St Paul’s is an independent boy’s school set within 45 acres of open space in Barnes, South West London. The school was founded in 1509 by John Colet with the vision to provide an outstanding all-round education to prepare boys for a successful future. The school welcomes all academically eligible students, regardless of either economic or social circumstances.
How to get into St Paul’s School
Entering in Year 9 (13+):
St Paul’s accepts 198 boys each year into Year 9. Typically, almost half of these boys have attended St Paul’s Junior, the other half come from a wide range of schools. For boys joining from other schools, the registration and selection process begins in Year 5.. Families applying to the school with assessment in Year 6, must choose from either Year 7 (11+) entry to St Paul’s Junior or Year 9 (13+) entry to St Paul’s – it is not possible to register for both entry points.
13 Plus Entrance Process for St Paul’s:
The selection process for St Paul’s is made up of 2 stages. As a selective school the admissions process is designed to recognise a student’s academic talent as well as their abilities outside of the classroom. The first stage of the process establishes whether a boy is potentially suitable for the school and consequently determines whether they will be invited to interview.
Stage 1 is the ISEB Common Pre-Test, usually sat in either October or November of Year 6, which is a computerised test consisting of English, Maths, Verbal and Non-Verbal Reasoning. This is normally completed at the student’s current school, however, can be sat at St Paul’s if this is not possible.
St Paul’s will also request a report from the boy’s Head Teacher about their character, academic strengths, and interests. Parents will hear from St Paul’s in December regarding their decision.
Stage 2 is for students who have performed strongly in the ISEB Common Pre-Test and have a satisfactory report from their Head Teacher. All those candidates selected to move to Stage two will be invited to sit written assessments at St Paul’s School in early January. These will comprise of a 60 minute Mathematics paper and a 45 minute English paper. The English paper will require candidates to write a discursive piece in response to one of three topics given.
Stage 3 - Candidates who perform well in the written assessments will be invited to an interview which will take place between January and June of Year 6. Here they will meet with two senior members of teaching staff who will each spend 25 minutes talking to them about their academic studies. Whilst candidates are being interviewed, parents will have an opportunity to meet with a senior member of staff for 25 minutes
If boys are currently attending schools which finish in Year 6, or are at school overseas, St Paul’s usually will attempt to interview them between January and March.
St Paul’s will write to the parents within three weeks of the interview to them know the outcome, which will be one of the following outcomes:
A place on the Main List
The deadline for acceptance for Main List offers is the end of Year 7. If boys are attending a school which follows the Year 7 and 8 curriculum approved by St Paul’s when interviewed, their place is conditional upon continued good conduct and academic progress at their existing school, including an unreserved reference of support from their Head Teacher in Year 8.
Offers made to boys who do not attend schools following the St Paul’s prescribed curriculum in Years 7 and 8 will be subject to the same conditions on progress, conduct and report, but St Paul’s reserve the right to place additional conditions upon the offer. E.g., one condition may be upon them achieving a minimum of 70% in prescribed subjects at Common Entrance. These conditions are to ensure that boys offered places in Year 6 arrive at St Paul’s at 13+ prepared for the school’s curriculum.
A place on the Reserve List
Early in Year 8, once the deadline for acceptance for Main List offers has passed, the Reserve List will be reviewed. St Paul’s will request a recent report from the boy’s Head Teacher and they will sit written papers in English and Maths. Some unconditional 13+ places will then be offered, and a small number of boys will be put onto a small waiting list.
An explanation that an offer has not be made.
Are St Paul’s own tests difficult?
As with all entrance tests, the Stage 2 tests are designed to challenge and stretch applicants. Both tests are paper-based and typically sat one after the other. In previous years they have included the following:
English: In the past, applicants have been asked to complete comprehension. The texts have been considered challenging for a range of reasons:
Composition: The texts chosen have often been particularly challenging passages which include a lot of dialogue and/or have included advanced use of vocabulary and writer’s technique.
Questions: Generally, there are few literal questions, and most questions are inference-based and require longer answers including points and evidence in the form quotes and analysis. Alongside writer’s technique questions, candidates are also asked about their personal response to the text.
Maths: The Maths paper has focused predominantly on Number related questions. Previous applicants have commented that the Maths is challenging and more advanced than the ISEB Common Pre-Test. The level of difficult has been associated with:
Topic Coverage: Although the Maths reportedly covers the KS2 Curriculum, it does involve some more advanced, Maths Olympiad type questions.
Question Types: A lot of the questions are multistep (2-3 steps) requiring students work through each step before being able to move on to the next. Applicants have also commented that the majority of questions are written answers with no multiple choice, often the most challenging question type in Maths.
What questions do St Paul’s ask at interview?
Like many school interviews the St Paul’s interview seeks to explore the following about each student:
- Family (e.g. What do you like to do on the weekend as a family?)
- School (e.g. What do you most enjoy about your current school?)
- Academic Learning (e.g. What is your favourite subject and why?)
- Reading (e.g. Do you enjoy reading?)
