How It Works

The EMS admissions process is designed to ensure that the students who enrol are those who will most benefit from our specialist curriculum; the process is thorough, thereby ensuring that the students that join us can feel sure of their ability to embrace the breadth, depth and challenge within our courses. More information about this unique offering can be found on our curriculum page. You may also like to refer to our prospectus: EMS-Prospectus.

The full admissions policy for September 2024 admissions can be read here: Admissions Policy 2024

The minimum entry criteria are:

You don’t need a string of grade 9s at GCSE to secure a place at EMS, only six GCSEs grade 5 or above which include:

  • 8 or 9 in Mathematics 
  • 8 or 9 in Double or Triple Sciences or Computer Science (if not taking Physics) or a 7 or above in
    Single Science Physics
  • 5 or above in English Language or Literature

Note: We will accept a Level 2 Certificate in Further Mathematics as equivalent to a GCSE.

EMS Admissions Timeline

This is the basic structure of our admissions process. To see key dates for this academic year, select the ‘APPLY’ menu above and choose the option for this year’s applications.

A diagram showing the EMS Admissions Timeline - Application Form, Taster Days, Entrance Test, Interviews, Conditional Offers, Boarding and Travel Pass Applications, Enrolment

Stages of the Admissions Process

Click on each section below for a bit more detail about each stage of the admissions process.

The application form provides contact details for both the applicant and their school. It also has space for a personal statement in which the applicant can explain why they wish to attend EMS. If you have already achieved GCSE qualifications early, please include details in this section.

Sometimes students worry about what to put in their personal statement so here’s a bit of advice that may put you at ease:

1. Just be yourself. We’re not looking for a particular type of person, only for students who will enjoy studying at EMS.

2. Try not to worry too much. We don’t score your personal statement but it can be useful for us to refer to if we interview you. For example, you might become a bit tongue-tied and not think of anything to say, we can then use the information in your personal statement to prompt you and encourage further response.

3. Tell us what it is you like about the subjects you will be studying and why you want to study them.

4. Tell us why you think EMS is a good fit for you, after all, you can study our subjects at any number of other places.

5. Use your own words (not your parent’s or teacher’s) and don’t be afraid to show your personality (it makes life more interesting for us when we’re reading through a lot of statements).

6. You don’t need to be brilliant at writing – we’re not testing your English or ability to write convincingly; we just want to get to know you and what makes you tick.

7. If you have achieved something, don’t hesitate to tell us – nothing wrong with bragging in a personal statement. We won’t think you’re arrogant!

The tutor reference will indicate if applicants have the ability and attitude necessary to cope with the course and will provide the students’ predicted grades. This also gives an opportunity for teachers to let us know any other contextual information that may help us fairly assess the student.

The entry test is a non-calculator paper and is designed to assess an applicant’s potential and their problem-solving. It will not contain curriculum content beyond that of National Curriculum Level 8. The early part of the test is likely to have the type of questions you are familiar with but as you progress through the paper you will find that the questions are more challenging and may be different to what you are used to. We expect applicants to get stuck and often not complete the whole paper. Try not to let this put you off, remember that everyone is in the same boat and we’re looking for potential, not perfection.

Students with access arrangements in place for their exams at school will be provided with the same support to sit the EMS entrance test. For applicants for whom this applies, please ensure that you advise us of your access arrangements in the relevant section of your online EMS application form.

Applicants may also benefit from working through the sample questions below. The sample questions are non-calculator based, to reflect the test accurately.

Those who have scored highly in the test will be invited to an interview. This will help to ensure that successful applicants are those who will most benefit from attending a specialist mathematics school. The interview will consist of two parts:

Firstly, you will have a one-to-one maths lesson with one of the EMS teachers.  They will give you problems to work through on an area of mathematics which we don’t expect you to be familiar with. Our aim is to understand how you learn new material and respond to being challenged. This is not something which we expect you to prepare for and although it may feel a bit daunting at first, remember that we are looking for potential. Come prepared to get stuck and to have to think about the work and ask questions of the teacher.

Secondly, you will have a chat with a member of staff, often the headteacher.  We’ll ask you questions about your expectations of EMS, why you have applied and what you hope to gain from studying with us. We’re not going to score you on your interview technique or what you’re wearing, nor are we going to ask questions to try and trip you up. The aim of this part of the interview is to ensure that EMS is a good fit for you. You’ll also have the chance to ask us questions – this is a two way process and you need to be sure EMS is right for you too.

