Introduction to Scholarship Questions

I wouldn’t be a tutor if it weren’t for the exquisitely difficult scholarship exams, set by the best teachers, at the oldest schools, for the brightest 13 year-olds.

First of all because I scraped into Winchester College via its Election exams, many years ago. But also because everything else is boring by comparison.

The French Structuralist Philosopher Roland Barthes said that the designers of the cars we see in our cities today have a lot in common with the architects of the cathedrals that have stood in them for centuries. They are nameless and unknown – and yet their work is always there, an inescapable part of millions of daily lives.

I feel something similar about the teachers (or dons, or beaks) who set these schools’ scholarship exams.

Not everyone who wins one of these scholarships goes on to greatness, but some of them do. Last SUMMER Winchester’s alumni magazine marked the death of its old boy Freeman Dyson, supposedly the greatest physicist never to win the Nobel Prize. The AUTUMN issue saw the obituary of another Wykehamist, XXX XXX, who actually did win the Nobel Prize for Physics.

Given that the school produces a little over 100 Wykehamists a year, who aged 18 might be expected to live 70 more years, there are only around

100 x 70 = 7000

of us alive at any one point.

The standard of teaching these schools provide is important to more people than just the ones receiving it.

So I use scholarship papers for everyone. Mostly to maintain my own enthusiasm. This alone would be sufficient – there’s nothing more corrosive to learning than a bored teacher. But there are other benefits:

  1. Entry to these schools is Competitive and Zero Sum: lots of parents and students think there is an upper limit to how good you need to be to get in, and that it isn’t worth exceeding for intrinsic reasons. Wrong on both counts.
  2. If you want to know what lessons at these schools are like, read the 13+ scholarship past papers from Winchester, Eton, St Paul’s and Westminster (for younger children, try the 11+ St Paul’s Girls papers).
  3. More fun, less homogenous – LINK WITH;
  4. More of a challenge – confidence
  5. Tutoring not teaching – im there to help in ways a classroom teacher can’t


About the author

Tutor for 18 years. Author for 3. The bees' knees.