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The Harrow Test

Harrow School, long revered as one of the UK’s leading boys’ Boarding Schools, has a highly competitive entrance process.

Harrow is one of the world’s oldest schools, founded in 1572 under royal charter from Queen Elizabeth. Founder John Lyon established it as a Christian School for the study of ‘Godliness and Good Learning.’ The school’s motto, Stet fortuna domus means ‘May the fortune of the House stand’.  Around 830 boys board in 12 houses, and the school is situated in North West London, about an hour from Heathrow Airport.

Why is Harrow School so popular?

Harrow is one of a very small number of all-boys boarding schools in the UK and, alongside Eton College, is seen as one of the UK’s most traditional boys’ schools. But its tradition does not prevent it being thoroughly modern, of global appeal and exhibiting the highest standards of performance in all academic and co-curricular life. Harrow has all the advantages of being London-based but with a large campus with fantastic facilities that are an easy commute for families in London.

Nearly all boys go on to university and the statistics are impressive; in 2023, Harrovians were accepted by six of the world’s top 10 universities, and nearly one third of boys will go on to places that are ranked in the world’s top 20 institutions. Destination universities in the UK include Oxford, Cambridge, Imperial, Edinburgh and many other leading Russell Group universities.  This year, thirty boys will go to North American universities. In terms of academic results, a third of boys achieved A*s at A-Level, and 70% were awarded Grade 8-9 at GCSE. The school has an impressive programme of development; including a new state-of-the-art Teaching, Artificial Intelligence and Learning Hub. This space will be used for experimental teaching practices, teacher training and research and boys’ independent study.

What are the entry requirements for Harrow?

Harrow is not quite ‘academically elite’  but entrance standards are high . The school looks for boys with an ‘enquiring mind and a genuine passion for learning’, who will thrive in a boarding environment. SLT estimates that at 11 Plus, boys will need to be in the top quartile of their year prep school. Harrow says that at 16 Plus, typical entry requirements are eight passes at GCSE Grade 7/8/9.

Every year approximately 160 boys are taken into Year 9 (Shell), and about 20 into Sixth Form.

What are the entry routes for Harrow?

Harrow has two main entrance routes. The first, at 13 Plus, is for entry into Year 9, when boys are aged 13, turning 14. The application process starts at the end of Year 5, when they are aged 9. The second is 16 Plus, for entry into Year 12, when boys are aged 16, turning 17. The application process starts in the Autumn before they join. Because Harrow is such a popular school, occasional places are rare.

13 Plus (Year 9) Entrance for Harrow School 

  1. Registration needs to be completed via an online form ideally before the end of Year 5, or at the latest, by May in Year 6. At this point you can stipulate if you would like to apply for a scholarship or bursary and you will need to pay the non-refundable Registration Fee of £350.
  2. A reference will then be requested from the Head Teacher of your child’s current school – this is why it is a very good idea to be on good terms with your current school.
  3. Between the 1st October and the end of the Autumn Term of Year 6 your child sits the ISEB Common Pre-Test. This is an online test that assesses the child’s ability at literacy, numeracy, and verbal and non-verbal reasoning. The test is usually conducted at your school, regardless of whether this is a UK prep school, other school or an international school.
  4. If the child is successful at the ISEB he will be invited to sit the Harrow Test. This is taken at Harrow, in the Autumn of Year 6. This consists of two fifteen-minute interviews, a computerised English and Maths assessment which lasts an hour and a twenty-minute written essay. The interviews are with a Harrow House Master and a teacher (beak).


In the first week of December of Year 7, each boy is given their results, which range from A1 (offer to the school in a specific house), through A2 (offer for the school, house to be decided later), B (offer of a place on the wait list)  and C Lists (no offer).

All offers are still contingent on successfully passing Common Entrance or the Harrow Scholarship applications. The Harrow Scholarship is taken at Harrow in the late February of Year 8. If this is passed, there is no requirement to sit Common Entrance.

Common Entrance Exams for Harrow School  (13 Plus)

These exams are taken across all subjects in June of Year 8. Boys can choose which of Level 2 or Level 3 papers to sit but the school recommends stretching themselves, as it looks more favourably on marks awarded on the more challenging Level 2 papers.

