What is a Grammar School?

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Have you heard the term “grammar school” and are wondering what it is? Are you confused by who can go to grammar school and who cannot? You have come to the right place!

This article will do more than define what a grammar school is. It will help you understand who goes to grammar school and the difference between normal school and grammar school.

This article will provide you with that and so much more. You never have to worry about how to get your child into a grammar school again. What are you waiting for? Keep reading to find some of the most critical information surrounding grammar schools.

What is Considered a Grammar School?What is Considered a Grammar School?

If you’ve heard the term grammar school in the United States, it’s safe to say that the definition you have is not the same as the rest of the world. In the United States, grammar schools are known as another way to say elementary or middle school. Often, many people assume that because the terms are similar, they are the same thing as traditional. However, they are sadly mistaken.

Historically, grammar schools were extremely popular outside of the United States. A large number of children in England and Australia have attended grammar school. Grammar schools are often considered highly prestigious, and in countries like Australia for more affluent people.

Grammar schools age children are often 12 and up, being accepted during their year seven transition. Grammar schools were known to be for the most intelligent students. These were the students that parents and teachers expected to graduate from university and have great jobs.

In places like England, many grammar schools have been resolved into traditional schools in the 70s. However, there are quite a few which still exist today. These schools are government-funded, and students are selected based on their academics. Prior to the 70s, the 11+ exam would determine if children would go to traditional secondary schools or grammar schools.

Today, though the majority have been converted, schools in England still reserve space for children who fit the rigorous academic standards of grammar schools. Based on the National Grammar School Association, there are 164 schools in England and 69 different schools in Northern Ireland. These schools vary between being co-ed and single-sex.

England even has schools that have actively created a higher academic track that mirrors the academic standards needed to get into a grammar school though not traditional grammar schools. Some grammar schools have even gone as far as changing over to academy status. Having this status means that you are state-funded, but you are also independent. These schools have more flexibility and freedom when designing their curriculum. They even get the power to determine how long their school days are.

Unfortunately, individuals in Scotland and even Wales do not have the option to attend traditional grammar schools. Though they still have schools that hold the name, students are not selectively admitted.

What Makes a Grammar School Different?

What Makes a Grammar School Different?

You may be wondering what makes a grammar school different from a normal school. Though there are several similarities, there are also very stark differences. It is said that grammar schools were created to give high-performing impoverished students a chance to level the playing field though many individuals do not believe this.

Strong academic emphasis

It is consistently reinforced that grammar schools are known for being schools full of high achievers. Grammar schools are very rigorous academically and select their students based on their ability to perform at a high academic standard. This standard is measured using the 11+ exam. Being that these are state-funded schools, children can attend them at no charge unless they are paying for boarding.

Grammar schools also push more traditional teaching practices and focus on discipline as a core value in their schools.


Grammar schools are state-funded entities, but there has been continuous controversy around them. Many government officials are opposed to their existence, and in the late 90s, the creation of any new grammar schools was banned. Though no new school can be created, England’s existing schools do have the option to expand.

Highly selective

Grammar schools are highly selective and can often take a small number of students each year. For this reason, they usually have long waiting lists. Some schools even have the ability to admit students via transfer rather than during their sixth to seventh-year transition.

One of the significant advantages of grammar school is that it can adequately prepare students for the next phase of their education, university.

Course Load

Course load is one significant difference between grammar schools and traditional schools. Though they follow a similar curriculum, normal schools tend to provide more vocational or trade classes than academics.

Create unattainable goals for students

Though there are several differentiators between grammar schools and normal schools, grammar schools can also create unrealistic expectations from students. Though some students may get accepted, many will often struggle to keep up with the course load. Parents who can afford to pay for tutors consistently often keep their children at the top of the pack while others may struggle.

Who Can Go to Grammar School?

Who Can Go to Grammar School?

Contrary to popular belief, grammar schools are not restricted to affluent or well-off families. Anyone has the opportunity to go to a grammar school as long as there is one within their vicinity. Children can enter grammar school via the selective exam during their 6th year or be admitted at certain schools during years seven to eleven.

Children transferring in after their 7th year will need to meet transfer stipulations and may be asked to come into the school and test their way in. Seats in higher years are often only offered if there is a vacancy within the appropriate year. This is one reason why several grammar schools have long waiting lists.

