St. Paul’s Girls’ School is one of the most academically competitive schools in the nation. Their most recent A-level results boast 94% of students received an A or A*. This Hammersmith-based school also offers top quality sport and extra-curricular opportunities despite its highly academic focus. A significant amount of ‘Paulinas’ go on to Oxbridge or Edinburgh, as well as top U.S. universities (the school offers SATs and has a U.S. school counsellor).
So what you should do first?
Develop a genuine interest in the school. Explore the website with your daughter, identify opportunities she would like to pursue (academic offers, music, sport, societies, pastoral etc.), attend an open day, and decide if St. Paul’s is a genuinely good fit for you.
Entry at 11
Entry at 11+ involves an initial, computer-based reasoning test, further exams and an interview. Girls will be invited to the further exams based on their reasoning test results, and to the interview based on these exam results. To get a fuller picture of applicants, St. Paul’s will ask schools for reports on candidates who successfully make it past the reasoning test. Being on good terms with your daughter’s current school will certainly help, as will making sure her teachers know her and her ability.
The reasoning test is likely to be something the girls haven’t seen in school before. This can make it intimidating and many girls, while capable, are thrown by the unfamiliar format. Reasoning ability tends to stay stable in the short-term. What will make a difference in a girl’s score on the exam is her familiarity and comfort with the questions. Confidence and a willingness to try something new are key.
There are many 11+ Verbal and Non-Verbal reasoning books widely available which will have the exact type of questions asked on the St. Paul’s exam. The difference: St. Paul’s is computer-based, so girls need to be generally comfortable using a computer. Students are encouraged to work quickly and finish as many questions as they can in the time allowed- they shouldn’t expect to ‘finish’ the test.
The school offers sample papers for English, Maths, and Comprehension. These are a good guide for the level of difficulty to expect. What St. Paul’s is really interested in is a girl’s overall ability to think and reason independently. As such, simply memorising math and comprehension procedures won’t do. Girls need to be able to apply their math/reading knowledge to new problems and situations.
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The Maths exam:
The math exam tests this by using word problems rather than straight math questions. Learning about ‘how’ and ‘why’ math procedures work will help your daughter gain this thorough understanding.
The Reading exam:
The reading exam really tries to get at girls’ understanding of a passage as well as writing techniques. There’s a big focus on how and why the author writes in certain ways. In other words, girls should be able to identify and use a metaphor, as well as describe how and why a metaphor is an effective literary device.
The Comprehension exam:
St. Paul’s Girls’ School’s most unique entrance procedure is the ‘comprehension’ exam. It is not a reading comprehension paper. The comprehension paper is meant to identify girls who have been ‘over prepared’ for exams and may not actually be able to keep up once they’re admitted. As such, it’s not meant to be ‘prepared for’.
The comprehension will present a wide range of ‘stimuli’ (articles, graphs, worksheets, anything really) and ask girls to understand the material and then draw conclusions and inferences from it. To prepare for this, girls should develop a healthy desire to learn, sense of curiosity, and overcome any ‘fear of the unknown’. Exploring non-traditional educational material is a great way to do this (for example, educational magazines).
Interview Tips:This is where a girl’s genuine interest in St. Paul’s will really show. Generic answers to questions like “Why do you want to go to St. Paul’s” will be easy to spot. If your daughter has something special, for example wanting to pursue the senior scholarship, join the medical club, or participate in the Model UN, it will demonstrate to the school that she really knows what St. Paul’s is about, she’s considered it thoroughly, and has specific reasons to support her desire to attend. Girls should be informed of current events (read the news often for a few months leading up to the interview) and feel comfortable discussing them. They should converse easily with adults and show off their intellectual side. The interview is not a time to be shy!
Entry at 16
St. Paul’s also offers entry at 16. This round of entry is significantly more subject based. Applicants will sit exams in the subjects they wish to pursue at A-level. From this exam, successful girls will be chosen for interviews. These interviews focus on both academic and wider interests. Applicants with well-developed special interests (e.g. music) should showcase it here. As St. Paul’s has 91.3% A or A* results, girls should expect to have a solid foundation for any subjects they wish to take at A-level.
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