It’s safe to say there are a lot of questions about the Hogwarts curriculum. Unlike the Muggle world, young witches and wizards don’t seem to bother with math or reading classes (lucky them). Instead, their curriculum consists of fantastical subjects called things like “Care of Magical Creatures” and “Transfiguration.” The students don’t seem to really spend time on anything mundane, which makes sense. Magic does seem pretty complicated in itself. Of course, in the books, the trio doesn’t seem to actually spend that much time in classes. Their school year keeps getting disrupted by the latest terrible thing Voldemort is planning, and they don’t even bother with their seventh year.
At the end of The Half-Blood Prince, Harry insists that he won’t return to Hogwarts, deciding that destroying the Horcruxes is more important. Likewise, Ron and Hermione decide that they’re in it until the end with Harry, so audiences don’t even get a look at what their seventh year would have been like. With the Death Eaters having essentially taken over the school at that point, it probably wouldn’t have been a great experience anyway. So while Harry, Ron, and Hermione were off being heroes and saving the day, what were the rest of the students actually learning?
Updated September 24th, 2021 by George Chrysostomou: A return to Hogwarts in the near future seems ever more likely for Harry Potter fans thanks to the video game Hogwarts Legacy. Until that time it’s important to revisit all the lessons that could be available for students if they wish to become a witch or wizard with a respectable career and a wide range of impressive skills.
7 First Year
In their first year, students don’t have any choices regarding what to take. The school requires them to take the 7 core classes as well as flying lessons, or broom flight class. In Charms class, students learn how to cast, well, charms. These spells focus on changing what someone or something does, and the class is taught by Professor Flitwick. In contrast to charms, Transfiguration class focuses on changing what something or someone is rather than does. At Hogwarts, Professor McGonagall teaches the class. A few examples of what students learn in their first year are the Avifors Spell. In regards to Potions, as the name suggests, this class focuses on the brewing of potions that can achieve various results. Professor Snape taught Harry and company during their first year, and some of the potions they learn to brew are the Forgetfulness Potion and a cure for boils.
By Harry’s description in The Order of the Phoenix, History of Magic is “the most boring subject ever devised by Wizard-kind.” It’s good to know that even in the magical world of Harry Potter, history still does not fail to put youths to sleep. Taught by the ghost of Professor Binns, some of the topics discussed in the first year are the Gargoyle Strike of 1911 and the Werewolf Code of Conduct. Then there’s Astronomy. Probably the subject that requires the least amount of explanation, astronomy in the Wizarding World doesn’t seem to be any different than Muggle astronomy. Classes for first-years take place at midnight on Wednesdays, which seems rough to have a bunch of 11-year-olds up at midnight for class and expect them not to fall asleep.
In Herbology, students learn about magical and mundane plants, their care, and magical properties. While the trio attended Hogwarts, Professor Sprout taught the class. A few plants that first-years learn about in the class are the infamous Mandrake and Devil’s Snare. The Defense Against The Dark Arts class teaches students how to defend themselves against dark creatures, arts, and charms. Ironically, the position of professor of this class is thought to be cursed, as no professor has been able to hold the position for more than a year during Harry’s time at Hogwarts. Finally, there’s flying. This class is only mandatory for first-years at Hogwarts. It teaches young witches and wizards the proper handling of a broom and the basics of flying. Madam Hooch, who also referees the school Quidditch matches, teaches the class.
6 Second Year
During students’ second year at Hogwarts, their schedule of classes remains largely the same. They must take the 7 core classes, which are charms, Transfiguration, Potions, History of Magic, Astronomy, Herbology, and Defense Against the Dark Arts. Flying class is not a requirement, but students who want to continue learning to fly or aspire to get involved in their house Quidditch teams may elect to continue taking it.
Some of the topics that are actually taught within the classes include the Freezing Charm (Immobulus), turning beetles into buttons, Leaping Toadstools, the Disarming Charm (Expelliarmus), and the Sleeping Draught, all of which are vital for a wizard or witch’s growth.
5 Third Year
Students choose a minimum of two electives to add to their schedules for their third year. They still have to take the 7 core classes, though, which seems like a lot for someone at that age. Hermione had even more homework though, as she famously was taking more classes than her schedule allowed, and was using a Time-Turner to attend them all.
The first of the electives was Arithmancy. There’s something about the magical property of numbers. Apparently, there are a lot of charts to memorize, which sounds pretty terrible. Then there’s Care of Magical Creatures where students learn how to care for, maintain, breed, and properly treat magical creatures. In short, this class sounds amazing. When the trio took this class, groundskeeper Hagrid served as the instructor, and they had a quite memorable class involving Hippogriffs.
Next is Ancient Runes. This class involves studying old runes used by witches and wizards hundreds of years ago. Alongside this is Divinitaion which as Professor McGonagall describes it is “one of the most imprecise branches of magic.” It involves predicting the future, so that’s understandable. Students learn about various methods for predicting the future including palmistry, crystal balls, cartomancy, and, of course, tea leaves. Finally, there is Muggle Studies. This seems like it should be a mandatory class for everyone except Muggleborns and kids who grew up with Muggle families like Harry. The class teaches students about the Muggle world and how to blend in, which seems pretty important.
4 Fourth Year
Does Harry even go to class in his fourth year? Who knows. He was busy dodging dragons and swimming with merpeople. But Alastor Moody (or more accurately, Barty Crouch Jr. disguised as Moody) does take over as the DADA professor, so at least the students learned about constant vigilance.
It’s likely that students have the same schedule as their third year, with the option to change their electives. This appears to be a pivotal year for getting to grips with the core subjects ahead of the terrifying OWL Exams which take place in the fifth year.
3 Fifth Year
In their fifth year, students have to have some idea of what they want to do job-wise. They meet with their head of house who let them know the requirement for the job they’d like to have. For example, to qualify for Auror training, a student has to get an “Exceeds Expectations” on at least five N.E.W.T. subjects. Alternatively, there is fighting in a battle against the forces of evil, but this probably isn’t the recommended method.
Knowing the N.E.W.T. requirements prepares students for their O.W.L. exams, their grades on the exams, in turn, determine whether they can take their desired N.E.W.T.-level course the year after.
2 Sixth Year
The sixth year is the first year that Hogwarts students don’t have a required list of classes. Instead, students sign up for classes they qualify for based on their marks on their O.W.L.s. The powerful Professors determine the minimum grade required to take their N.E.W.T.-level class.
As long as students meet that requirement, they can elect to continue with the subject. The catch is if a pupil takes a subject in their sixth year, they have to take it on their seventh, too. As a bonus, students are also able to take classes in Apparition for a fee of 12 Galleons.
1 Seventh Year
In Deathly Hallows, the final year at Hogwarts was more than a little screwed up. It’s hard to get a clear picture of the curriculum when the protagonists don’t attend. Also, Death Eaters ran the school at the time. But what we do know is that students are expected to keep taking classes in the same subjects as their sixth year.
At the end of the year, students can elect to take the N.E.W.T. exam in the subjects they studied, but it’s not required. Some occupations are fine with just a passing O.W.L. grade. According to an interview with J.K. Rowling, there is some kind of graduation ceremony for seventh-years that involves riding the boats that initially brought them to Hogwarts. It should be noted that Hermione did come back to finish her schooling and take her exams in a very Hermione-esque move. The boys did not, to no one’s surprise.