07 May, 2010

The Hampstead School of English

Last year from late March to late June I went to The Hampstead School of English (HSOE) in London in order to take the Cambridge Proficiency Exam (CPE). I had such a wonderful time there so I now want to share my experiences with the school and the city with you guys. I hope it's helpful for all people who are interested in English courses in England.

The school is located in the north of London and is easily accessible by buses (13, 82, 113) or by subway (Finchley Road, West Hampstead). It offers a variety of courses, ranging from General English courses to Exam Courses like TOEFL, TOEIC, IELTS and the Cambridge Exams. All courses taught at HSOE can be found on their website. The school provides accommodation if needed.

Before going to London to take the CPE course, I had to send in a hand written text so they could check if my English level was high enough to be able participate in the course. Luckily, they gave me the green light to take the course and a couple of months later I went to London. When I arrived at the school at 8 they made all new students take a language placement test. I was pretty annoyed, given the fact that I already sent in a text for the same purpose. I grudgingly took the test and was later placed in a CAE class instead of the CPE class I wanted to join. I was shocked and felt some embarrassment because I thought the test was pretty easy and because I had already told everyone who asked me about it that I was going to take CPE exam. I tried to convince them to let me change the class by explaining my situation: that I already handed in a text a couple of months earlier. It didn't help, they wouldn't let me change the class. Needless to say, I was very frustrated. My only option was to join the CAE class and ask the teacher there (who, funnily enough, thought I looked like Quentin Tarantino,) if and how it was possible to change classes. She convinced me to try her class first and after about half an hour into the lesson (right after I used the word "omnipotent" she said I was definitely good enough for CPE and went to talk to the staff. Five minutes later I introduced myself to my classmates in the other building...I was relieved.

It was the last unpleasant experience I made during my three months in London, which in hindsight wasn't that bad in the first place because it got resolved pretty quickly. As far as I am concerned, the most important thing about a language school is that they have good teachers, everything else comes second. And HSOE is full of teachers that are friendly, motivated and competent. The CPE course is pretty demanding for people who are going to take the exam. There is about one hour of homework every day and you should in two texts for review every week. I only wrote two texts during my three months and my teachers (the teacher changed all the time so I had lots of them) got really worried. They rated both of my texts a "Band 3" which meant it was sufficient to pass the exam with a C (60% of points) but it wasn't too good. I wasn't worried at all, mainly because I scored between 70-90% points in other parts of the test quite regularly. I was given a "Band 5" rating for my writing in the real test later and Grade A overall. I knew I would pass somehow but I never expected to get an A, especially after hearing how difficult the test was from every teacher. I was very happy!

I think if they let you into the CPE class at HSOE you'll have a 95% chance or more of passing the test. All the talking about how difficult the test is and the hurdles you need to clear before getting into the CPE course are probably there to make sure that the passing percentage is really high. It's understandable  from the school's point of view because they want to advertise with the highest number possible. Looking back, I can only say that I'm very happy with they way things went. I got what I came for (Grade C or more in CPE) on the academic side and I had the best time of my life there. The most memorable things happen after school anyway. Or right before classes, instead of going to classes etc. ;)


  1. I wasn't so good to get prepared for CPE but I had TOEFL classes and it was incredibly great! The "normal" classes I had there were really good as well.

  2. Hey tarantino!.. did you meet any friend there?.. I just can say those 3 months with you at sheila´s home were great, I found a very good and kind person.. hugs!

  3. How much did they charge you for the course? (more or less..)

  4. I think it was £ 2280 which is roughly $ 3350 but that's without accommodation/exam fees etc. You can check their fees on the website, the course is called Cambridge 25 (=25 hours per week, 12 weeks + 1 exam week)

  5. English is an international language all over the world. The only one and only language to communicate people. i always suggest people to go to this web sites for learning english language
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  6. Sounds cool, i studied English at Kontext shool in Belgrade, Serbia.

  7. Yes English is well known language among all over the world. The Hampstead School of English is really a very big school. My sister is also planning to go there for study. Your blog have wonderful posts. Thanks for all the post.
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