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The Westminster Challenge

The Westminster Challenge is the traditional name given to the Westminster School 13+ scholarship admissions assessment. The challenge is held annually in late April or early May to determine which pupils will be elected to be a ‘King’s Scholar’ for 13 Plus entries the following September. (You can read more about the 13 Plus admissions process here).

What does it mean to be a King’s Scholar?

Westminster School is a prestigious London independent boarding school that has close historic links to the Royal Family. The school offers a combined total of 48 ‘King’s Scholarships’ across all year groups. Usually 12 are chosen every year: eight boys at age 13 Plus and four girls at age 16+. This academic scholarship was originally established by Henry VIII and formally affirmed by Elizabeth I in 1560. There are still a number of royal links that continue today for the King’s Scholars, such as being able to attend a variety of special services at Westminster Abbey and having ceremonial duties to perform in connection with the Abbey and the Crown.

Westminster entrance assessment for girls at 16+

Girls applying for Westminster School can only be admitted to sixth form at age 16. Those who wish to apply for an academic scholarship (King’s Scholarship) to Westminster School at 16+, will not have to sit the Westminster Challenge. The Westminster challenge is exclusively for boys admissions at 13 Plus level. Instead, the selection process for the King’s Scholar girls at 16+ is based on the overall performance in the Sixth Form Entrance Exam papers and interview. This usually takes place in the November before the year of entry.

How to register for the Westminster Challenge

Candidates for The Challenge do not have to have registered for Westminster School in advance, nor hold a place, but in such cases a regular place will not be offered if a King’s Scholarship is not awarded. In order to register for The Challenge it is essential that the matter is discussed with the head teacher of your current school, who is required to countersign the Challenge application form by the February that your son will be in Year 8. Without the countersignature of your current headmaster at the time of application, the application for The Challenge will not be accepted. Application forms for 13+ can be obtained by emailing Westminster College Registrar email: registrar@westminster.org.uk (+44(0)20 7963 1003).

It is important to note that the regular admissions process will start when your child is in year 5 and is a separate process to The Challenge. If your child is not registered and is not awarded a King’s Scholarship then a regular place will not be offered.

How to register without sitting the Challenge

Westminster school has an intake of 125-130 boys entering the Fifth From (Year 9) each year. Almost half of the boys come from Westminster Under School and the remainder come from a wide range of other schools.

Parents applying for boys 13 Plus entry to Westminster must register their son online when they are in Year 5 (the academic year of his tenth birthday). You are advised to use their online registration age checker to find out when your son will be eligible for registration. Once you have registered, the school recommends attending an open day in order to get a sense of what being a pupil at Westminster School is like. There are three 13+ open days every year as well as regular tours each term at the school. The tours are taken in groups of up to five families. For enquiries about tours and open days you can contact the school directly using their online form.

Once registration is complete your son will be asked to sit a pre-interview online test in Mathematics, English and Reasoning at their current prep school. This will be done whilst they are in Year 6 during October or November. Westminster School uses the Independent Schools Examination Board (ISEB) Common Pre-Tests. Westminster School states there is no specific preparation necessary for these tests. The raw scores of each candidate’s results are adjusted to take into account a boy’s date of birth so that younger candidates are not disadvantaged.

Each candidate must produce a report from their current school in November of the same year (Year 6) for which the report weighs great importance to the candidate’s application.

If your son has performed well during his ISEB Common Pre-Tests assessment, you will be contacted by the School for an invitation to carry out a further assessment in Mathematics and English (40 minutes each) in January. This is followed by a separate interview in January/February. After the interviews and further tests, the School will make a decision in the following months. Successful offers will still be required to produce a progress report in Year 8 in order to ensure that they will still meet the schools academic and character requirements.

How is the Westminster Challenge different from other 13+ entrance exams?

The Westminster Challenge is not a national exam nor an exam that follows the Independent Schools Examination Board like the 13+ Common Entrance. It is an exam that is created and set specifically for scholarship entries to Westminster School and is designed to identify boys with strong academic potential.

All candidates who are sitting The Challenge will take, as the name alludes to, a series of challenging papers in Mathematics, English, French, Science, Latin, History and Geography. There is an optional Greek paper as well for those who have studied it.  If your son has not been taught Latin or Greek, then we recommend contacting us about the benefits or working with a private tutor who can prepare them for the exam. The Westminster Registrar may also be able to give advice.

Alternative ways to get a Westminster scholarship

Although Westminster offers both Academic and Music scholarships, the academic scholarships are only awarded to those elected for the King’s Scholars. The College also offers eight Music Awards for 13+ entry and four Music Awards for 16+ entry. These are worth 10% of the day fee as well as free tuition on up to two instruments. For both the Kings Scholars and the Music scholars there is an opportunity for scholarships to be supplemented by means-tested bursaries to a maximum of the full fees.

How to prepare for the Westminster Challenge

The best way to prepare for the exams is to take a look at the practice papers that Westminster have published on their website here. By doing a practice paper you can identify your strengths and weaknesses. Once identified we recommend looking into gaining some additional help with an experienced private tutor to support you through the preparation for the exams. Simply Learning Tuition introduces tutors who are familiar with all parts of the Challenge and who can quickly help to assess areas of weakness. Tutors can also help to prepare for entrance interviews so your child presents the best version of themselves on the day.

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