is led by a teacher into another classroom for the dreaded interview! The interview doesn't last longer than 10 minutes and it is actually quite simple. There are questions such as:

  • Do you play a musical instrument?
  • Tell me about a book that you've read recently. (followed by questions about the book)
  • Surprisingly I wasn't asked 'Why I wanted to come to Eton'
  • Any hobbies?
  • Your favorite subject at school and asks you to talk about what you learnt the last time you had that subject.
  • Do you have any questions about Eton?

This is probably just a VERY few questions from a whole list! but those were the questions that I was asked. Those questions may seem very straightforward and easy but for an eleven year old, it is actually quite challenging. One thing not to do is to prepare your answers as the teachers are all very experienced interviewers and they will know staight away if the boy has prepared them. I remember afterwards the lady that looked after us during the day was always saying "Everyone finds the Test hard dear!" and "don't worry honey, you'll be fine!" which was assuring back then but now thinking about it, it seems so harsh to say that, because statistically out of the 30 boys in that room, only 8.5 will get in!

Entry at 16 is very very small and around 6 Scholarships are offered each year and ONLY available to UK based students. For Sixth Form Scholarship (Link):
Reports on current progress and likely GCSE grades will be sought from schools. On the basis of these reports, short-listed candidates will be asked to come to Eton in February (bringing examples of recent work with them) for interviews in their likely AS-level subjects, an aptitude test, and a general paper.

and the normal entry (Link):
Any available places will be offered to boys of a high academic standard who are also likely to make a notable contribution to school life in sport or in the arts. The minimum qualifying standard is GCSE, or the overseas equivalent, in at least six academic subjects with A grades ; in practical terms the level expected is likely to be higher than that, and competition for the limited number of places is intense. There is no entry form and no registration fee, but if a candidate is to be considered a full report will be requested from his present school, and interviews at Eton may be required.

So there we have it, Eton admissions in a nutshell! In my opinion, one must see the 'real' school not what it is portrayed to be like. When choosing a school, the fame or the prestige should not be a factor. The name 'Eton' may be the deciding factor but one should judge the school, as a place of learning and not how famous or well know it is. Do remember that not getting into Eton is not the end, I've known lots of boys who failed to get into Eton and yet ended up in Oxbridge. Also nowadays, more and more Eton alumni (Old Etonians) are 'embarrased' to say they've attended Eton. This is mainly because of the false stereotype that the British media has portayed. It is easy to mis-judge an Old Etonian as 'posh' or 'high-calss' when most of them are just like you and me. A good but sad example is this articale written by a recovering old Etonian drug addict (Article)

I will leave you with a thought from (Link):
As the admissions tutor, William Rees, points out, of the 100 candidates who do best in the reasoning test that is part of the selection process, 20-30 per cent are not offered places. "We take an enormous variety of boys," he says. Just 25 per cent of the boys at Eton today have fathers who went there, compared to 40 percent a generation ago, and with 3.5 candidates for every place, competition is stiffer than ever. One suspects that of the two most famous fictional Old Etonians, James Bond would still get in, while Bertie Wooster would not.


  1. That's rather interesting. I know someone at Eton, and before I met him, I was really nervous I though he'd be very snobby and full of himself and super bright. I don't know about the bright part, but he was actually a very nice, modest boy and easy to talk to (even though I was going through my post-eating-my-words phase where I seem to ogle and become very unsociable). All in all it was a pleasant experience, and I hope to see him again soon.

  2. I have been reading all your blogs and really like them....
    My Son recently gave test for Eton admissions 13+). Just to give some background, we are based in Uganda, originally Indian. My son studies in an IB school, managed by US embassy. He is brightest in his grade, all rounder. He also undergoes online courses conducted by John Hopkins University, called Center of Talented Youth (CTY).
    I was quite hopeful that he will make through the admissions and get conditional offer from Eton. However, he was declined.
    My impression, even when I was there at Eton along with my son, is the interview process was not very well managed. My son was last to be interviewed, and interviewer spent less than 5 min interviewing him.
    I really do not understand, whether my son did not perform well in the tests & interview or is it some other reason that we are not aware of??
    I would like to seek your advice (one to one), so as my son does not fail in other schools admissions process. We have applied to pretty much all "nosy" schools of UK - Tonbridge, Winchester, Westminster, Charterhouse, etc. for entry in year 2013. My email id is and would request your email id, so as we can interact one to one....

  3. Hello: My son is homeschooled and we live in the U.S. Do you by any chance know if Eton is open to homeschooled students? Eton seems like it would be a perfect fit for my son who is studying five grades above his age grade level. He is simply enthused about the British academic system = for some inexplicable reason. His high cognitive ability has earned him a lot of "bullying" by older students he's taken classes with in the past (therefore our decision to keep him at home) but he refuses to be deterred by this. A very brave and special child but I'm not sure I want to waste any time with Eton if they are not equally open to brilliant, homeschooled children. Any thoughts will help. Thanks a whole lot.


  4. Hello: Does anyone know if Eton is open to giving an equal opportunity to homeschooled students from the U.S? My nephew is a brilliant "creature" ;-) studying five grades above his age grade level. His parents are thinking of trying Eton as the very first school he will attend outside of his home as a full-time registered student. Any input will be appreciated. Thanks.

  5. Hello: Does anyone know if Eton is open to giving an equal opportunity to homeschooled students from the U.S? My nephew is a brilliant "creature" ;-) studying five grades above his age grade level. His parents are thinking of trying Eton as the very first school he will attend outside of his home as a full-time registered student. Any input will be appreciated. Thanks.

  6. Hello: Does anyone know if boys are allowed to spend Christmas holidays at Eton? And can you tell me when they have started to be given a "own study bedroom" instead of bed dormitories? Thanks.

  7. K., please be consistent. Is he your son or your nephew? (Hopefully not both!)

  8. Hello,

    Considering you have written a substantial amount, I think you have picked up the general idea of what the school itself is like - nevertheless, parents or even hopeful pupils may wish to know more about school life, what is expected of a scholar etc. I have been a KS for 4 years now, and Eton gradually ask more and more of you as time goes by. In your first year, they expect you to get settled in, although many do not, and as an Etonian, being able to cut out as much of the world that you would need to - single study rooms.

    I would hope that you may wish to add a bit more about what it like from a boys perspective, e.g. myself.



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