Westminster School is one of the older independent schools in the UK. It was originally a charity school founded by Benedictine of Westminster Abbey. Its existence ensured its survival during the dissolution of the monasteries in 1540 and his daughter Elizabeth I re-founded the school in 1560. Today, Westminster educates 750 students and has two entrance points, in Year 9 and Year 12.
How to get into Westminster School
Entering in Year 9:
Westminster accepts 120 boys each year into Year 9. 50 of these places are typically awarded to boys from the Under School, Westminster’s junior school.
13 Plus Entrance Process for Westminster:
As an academically selective school Westminster uses entrance exams to select which boys are suitable to gain a place. They use a 2-stage process, with boys being selected to move to the next stage based on their relative performance.
- Stage 1 is the ISEB Common Pre-Test, usually sat between 1st October and 30th November of the autumn term of Year 6, which is a computerised test consisting of English, Maths, Verbal and Non-Verbal Reasoning. Do read our blog to find out more about the ISEB Common Pre-Tests
- Stage 2 is for those students who have performed strongly in the ISEB Common Pre-Test and have a satisfactory reference. In January of Year 6 applicants are invited to sit Westminster’s own tests in English and English and Maths and complete an interview.
If successful at Stage 2 parents will receive a letter by the end February detailing one of the following:
- an unconditional place (Westminster no longer offer places conditional on passing Common Entrance)
- a place on the schools waiting list
- an explanation that an offer has not be made.
Are Westminster’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: Applicants have been asked to comprehension, using either poetry or prose. The texts have been considered challenging for a range of reasons:
Length: They are often longer than the average 11+ comprehension, requiring students to read quickly and accurately in the time allotted.
Composition: The text chosen have often included a lot of dialogue and/or have included advanced use of vocabulary and writer’s technique.
Questions: The majority of the marks in the English assessment are awarded for the more challenging reasoning or inference-based questions requiring boys to comment on writer’s technique or provide personal reflection/opinion.
Maths: The Maths paper has focused predominantly on Number related questions. Previous applicants have commented that the Maths is particularly challenging, even more so than that within the ISEB Common Pre-Test. The level of difficult has been associated with:
Topic Coverage: Although the Maths reportedly covers the 11+ curriculum, it does delve into some extension level topics such as Algebra.
Question Types: A lot of the questions are multistep 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 word problems, often the most challenging question type in Maths.
What questions do Westminster ask at interview?
Like many school interviews the Westminster 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?)
- Westminster (e.g. Why would you like to come to Westminster?)
Over and above these more ‘standard’ types of interview questions, Westminster 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 in Year 12 (Sixth Form Entry):
Between 70 and 75 students join Westminster in Year 12. These are predominantly girls. Entrance examinations and interviews take place in the November of Year 11, i.e. the year proceeding a students proposed entry to the school.
16+ Entrance Process:
The 16+ entrance process has two stages, with applicants being selected to move to the next stage based on their relative performance.
Stage 1: Applicants are examined in the four subjects in which they wish to study at A Level. All candidates also are required to sit a Thinking Skills Assessment.
Stage 2: Successful candidates are then invited in for both general and subject specific interviews.
If successful at Stage 2 parents will receive a letter by the end December detailing one of the following:
- a conditional place (Conditional on achieving the required grades at IGCSE/GCSE level)
- an explanation that an offer has not be made.
Entering via a Scholarship
What is the Westminster Challenge?
The Westminster Challenge, known as simply ‘The Challenge’, is the 13+ entrance scholarship examinations set by Westminster School. The Challenge is sat by boys in April of Year 8 and results are published in May.
The Challenge was originally introduced by Henry VIII but re-established by Elizabeth I when she re-founded the school. It is this reason that recipients of Westminster’s academic scholarship are known as Queen’s Scholars.
There are 48 Queen’s Scholars at Westminster with 12 selected each year. Of the 12, 8 are boys who have sat ‘The Challenge’. Each year Westminster publishes a list of Queen’s Scholars: https://www.westminster.org.uk/admissions/scholarships/current-scholars/. You can also find out more about the Queen’s Scholars in video on Westminster’s website: https://www.westminster.org.uk/admissions/scholarships/
For the 13+ Scholarship (i.e. The Challenge) applicants have to sit examinations in a range subjects. Fortunately, Westminster publish past papers: https://www.westminster.org.uk/admissions/scholarships/the-challenge/
Is there a 16+ scholarship?
4 of the 12 Queen’s Scholars selected each year are girls, who enter at 16+ and sit Westminster’s 16+ scholarship. The 4 scholarships are awarded to those who have done exceptionally well in the entrance examinations, interviews and thinking skills assessment.
Do Westminster offer any other scholarships?
There are also Music scholarships to be won. More information on these can be found here: https://www.westminster.org.uk/admissions/scholarships/
Why is Westminster so popular?
Westminster is considered one of the most academic independent schools in the UK. It also achieves excellent outcomes for its students each year, both in terms of exam results (e.g. At A Level 76.2% of grades in 2020 were A* or A and 90.7% were A* – B) and university applications (71 offers achieved at Oxford and Cambridge combined). 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 Westminster hard to get into?
Owing to its academic reputation and success Westminster 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. Thus, it is important to go into the entrance process with an open and realistic frame of mind.
Tutors for Westminster School 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 Westminster School.
The tutors we work with are experienced in the intricacies of the 13 plus common entrance, the ISEB pre-test and 16 plus entrance to Westminster.
For more details on how Keystone can help with preparation for entry to Westminster school, please call the office for a chat with one of our client managers, or contact us via our request a tutor form.