Students with Specific Education Needs or Disabilities (SEND) will have the opportunity to meet with a member of our support staff to ensure that, should they be offered a place, we have all that is needed in place prior to you joining us. Parents are welcome to join students for this meeting. This is not part of the selection process and the SEND staff do not consult with the admissions staff regarding decisions to offer places. This meeting only takes place at this time because of the distances many need to travel to attend and the time that is sometimes needed to ensure provision is in place for September.

Students will be offered places on condition of them meeting the minimum entry criteria (listed above to the left). Should we have more suitable applicants than places we will operate a waiting pool.

Applicants who live in the catchment area and apply before the deadline will be considered first. Late and out-of-area applicants will usually go into the waiting pool at this stage. Out-of-area applicants who are planning to move into the area may be given offers conditional on both GCSE results and completing their planned move.

Our Students’ Advice

Our students share their worries about applying to EMS, in the hope they can alleviate yours.

“My main worry was going to be the test, to put it simply, if you enjoy maths then simply try enjoy the test. It’s not easy, but that’s what makes it enjoyable, and the end result is well worth it.”

“I worried I wouldn’t be accepted, I would tell people to stay calm and things will all work out.”

“I applied not thinking I would get in, but wanted to experience an admissions process. I’d recommend applying even if you are not that confident as you never know how far you can get.”

“I was worried that everyone would be super focused on maths with little other hobbies/interests, whereas now I know that there are a huge variety of people who come here.”

“EMS is stereotyped as a school for child prodigies and many people I know who thought about applying didn’t for this reason. I now know that not to be true (ofc).”

“Before I started I was very worried that everyone would be from private/ grammar schools as that was the honest first impression I got, but now I realise that that simply isn’t true!”

“If you get in its almost certainly the right choice.”

“I was worried that I wouldn’t fit in , that there would be lots of stereotypical introverts , this of course was a silly worry as everyone is lovely and I get on really well with everyone! I was also worried about finding the workload too difficult , but I’m coping much better than I thought I would and am in a very happy place with lots of inspirational like minded people around me to help if I do get stuck!”

Frequently Asked Questions

Complete the online application form which will be linked at the top of the September 2024 entry page (this contains details for 2024 entry). You’ll find a list of key dates on the same page.

Our applications deadline for 2024 Entry is nominally Monday 27th November 2023.

We will consider applications received after the deadline so it is well worth applying after this time, even very late on in the process. The later you apply the more likely it is you would have to go into our Waiting Pool initially, especially if you are applying after we have made conditional offers. If you apply late, please email to notify us you have filled in the application form.

All the key dates for 2024 entry can be found here.

If you would like to study a subject at Exeter College you need to indicate this on your application form to EMS. We then work directly with the college to secure you a place on the course – there is no need for you to complete an additional application form with the college.

The only exceptions to this are:

  • if Exeter College is your alternative option for post-16 study, so you are making a separate application to them for if you do not come to EMS;
  • if you wish to apply for Exeter College’s Sports Academy, in which case you must apply for it directly with Exeter College by their deadline and also select it as your fourth ‘subject’ on your EMS application form.

It’s common for applicants to change their mind about the subjects they wish to study. If you decide to switch courses you can let us know when you come to an interview or by simply emailing us at We’ll do our best to accommodate all changes and in most cases manage this.

Occasionally students pick subjects which are difficult to timetable. This is usually because there is only one class running at the college for the chosen subject. When this happens we work with our colleagues at Exeter College to adapt the timetable to try to make your option work. If it is not possible to do this we will get in touch with you as soon as possible to let you know and discuss alternative options.

Year 11 is a pressurised enough year without needing to dedicate additional hours to preparing for our test. We’re designing a paper which tests potential and problem solving rather than one which expects you to have crammed for a lot of information. So our first piece of advice is not to over-prepare. We deliberately tell you little about the content and don’t share past papers to reduce the pressure on you to study for long hours in the lead up to our test.

You probably want to warm up a little, just to put your nerves at rest. We recommend that you have a go at the questions on this page which will give you a taster of what to expect.

More generally, the best way to be prepared is to develop your mathematical thinking and problem solving. You can do this by always seeking to understand how and why mathematics works when you learn it in school. Asking teachers questions and playing around to see how things fit together is always beneficial. Be curious and always asking why? what if? If you have the opportunity to take part in maths challenges and enrichment activities, grasp it with both hands and embrace getting stuck from time to time. There are some lovely websites such as nrich, the UKMT and brilliant which have a wealth of materials for you to play with. You might also like to have a go at our own “snackable maths” problems.

