How to prepare for the Eton and Harrow 13+ Exams

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Sobia

Owl Tutor

March 15th, 2019

How to prepare for the Eton and Harrow 13+ Exams

In this blog, Sobia takes an in depth look at the 13+ Harrow and Eton scholarship English, Maths and Science papers, and offer some useful tips to keep in mind.


The English Paper

Generally, the harder the 13+ paper, the longer or more complex the passage provided for comprehension, and the shorter and fewer the questions! This means that 13+ papers for schools like Eton and Harrow will usually have one or more passages of text, or a poem that can be quite abstract and complex, or some combination thereof. The questions, though, can be worth 10 to 30 marks each. This means you need to think carefully about how you allocate your time…

Use your time wisely

The Eton paper is 1hr and 35 mins long, with 60 marks for the comprehension section and 40 marks for the creative writing section. Remember, the comprehension section will entail you having to read the passages first. The Harrow paper is 1hr and 45 mins long, with 50 marks for each section. Make sure you look at the recommended allocation of time on each paper, and try to follow it closely!

Develop a strategy

The Eton paper will have more text to analyse and shorter questions, so it is a good idea to have some kind of strategy here, and the following tips may help:

  • Scan all the questions before reading the passages/poems, so you can read in a more focused way, underlining words or sentences relevant to the question
  • If it is a question carrying a lot of marks, make a quick plan of what you will include in your answer
  • If you are analysing a poem, have a quick list of things to look out for (scan for meaning, rhyme scheme, rhythm, alliteration, assonance, imagery e.g. metaphor, simile)
  • Have some phrases ready for comparing two pieces of text (a common Eton question)
  • Have a quick read of some Victorian literature prose passages, a little of Chaucer (middle English) and some Shakespeare, because paraphrasing older forms of English is a fairly common Eton question

The Maths Paper

The 13+ Maths papers are challenging. Harrow has Maths papers I and II and Eton sets Maths papers A and B.

Harrow Maths I

Harrow Maths I is a 1hr and 30mins paper with around 7 to 8 multi-part questions which are actually fairly predictable in nature. They revolve around algebra and simultaneous equations, calculating percentage increase/decrease in amounts and sometimes constructing an equation along the way to work this out. Multi-step word problems are common, with multi-step currency conversions and area/perimeter of shapes when one is moulded into another (e.g. square to semi-circle, etc.)

Harrow Maths II

Harrow Maths II is a 1hr and 30mins paper of far more challenging problems, where students are encouraged to finish one whole problem rather than attempt parts of different problems, in the allotted time. The subject of these problems is similar to Maths I (algebra, working out dimensions of interchanging shapes) but more complex and in depth. The simultaneous equations may involve fractions and negative numbers, and there may be the odd curveball (2 dogs eat 3 bags of food in 4 days; how long does it take 3 dogs to eat 4 bags of food – answer: it definitely isn’t as simple as it looks!).

Eton Maths A and B

Eton Maths A is also 1hr and 30mins and has fairly similar types of question; it’s just that they are a bit longer. Means, simultaneous equations, complex algebra, repeated division and string numbers are common. In Maths B, which is also 1hr 30mins, there are some very complex multi-step problems especially involving geometry again, and algebra using fractions.

Again, use your time wisely, and don’t spend too long on one question especially in Maths I/Maths A, which you are expected to finish in the allocated time; although you are also expected to finish Maths II/B, not every student does.

Quick Science tips 

For science papers, it is important that you know your basic definitions in Chemistry (atom, molecule, element, compound) and you will definitely find repeated themes across papers. E.g. solubility of salts at different temperatures, gas tests, pH of carbon dioxide popped up many times. Data analysis and reading graphs is very common, as is applying your existing knowledge to real life problems e.g. underwater pressure for a scuba diver. One crucial tip – read the question very carefully. There are little nuggets of information, almost clues, in the actual wording of the questions. 

Good Luck!


Sobia is a tutor with Owl Tutors

More about Sobia

Sobia qualified as a teacher in Science in 2002, and now works as a tutor with Owl Tutors.

Sobia has done a lot! She initially trained to be a doctor, before switching to working as a Science teacher. She has since taught for over ten years, and found time to complete a PhD in English along the way. She currently teaches and tutors in between her own writing.