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Westminster Challenge vs Common Entrance.

(41 Posts)
SarahSavesTheDay Thu 22-Oct-15 19:05:57

My son is going to Westminster next year (conditional upon the CE, naturally). His head has said 'no' to the Challenge, which seems fine to me because I sincerely doubt he's anything above an average WM student.

Does anyone know: what percent of their 13+ intake takes the challenge? What percentile should a boy be to consider it? Is this an exercise reserved for the supremely intelligent?


CruCru Sat 24-Oct-15 15:13:28

My children aren't old enough for me to have looked into this in any detail. However, I know that in a few of the schools we have looked at, the boys planning to do the challenge had to do Greek as well as Latin. Is this the reason for saying no? I should think Ancient Greek is a bit of a niche subject.

SarahSavesTheDay Sat 24-Oct-15 15:26:32

He's been taking Latin for 4 years and Greek for 1, so I don't think so.

As I say, I suspect he'd be middle of the road average by Westminster standards so I will heed the head's advice. I'm just curious about what kind of boy 1. sits the exam and 2. passes.

Gruach Sat 24-Oct-15 19:13:24

I'll jump in with what I've observed - though I have no experience of Westminster so it probably won't be helpful ...

For another famous school (outside London) boys who were in the scholarship set at prep and who took the KS exam would have had to work astonishingly hard in yrs 7 and 8 - and might then find life comparitively less strenuous academically speaking in their first year of senior school. (Masses of work but less taxing.) However there is a huge gulf between boys who take the exam (only needing to do reasonably well) and the tiny minority who are actually awarded the scholarship. For the former, working towards KS simply provides a much wider and more interesting/challenging curriculum. And of course this may mean that boys who took CE find the going slightly tougher at the new school.

Orbiting Sat 24-Oct-15 21:42:58

I think also some schools are simply not confident in teaching to the level of the Westminster Challenge, KS or Winchester Election. I don't know if the OP's school regularly gets some boys to that level or only the very occasional one. If the latter they may be more reluctant unless a boy is clearly extremely bright.

SarahSavesTheDay Sat 24-Oct-15 22:21:13

I gather you mean Eton, Grauch? My baseless assumption is that a scholarship exam is calibrated so that the top 1-5% of the student body passes. I just wanted to check that here.

Orbiting, you've pretty much touched on my possibly paranoid concern here, but I'd be glad to be told otherwise. My son is fairly clever by his prep standards i.e. 128-136 but I would guess that this puts him dead average at WM, and therefore not a candidate for the scholarship exam. But now I wonder if this has more to do with motivation than raw intelligence given the baseline intelligence of their average intake.

Gruach Sat 24-Oct-15 22:26:44

Good point. I was assuming the OP's son is in a classful of Westminster hopefuls. If he's not then yes, I suppose his school might find it difficult.

But I have no real idea ...

SarahSavesTheDay Sat 24-Oct-15 22:39:04

He has 6 in his class of about 60 who have been accepted at WM. Probably not enough to justify its own stream from a cost perspective, but their mission it to prepare.

Gruach Sat 24-Oct-15 22:41:33

Sorry, crossed you OP.

I dunno. Roughly 130 boys sat the KS this year and there was an intake of 250. The figures don't (I don't know the mathematical term) lie side by side because out of that 130 the ones with conditional offers would get in without an award whereas those without a conditional offer couldn't get any further without a scholarship. And some boys from state schools would have taken the NF scholarship. But only 14 KS awards were made.

As for motivation / raw intelligence - I know plenty of boys who may well have possessed the raw intelligence for a KS but who were simply not mature enough at 12/13 to understand just how much work and thought was required.

Needmoresleep Sun 25-Oct-15 06:50:41

My understanding when I was asking the same question about 8 years ago was that about a third entered via the QS exams. DS' prep did not have a scholarship class but prepared very very strong candidates for Westminster and other schools on an ad hoc basis via lunchtime classes, extra homework etc. They had a good hit rate. It was a lot of extra work but bright boys seemed to enjoy the more interesting maths approach etc.

Interesting many will then turn down the scholarship, which involves boarding, and become honorary scholars instead.

In class it does not seem to make much difference. Yes College boys often populate the top maths sets but solely on ability. There is a certain amount of shuffling around and like any school those that start at the top dont always stay there. There are a few quite fun traditional things, around Parliament and The Queen. But generally unless the Prep runs a scholarship stream, or a child is exceptional, and you are attracted to the boarding arrangements at College (dormitory with other equally academic boys) I would give it a miss and spend the time developing non academic skills that will prepare for a strong contribution to school life (music, drama, sport etc.)

Orbiting Sun 25-Oct-15 07:45:32

I think the point about teaching the level of these harder scholarships is not simply the acceleration of syllabus (which can be levelled out at senior school ) but allowing the boys to access a more open ended type of thinking and problem solving. Most bright boys academically at the middle or top end of these schools enjoy the challenge of the latter two compared to the Y8 CE revision dullness even if they do not want the hard work of acceleration (which as Gruach says requires maturity, competitiveness -or hard pushing from parents-- ).