16 Plus Entrance to Harrow School

Applications should be made by the September of the previous year (Year 11) and are submitted online. The submission includes CV, a handwritten letter to the Headmaster explaining why your son would like to attend the school, a recent school report and a copy of his passport ID page.

Four subjects are tested. Tests of two of these are initially taken at the boys school (or he can come to Harrow) and submitted together with a reference from his current head teacher. If he makes the shortlist, he will be invited to Harrow for a day’s familiarisation and to sit the other two exams. He will also have interviews with Registrars and the Head Teacher. Offers are then made in the December of Year 11.

How to prepare for the Entrance Exams for Harrow 

The ISEB Common Pre-Test is similar to the 11 Plus but it is worth making specific preparations for it . For the Harrow Test, there is a particularly strong emphasis on written work. SLT recommends a gradual programme of preparation in areas of literacy, numeracy, verbal and non-verbal reasoning and interview technique. We discuss how to prepare for the 11 Plus here.

The ISEB Common Pre-tests and the Harrow Test are adaptive which means that as the child answers more questions, these questions get harder. As they progress through the questions, the child’s Standardised Age Score increases, so the more questions the child answers correctly, the higher their score will be.

All of the assessments are conducted online, so it is recommended that boys are expert with online exam technique. This includes time management and typing skills in addition to subject knowledge.

Test Papers

SLT recommends using online adaptive testing software. Because all the entrance tests are online, there are no past papers.

How hard is it to get into Harrow?

Harrow is a highly academic, selective school. It is unusual in being a full-boarding London school, with impressive sports facilities and extra-curricular resources and this all combines to make entrance extremely competitive. In Year 9 (called Shell) there are typically 600 applicants for 160 places. In Year 12, Sixth Form, Harrow accepts up to 20 boys from about 100 applications. Typical entry requirements are eight passes at GCSE Grade 7/8/9 and who will thrive in a full boarding environment.

SLT thoroughly recommends attending open days of which there are 12 (on Saturdays) throughout the year. It really is important to gauge if the school is right for your son and to inspire him to work hard to get there. The school recommends boys visit at aged 8-9 years.

What Scholarships and Financial Assistance does Harrow offer?

Harrow School fees are around £45,000 per annum. This is reduced by 5%  for a music, academic, sport, art or drama scholarship.  Fees can be reduced by up to 100% for a bursary, which is not contingent on getting a scholarship. There are other specific scholarships and bursaries with their own individual requirements – contact the Harrow admissions department to find out more.

Harrow currently offers bursaries to 10% of boys and want to increase this to 30% over next 10 years.

Who are Harrow school’s famous alumni?

There are so many notable Old Harrovians it is very difficult to know where to start. From doyens of the Arts such as Benedict Cumberbatch, Richard Curtis and Edward Fox to entrepreneurs like Pret’s Julian Metcalfe, to esteemed military leaders including General Sir Peter de la Billiere, Harrow is well represented across all walks of life.

What are the main feeder schools for Harrow?

Harrow receives a handful of boys each year from a small group of schools but these schools do not receive preferential treatment. As with most senior schools (and contrary to popular belief), schools really do take students on their merits and fit for the school. Around 15% of Harrow students are the sons of Old Harrovians and about 20% of boys are from overseas. There is no advantage to being registered at birth.

Tuition for the Harrow Test

Entrance for Harrow is highly competitive. It is a popular school and a highly academic one. Some level of tuition will be of value to most children but at SLT we caution against pushing a child beyond their natural ability. That said, if your child is applying from a state school, or you feel they have the natural ability and the will to sit the Harrow Test, there is no doubt that a carefully tailored programme of support will reap dividends. Another reason for tutoring is to work through any underlying problems with core concepts and, for boys in particular, to help unlock the creative writing gene that is all important for all the ISEB Common Pre-Test and the Harrow Test. Additionally, tuition may be of use for Harrow Scholars. Please call us on 0207 350 1981 or complete our enquiry form to speak to us. We would be delighted to answer any of your questions.

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