None of the above suggestions are designed for last-minute cramming, just ideas to help foster your joy and ability in mathematics which, over time, will develop the type of thinking and problem solving which are likely to serve you well in our admissions test or any other mathematics you do.

This is an understandable concern and we recognise that for many applicants this will be their first ever interview. We hope you will be reassured by knowing that we are not selecting students based on their interview technique, we’re just interested in getting to know you and making sure that we’re the right fit for you.

There are things you can do to make the interview a little less nerve-inducing:

  • Jot down things you want to say before you arrive
  • Feel free to refer to your notes (you’ll be given the chance to ask questions and share extra information)
  • If you are more confident at writing than speaking, add important information to your personal statement when you complete the application form
  • Think of this as a two-way process – you’re testing us too to see if this is where you want to be
  • Wear clothes you feel comfortable in – we really don’t mind how you dress and have accepted students wearing suits, rugby kit, school uniform or jeans and t-shirt
  • If you come out of the interview kicking yourself for missing something out, drop us an email and we promise to read it
  • If you have a SEND which is likely to impact your interview, let us know about it so that we can make reasonable adjustments and be prepared to support you

If you have discovered techniques which help make communication easier for you, apply them at the interview. You can also let us know if there are things we can do to make the experience easier for you. We want to be able to get to know you and will do all we can to support you to be able to be your wonderful, lovely self!

The large majority of our applicants do not come from selective schools. Most students who come to EMS do so from their local state school. That’s not to say that students from other schools are not welcome. We’re an inclusive community and take pride in the fact that students from all walks of life are able to come together and support one another through a shared love of mathematics-related subjects.

Try not to think about the admissions process being about you being good enough or not. We have a limited number of places and it may be that all applicants could cope well with our courses, we just don’t have room for them. You could be a very strong mathematician who is likely to go on to achieve high grades and have a fantastic STEM career. Not getting into the maths school does not mean that you are incapable of great things – it’s important you understand and believe that to be the case; don’t be put off studying the subjects you love just because we you were not selected for EMS.

We have between 60 and 64 places available each year.

As a fairly new school which many people have not yet heard of, our application numbers are still not stable and so using previous years’ data to extrapolate into the future should be done with great caution. Furthermore, the number of students who drop out of the process or turn down the offer of a place is also changing over time and this too impacts on the likelihood of applicants securing a place. The data below is therefore shared on the understanding that they are not a reliable indication of numbers for the coming year, nor do they capture the drop-out rates.

2023 – 141 applicants

2022 – 158 applicants

2021 – 121 applicants

2020 – 139 applicants

2019 – 129 applicants

2018 – 110 applicants

2017 – 99 applicants

2016 – 91 applicants

2015 – 89 applicants

2014 – 54 applicants

Other than in 2020, all students who secured a place on the waiting list and achieved the minimum entry criteria, were able to take up a place when one became available. In 2020, we had to turn away students in the waiting pool, due in part to more students achieving the required grades and also because fewer declined their place than in previous years.

You will be in the waiting pool until a place becomes available. There are three points in the year when this is most likely to happen:

  • Soon after offers are made, we ask students to accept or decline their place. At this point a few students may decide that EMS is not for them and places may become available for those in the waiting pool.
  • In May, boarding students are asked to accept or decline their place in residential accommodation and to pay a deposit. At this point, one or two places may become available for members of the waiting pool.
  • In August, when students receive their GCSE results, some may not meet the entry requirements and others may have a last-minute change of heart, we will then be able to offer places to students from the waiting pool.

We try to keep the waiting pool small enough so that students within it have a realistic prospect of a place at EMS. At the time of initially offering places, the waiting pool is likely to have less than ten students in it, often fewer. All the students in the waiting pool are those who have demonstrated that EMS is a good fit for them, it’s just that we don’t have enough space. If you’re in the waiting pool and are subsequently offered a place, rest assured that we believe EMS is a good fit for you.

Applicants from outside our catchment area will be placed in the waiting pool but will not be prioritised over those from within the catchment area who applied on time. Late applicants will also be added to the waiting pool, provided they perform at a high enough level.

Follow the links below for information Taster Days, important information and dates for entry next September (including a link to the application form), and to join the Admissions Mailing List if you are not yet in Year 11.

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