Gruach Sun 25-Oct-15 08:32:52

And, seriously, if you like your child there's only so far even the pushiest family would want to push. Particularly when they're worked hard at school too. The boy does need to want to work hard for himself.

IndridCold Sun 25-Oct-15 09:04:35

What is it that you actually want here OP? Would you like your DS to be a QS if he was successful? Or are you thinking along the lines that sitting the exams would be an enjoyable academic challenge? I do know a boy who is a QS, and he is very, very bright and highly academic (hobby writing poetry in Latin for example). If your DS was successful, would he thrive in a very geeky academic environment, or would he prefer to be with the non-scholars?

Like Gruach my knowledge is of Eton, where a number of boys in my son's cohort sat the KS for 'shits and giggles', for the challenge, and safe in the knowledge that they would almost certainly be exempted from CE. They were bright boys and I don't think they did much in the way of extra tutoring for it. I think it is not unusual for boys to do this at Eton, don't know about WM though.

mom17 Sun 25-Oct-15 11:02:05

Just curious to know use of Latin and Greek ? Why would you want your child to spend so much time learning these ( can I say dead ?) languages ?

Gruach Sun 25-Oct-15 11:38:25

Hmm ...

Because the Greek and Roman Empires form the basis of European language, science, philosophy and culture?

That being so a huge proportion of the academic and creative writing and thought that we rely on for knowledge has been produced over the past few centuries by people who were educated and immersed in Greek and Roman culture. Some people might say that trying to understand anything about the world we live in with no knowledge of either is a bit of a hopeless task.

Because the earlier you start the easier they are to learn.

Because it's fun.

Gruach Sun 25-Oct-15 11:47:19


Do you watch TV?
Eastenders - Greek drama.
The X Factor - Roman amphitheatre.
Have you ever thought about the origins of the word Television?

SarahSavesTheDay Sun 25-Oct-15 11:47:27

Or, more to the point, to prepare for a university degree in Classics.

As for what I want- merely context. My son is a bit geeky as you describe (really loves Latin) but I don't think he's quite as smart or motivated as he would need to be.
He also is not extremely strong in mathS, his talents lie in languages.

Gruach Sun 25-Oct-15 11:56:58

OP Is it the same as the KS in that he would only have to do reasonably well in the scholarship to confirm his place? Or is it all or nothing?

And do you mean context for a year of effort and exploration or for a serious shot at the prize? (Though I guess it's irrelevant as you're hardly going to move him to another prep at this stage.)

Are any of the six being allowed to take it?

Are you disappointed that he won't be?

SarahSavesTheDay Sun 25-Oct-15 12:34:34

OP Is it the same as the KS in that he would only have to do reasonably well in the scholarship to confirm his place? Or is it all or nothing?

I don't know!

The context I was searching for is a measure of how smart and motivated a boy must be to sit for the Challenge. Is it the top half, is it the top quarter, is it the top tenth....?

I am friendly enough only with one boy's mother to know if her son has been advised to sit the challenge, and he's not. I know that the person at my son's school who wrote his recommendation views him as a stronger Westminster candidate than this particular boy (a moment of indiscretion, don't ask) so that's not a good barometer. Two of the other boys are still waffling between Westminster and other schools as far as I know so the school probably won't have taken a stand at this point.

I'm not disappointed. Mostly because I feel he's lucky to have made it in without being a math whizz. If he were, I might feel differently.

SarahSavesTheDay Sun 25-Oct-15 12:35:40

Sorry, not very clear.

What I should have said:

I know that the person who wrote my son's recommendation views him as a stronger Westminster candidate than this particular boy

SarahSavesTheDay Sun 25-Oct-15 12:36:58

Of the two boys who are waffling, one is probably knocking on genius territory so he might be a good indication.

Gruach Sun 25-Oct-15 12:44:06

The context I was searching for is a measure of how smart and motivated a boy must be to sit for the Challenge. Is it the top half, is it the top quarter, is it the top tenth....?

Sorry to keep labouring the point but you haven't actually said why you want to know. What use could you make of the information? Either his school will provide the extra teaching or they won't.

<Slightly confused >

SarahSavesTheDay Sun 25-Oct-15 12:57:45

Ah. Well, if someone here had said: about half the boys take the challenge, I would probably schedule a meeting with the head to discuss whether he falls in the top half of the Westminster intake or not.

I don't really know if the school won't prep for it. All I know at this point is that they're suggesting he not take it.

mom17 Sun 25-Oct-15 13:10:41

Thanks Gruach

Gruach Sun 25-Oct-15 13:12:35

From the Westminster website:

The Challenge (in May) This is the Westminster scholarship examination but it is also used as the entrance examination by approximately half the candidates.

(Which I understand as "half the candidates who already have conditional offers" ...)

From which they award 8 scholarships and 5 exhibitions.

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