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. ;)