- Extracurricular (e.g. What activities do you get involved in at school outside of the classroom?)
- Hobbies (e.g. What do you do in your spare time at outside of school?)
- St Paul’s (e.g. Why would you like to come to St Paul’s?)
Over and above these more ‘standard’ types of interview questions, St Paul’s do routinely incorporate more challenging academic and problem-solving questions for boys to answer on the spot. These could be mathematical, but they may also be a moral or ethical conundrum.
Entering St Paul's in Year 12 (Sixth Form Entry):
Applications for boys looking to apply for Year 12 places open in May of Year 10, with the selection process taking place in the Autumn Term of Year 11. Each year, around 20 boys join the school at this entry point.
16 Plus Entrance Process:
The 16 Plus entrance process has multiple stages, with applicants being selected to move to the next stage based on their relative performance.
Stage 1: Deadline for applications and references
Applications (and IELTS results) must be received by the application deadline. St Paul’s will then contact the student’s school for an academic reference.
Stage 2: Entrance Exams
All applicants are invited to sit the entrance exams in their chosen subjects. These exams normally take place at St Paul’s at the beginning of November. If students are based overseas, they may sit their exams at their local British Council on the same day. These exams are based on current GCSE syllabuses (or alternative syllabuses). The exams are not solely based on factual recall as students will not have covered the complete GCSE syllabus by this point – analytical skills and problem-solving ability are also assessed at this stage.
All applicants will also be required to sit a problem-solving paper and a critical thinking skills paper. All candidates will also be required to write about their interests, academic aspirations, and motivations for joining St Paul’s School.
There is a single Maths paper, which students studying both single Maths and Further Maths will sit.
There is no written exam for Art or Extended Projects.
Applicants whose chosen subjects are either Computing, Politics or Economics often haven’t studied these before and therefore, subject knowledge is not necessary.
Stage 3: Interviews
Boys who have performed well in the exams will be invited back for interview towards the end of November. Interviews take place at St Paul’s on a Saturday toward the end of November. No exceptions can be made to the date or location of the interview.
Interview takes place with Heads of Department or senior teaching staff in their chosen subject.
Stage 4: Offers
Applicants are informed of the school’s decision by 1st December.
Offers are conditional on GCSE grades (or equivalent). Applicants are expected to achieve at least eight passes including English and Maths, all at grade 7 or above and at least six should be grade 8 or 9, with no more than one grade 6.
Entering St Paul's via a Scholarship
St Paul's Academic Scholarship
Applicants from external prep schools who have been successful in the 13+ admissions process and offered a place on the Main List are welcome to sit the scholarship exams. These take place annually in May and the boy’s Head Teacher will need to advise St Paul’s in January of the year of entry if they will be sitting these. Applicants from St Paul’s Juniors are awarded scholarships based on their work in Year 7 and 8. About 30 scholarships are awarded each year in total between pupils from St Paul’s Juniors and external candidates. Academic Scholarships are retained until the end of a pupil’s career at St Paul’s, subject to good work and conduct.
There are compulsory papers set in English, History, Geography, Latin, French, Theology & Philosophy, Mathematics and Science. There is also an optional paper in Greek which applicants are encouraged to sit if they are at a reasonable standard.
Is there a 16 Plus scholarship for St Paul's?
There are no scholarships awarded at 16 Plus. However, Academic Scholarships are awarded for the final year based on a boy’s work during their Lower Eighth (Year 12). All boys are automatically considered for this scholarship.
Do St Paul’s offer any other scholarships?
There are also Music scholarships and exhibitions to be won. More information on these can be found here: https://www.stpaulsschool.org.uk/admissions/music-scholarships/
Why is St Paul’s so popular?
St Paul’s is highly regarded for their academic results and achievements. In 2023, at A Level, 51% of grades awarded were A* and 85% were A* or A. Similarly, at GCSE, 62% of grades awarded were at Grade 9 and 87% were Grade 8 or 9. Typically, between a third and a quarter of boys gain places at Oxbridge and the majority of the rest of the cohort gain places at top Russell group universities, such as UCL and Imperial College London. Consequently, it attracts parents and students with high academic expectations. In our experience, prospective applicants with the following qualities have been competitive candidates in the school’s admissions process:
- an excellent academic record to date
- an enquiring mind and genuine passion for learning
- an ability to think critically about their learning
- an academic confidence and ability to work independently
Is St Paul’s hard to get into?
Owing to its academic reputation and success St Paul’s attracts a lot of applications and a such the entrance process at 13+ and 16+ are very competitive. Consequently, the school can afford to be highly selective, and we have known of instances where strong applicants do not win places. It is important to go into the entrance process with an open and realistic frame of mind.
Tutors for St Paul’s Entrance
Keystone has over a decade of experience providing tuition to families who wish to send their children to some of the leading UK independent schools including St Paul’s.
For more details on how Keystone can help with preparation for entry to St Paul’s, please call the office for a chat with one of our client managers, or contact us via our request a tutor form.