Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry is a fictional British boarding school of magic for students aged eleven to eighteen, and is the primary setting for the first six books in J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series.
Being a school of magic, many subjects at Hogwarts differ from the studies of a typical school. Some subjects, such as History of Magic, derive from non-wizard – or muggle – subjects, but many others, such as charms and apparition classes, are unique to the wizarding world. There are twelve named teachers (referred to as Professors), each specialising in a single subject. All professors are overseen by a school head and deputy head. Transfiguration, Defence Against the Dark Arts, Charms, Potions, Astronomy, History of Magic, and Herbology are compulsory subjects for the first five years, as well as flying lessons. At the end of their second year, students are required to add at least two optional subjects to their syllabus for the start of the third year. The five choices are Arithmancy, Muggle Studies, Divination, Study of Ancient Runes and Care of Magical Creatures. According to J.K. Rowling, “very specialised subjects such as alchemy are sometimes offered in the final two years, if there is sufficient demand.”
At the end of their fifth year, students take the Ordinary Wizarding Level (O.W.L.) examinations for all subjects in which they are enrolled. Each examination consists of a written knowledge test and, where applicable, a practical demonstration of skills before a panel of proctors from the Ministry of Magic. Students who achieve a high enough O.W.L. grade in a particular subject may take its advanced course for the final two years, in preparation for the Nastily Exhausting Wizarding Tests (N.E.W.T.) given at the end of the seventh year.
The Hogwarts Express is a train that carries students non-stop from Platform 9 3⁄4 at King’s Cross station in London to Hogsmeade Station, near Hogwarts. The platform can be accessed by simply passing through the side of the brick pillar between Platforms 9 & 10. Refreshments are available on board.
The train began use in the 1850s. Before that, students used to reach Hogwarts on brooms or enchanted carriages.
Hogwarts is divided into four houses, each bearing the last name of its founder: Godric Gryffindor, Salazar Slytherin, Rowena Ravenclaw and Helga Hufflepuff. Throughout the school year, the houses compete for the House Cup, gaining and losing points based on actions such as performance in class and rule violations. Houses at Hogwarts are living and learning communities for their students.
In the early days of Hogwarts, the four founders hand-picked students for their Houses. When the founders worried how students would be selected after their deaths, Godric Gryffindor took his hat off and they each added knowledge to it, allowing the Sorting Hat to choose the students by judging each student’s qualities and placing them in the most appropriate house.