Frequently Asked Questions

Before contacting us with your query, please check the list below:

How do I submit my essay online?

The Royal Commonwealth Society has created  a new online platform that is much easier to use and accessible on all devices Visit to submit your piece! Please note: we do not accept essays sent by email.

How can i download my certificate?

For those who entered the Competition between 2014 - 2018, visit the online platform and enter your unique reference number in the box underneath 'Download a certificate'. Your unique reference number was provided to you in an email when you registered. If you do not know your reference number, please contact 

If you entered the Competition in 2019, certificates will be available for download from your dashboard or by inputting the unique reference code sent to you by email. 

How do I know my entry was successfully submitted?

You can login to check details of your submission. This is where you will also be able to see the status of your entry. If you are encountering difficulties, please email 

Where can I find the topics for the 2020 competition?

Topics for The Queen's Commonwealth Essay Competition 2020 can be read online or downloaded.

Can I write on more than one topic?

No, students may only submit one essay each, which means that you have to choose one of the four topics in your relevant category. 

Is there a word limit for the essays?

Yes, different word count rules apply to Junior and Senior categories. Please see our Terms and Conditions for more details.

Should I put my name, age, school, country, and topic number on my essay?

Please do not put your name, age and school on your entry – just your topic number, title, essay and word count. Remember, presentation is important!  

What is my reference number and what is it for?

For all Competitions before 2019, entrants received an automated reference number when they uploaded. This is the individual reference number, which you will need to download your participation or award certificate. 

If you submit your entry by post, your reference number will be your first initial, last initial and date of birth in the following form: 9_DDMMYYYY. For example, if your name is John Smith and you are born on 4 March 2004, your reference number would be 9_JS04032004. You will be asked to write this on your postal entry form, and are requested to keep this safe as you will need it to download your participation or award certificate. If you have any questions, please contact

Are there prizes for the winners?

Prizes have traditionally been awarded only to the first prize winners in the Senior and Junior categories and also vary year by year. This means we are not able to confirm what the prizes will be until after the winners are announced in September 2020. Past prizes have included certificates, resources for winner's school, visits to Cambridge University, a trip to London and a week of activities, work experience at international organisations, and having your entry featured in worldwide media. RCS regional and branch offices often hold ceremonies or offer prizes. Please contact your nearest RCS branch after the competition closes on 30 June 2020, to inquire about any activities planned. 

What if I'm too old to participate in the competition? 

If you're over 18 by the deadline, you'll still be eligible to compete for the Commonwealth Short Story Prize. 

Winning categories 

Junior Awards Categories (Under 14s) Senior Awards Categories (Ages 14–18)  
Junior Prize Winner Senior Prize Winner
Junior Runner Up Senior Runner Up
Gold Awards Gold Awards
Silver Awards Silver Awards
Bronze Awards Bronze Awards

Guidance Notes

  1. Participants are expected to show originality and flair, linked to sound academic standards and competent use of English as a written language. This includes a good standard of spelling and punctuation, neat presentation and clear hand-writing or word-processing.
  2. Entries must respond to the topic. Each year a number of good entrants must be disregarded because they do not fully answer/reflect on what the topic has asked them to do.
  3. Entrants are encouraged to be creative in their response to a topic. Entries can be submitted in a number of different formats: for example, a poem, letter, article, story, essay or a short play/script.
  4. Illustrations are welcomed, particularly in Junior entries, but they must enhance the written text and add to the overall quality of the entry.


Tips from the Judges

The following guidelines provide some useful insights from previous judges who have had experience recognising what makes a good piece of writing, and may help you get started on your submission:

  1. Choose to answer one of the topics, and you are encouraged to interpret this in any way you wish.  
  2. Think carefully about the form of writing you use to answer the topic. There are a variety of forms and styles to play with.
  3. Make sure to use your own voice and your own words. Judges are very good at spotting work that is not original. For more information about plagiarism, please download our What is Plagiarism? guide.
  4. We understand that English is a diverse language and there are different and innovative ways of using it around the Commonwealth. We encourage diversity and creativity of language in submissions.
  5. Ensure you take with grammar and punctuation throughout writing your piece. Do not submit an entry without proof-reading.
  6. Presentation is important: think about the visual appearance of the entry as well as the quality of the content.


 For more information, visit the Terms and Conditions page, or contact


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