Prince William revealed on Monday morning that his wife Princess Kate wasn’t by his side as she was at home helping their eldest son Prince George ahead of his school examinations. And we can safely assure you, they are not for the faint-hearted.
The 11-year-old Prince is set to sit his ISEB exam which is similar to the 11+ and consists of English, Maths, Verbal, and Non-Verbal reasoning.
The exam is then sent on to the top boarding schools in the country to see if he can garner a place, but it doesn’t end there. Following his mark, he will be invited back to sit even more exams for the specific schools.
HELLO! sat down with James Mitchell, the co-founder of Think Tutors which is a full-service education advisory firm tutoring company specifically designed to assist children whose families are in the public eye as well as ultra-high net worth families. We also consulted Alex Server, the founder of Pegasus Tutors, an independent tutoring company to discuss the rigorous process the Prince is facing over the next few months.
Whilst Eton may be on the cards for the young Prince, it is likely he has also applied to Harrow, Radley and Winchester as well, and is subsequently in store for a good few more exams until his place is confirmed according to James.
Alex explained what a grueling and competitive process this is for the youngsters: “The competition is like getting into Oxford.”
James added: “There are students in the public eye who Eton rejects even with a similar standing to Prince George and so Eton is probably one of the only schools in the country where they don’t need donations, they need the best students that they can possibly get.”
But what is the process of getting into the country’s best boarding schools and why are they so grueling?
What is the process?
The exams process for the youngsters is quite hefty, starting with the aforementioned ISEB, which will take place after the October half term, followed by specific school exams as well as interviews that follow. James explained:
“For Eton, you have the pre-test to begin with, and Jonathan Perry, the headmaster of Lambrook will provide him a letter and providing the reference is strong and he scores a decent score in the ISEB pre-test of around 124 which would be quite safe. So, providing he scores 124ish in the test, it is likely he will be invited back for the Eton test.”
He added: “Because George is born in July, he will be sitting the second stage test in late April early May as well as an interview at the college.
The Eton exam
“The second stage test is very different to the first stage, it’s far more in-depth, it’s almost a stress test. So, Eton designed it so you can’t score 100% and it’s adaptive so it gets harder, if you’re answering easier questions early on, it gets progressively harder. They are not linear questions from the curriculum.
“For example, you may have a reverse Tetris-style game with words and sentences moving up the page and you have to basically correct spelling and grammar and it gets faster and faster until you can’t do it anymore.
“And that’s just one element. It changes every year it’s very gamified in the sense that it’s not a regular pen and paper test.”
As well as grueling exams, George will also have to prepare for interviews which each college does differently but generally follows a similar format.
“Sometimes it can be very straightforward but can be viewed as a bit of a stress test in terms of how you perform under pressure. You don’t know what questions they’re going to ask you.
“They’ll make you comfortable, you’ll have your regular questions, ‘What do you like about school? Why Eton?’ and things like that. They want students to be able to give honest, organic answers. So, when it comes to George’s preparation, the key is for whoever is helping him prepare is for it to be organic.”
“For example, let’s say the question is if you’re giving £1 million, how would you spend it? And if you turned around and said I would give it to charity, that would be a pretty lame answer. “
James elaborated on what a strong answer looked like: “I’d put £1 million into a broad-based index fund for it to compound over time, once I sort of consider what to do with it and then over time, I draw down certain amounts and give a certain amount to charity.”
How has Princess Kate been helping Prince George prepare?
Whilst exam week can be a stressful time, Princess Kate can breathe a sigh of relief as it turns out the Prince should be just fine due to the amount of preparation he has already done. “Prince George will have been through every style of question that could arise in all four subjects,” James revealed and explained that George will have been using exam simulators to mimic the exam conditions for both the ISEB and the Eton test to help “finesse” his approach.
The Princess of Wales will of course be the perfect person to be on hand, as Alex said: “More and more these days there’s an added focus on mental health and mental wellbeing.” There has been a major focus on mental health in more recent years and with her Shaping Us initiative Kate is well aware of the importance of a healthy mind.
He also explained it’s likely George will be completing ten-minute test books as part of his preparation.
When do students start preparing for their exams?
Students taking the exam will start preparing anywhere from six months to two years before the ISEB, with six months being the cut-off point.
Think Tutors specialise in live-in tutors who actually move in with students for regular tutoring. “I assume [Prince George] will have a specific Eton tutor on this alongside Johnaton’s team and Lambrook. I mean, Lambrook prepares students very, very, very well.
“It is by far the best perhaps in the country, it is essentially a family-run school. He is in the best possible place for any preparations.”
Alex and James each explained the importance for the children to be reading a plethora of books in preparation as they will almost certainly be asked about them in their college interviews.
Both Pegasus and Think Tutors issue a set list of texts that change every year of books they have to read as every school interviewer will ask the children to talk about them. Previously, books on the list have included George Orwell’s Animal Farm as well as Prisoner of Geography by Tim Marshall, which is ordinarily an A-level text.
How do George’s exams compare to Prince William’s when he attended the school?
With his mother and father’s successes at Eton and Marlborough College, one would imagine the royal couple would be able to pass down their words of wisdom, which, although is true, the tests have completely transformed from when the Prince and Princess of Wales attended their respective schools. James explained: “It would have been far easier William,” as the tests have come on leaps and bounds from his day.
Does having family members attend the school really make a difference?
Prince George has a long line of family members who attended Eton, including his father, Prince William, and uncle, Prince Harry, and the college does have sibling policy and family policy.
“It does help,” James explained. “But if you do genuinely poorly in your pre-test [you may not get in]. There have been instances of a family in the public eye where the father has attended but the children haven’t been admitted.”
Radley has what is known as a “headmaster’s list” onto which future students can be put from the moment they are born which James explains makes the process a lot easier for prospective students by the time they are applying at age 11.