What is the Difference Between a Grammar School and a Normal School?

What is the Difference Between a Grammar School and a Normal School?

When thinking about normal schools and grammar schools, there are several similarities and differences. Grammar schools have consistently evolved over the years, and there have been new laws and initiatives put in place to control them.

Historically, grammar schools were designed for individuals who had the prospect of going to university, whereas traditional schools were for kids who would go into a trade. This is one of the reasons that grammar schools began to phase out, and the ban on new grammar schools was instated.

How to Get Into a Grammar School?

How to Get Into a Grammar School?

Getting into grammar school can be a stressful process. Not just for the child but for the parent as well. Students must be prepared to do their absolute best on the exam. Use the information below to aid you and your child in your grammar school preparations.

Select a school

The first step in getting into a grammar school is selecting the schools in which you are interested. Though these schools are state-funded, the area you live in must be close to the school you choose. The National Grammar School Association is able to provide a list of all schools by their geographic region to aid you in choosing the one that is best for you.

It’s important to remember that getting into a grammar school is not necessarily a universal process. Different schools reserve the right to have additional requirements for acceptance. Therefore, the criteria for admittance are based on the school that you choose. However, students do have to take a selection exam one year before they are ready to be promoted to secondary school. The scores needed to get into each school can vary depending on the chosen school.

Register early

After you have chosen a school to apply to, you must do your research. Many schools offer a historical view of the statistics from their admitted students. These statistics often include the average scores for previous academic years.  Looking through these scores can be an excellent idea. This allows you to not only see the average for admittance but to create a baseline for your child to beat.

Outside of simply knowing the exam, you will need to know precisely when to register. Though the test generally takes place during year 6 of a child’s education, some schools will force families to register their child for the exam at least two years before they plan to attend. This would happen during their 5th year. It may be smart to check the school’s website before you wait to register. You do not want to get to the end of your child’s 6th year and realize that they can not attempt to go to the school they chose.

Know the exam

During the 5th year is also when some parents will begin to prepare their children for the exam. This is important because, at some schools, there are some limitations on what kids can study based on how well they do on the entrance exam. This puts a greater weight on students to do well on the exam.

Your child needs to know what to expect from the exam. There are several skills tested; these include Math, English, creative writing, and reasoning. The reasoning exams can be verbal or nonverbal. The standard score is something that can vary by year. Therefore, it’s essential that your child does well in relation to the other students taking the exam.

Prepare and Pass the Exam

You must help your child to study for the exam. However, there is no set percentage that a student needs to pass.  Some schools have a higher percentage and are far more rigorous than others. It is also important to remember that a passing score does not guarantee admittance into a grammar school. Many of these schools have full lists of children who are waiting to get in.

There are several online resources available to aid you in getting your child ready for the exam. These options include reading lists, prior exams, and online prep guides. Parents even have the option to check previous test scores to see the average score their child will need to achieve. There are even resources sold at bookstores and in the communities near the school.

Wrapping Things Up: What is a Grammar School?

We hope this essay has answered your question of what is a grammar school. As you can see, there are several advantages of grammar schools, and they ensure that your child will have a consistent focus on their education as well as being well disciplined. With an adequate amount of preparation, there is a high probability that your student can get accepted into one of these schools.

However, though they provide a curriculum that they can be proud of, some students have difficulty keeping up. To keep selective schools fair, they are open to all within their vicinity; however, well-off parents have the upper hand as they can pay for the help their child may need.

Overall, grammar is only one alternative to traditional, and it is ultimately your decision what route your child goes. Happy hunting!

> Middle School vs. High School: What’s the Difference?

> Middle School vs. Junior High: What’s the Difference?

> Online School vs. Public School: What’s the Difference?

> Private School vs. Public School: What’s the Difference?

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Professor Conquer

Professor Conquer started Conquer Your Exam in 2018 to help students feel more confident and better prepared for their tough tests. Prof excelled in high school, graduating top of his class and receiving admissions into several Ivy League and top 15 schools. He has helped many students through the years tutoring and mentoring K-12, consulting seniors through the college admissions process, and writing extensive how-to guides for school.

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