Welcome to Harry Potter 101! A series all about getting back to the basics of the stories. Whether you’ve just discovered the wizarding world or have been here since 1997, we think you’ll learn something new. Today, we’re offering you a guide to absolutely every single Hogwarts subject.

Spoiler warning! There are some mild spoilers ahead – turn back now if you’re not familiar with the books…

Compulsory subjects

All students were expected to take these seven compulsory subjects from their first year to at least fifth year.

This lesson covered the complex and often difficult art of transforming one thing into another – such as a hedgehog into a pin cushion or turning a desk into a pig. Taught by the formidable Professor McGonagall, it was not a subject for those afraid of hard work as it involved lots of practice and tricky wand movement.

Taught by the Head of Ravenclaw, Filius Flitwick, this magical subject was both practical and unpredictable – there was once a tapdancing pineapple but that’s all we’ll say on that. Anyway, Charms is the art of adding or changing something about an object or individual without altering its true nature. For example, with a swish and flick and a correctly pronounced Wingardium Leviosa, you can levitate objects.

In this lesson, students learned how to understand and use magical ingredients to correctly brew potions, creating anything from a Cure for Boils to a Babbling Beverage. However, despite the step-by-step recipes, this class was rather tricky requiring patience, diligence and a teacher who was probably a lot more supportive than Severus Snape. Understandably, this was the subject that Harry least looked forward to… though things did improve when Horace Slughorn took the reins.

Defence Against the Dark Arts
In a world where Dark wizards and magic pop up more frequently than desired, you can see why a subject that centres on how to defend yourself against all aspects of the Dark Arts is compulsory. Unsurprisingly, Harry Potter had a natural flair for this subject – despite the fact that every year brought a new teacher with their own (often… interesting) teaching style.

This subject appealed to the green-fingered students of Hogwarts as it centred on the study of magical plants and their properties. Taking place in the greenhouses, that were bursting with plants ranging from screaming Mandrakes to pus-filled Bubotubers, these lessons were taught by the Head of Hufflepuff, Professor Sprout. She was the one who sowed the seeds of Neville Longbottom’s love for this subject.

If you were to look at the top of the Hogwarts Astronomy Tower one starry night, you would most likely spot students in the middle of their, you guessed it, Astronomy lesson. Taught by Professor Sinistra (who wasn’t as sinister as her name suggests), this subject centres on the study of stars, planets and moons.

History of Magic
Often considered the most boring subject at Hogwarts, History of Magic covered wizarding history – from Goblin rebellions to the implementation of The International Statute of Secrecy. Interestingly, it was not taught by a living teacher but rather a ghost, Professor Binns. It is rumoured that one day he rose from his chair in the Hogwarts staffroom to teach his class and simply left his body behind.

First year subjects

All students were required to learn how to (or at least attempt to) fly a broom in their first year at Hogwarts. Taught by Madam Hooch, who had bright yellow eyes like a Hawk, it was the one subject that Hermione Granger didn’t take to easily… though her first lesson went better than Neville’s!

Optional subjects

At the end of their second year, students had to pick a minimum of two of these subjects to take in addition to the compulsory ones… obviously Hermione took them all.

This was Hermione Granger’s favourite subject… though we do not know much about it. We know that it was taught by Professor Vector, that it involved investigating the magical properties of numbers and that you needed to take this subject if you ever wanted to pursue a career as a Curse-Breaker at Gringotts.

Muggle Studies
Taught by Charity Burbage, Muggle Studies does what it says on the tin… It was the study of the daily life of Muggles with a specific emphasis on how they used tools like science and technology in place of magic. Some considered it a soft option, but it was a subject beloved by rubber-duck-enthusiast, Arthur Weasley.

Now we have Hermione Granger’s least favourite subject, Divination. This was taught by the clairvoyantly-challenged Professor Trelawney (who loved to insist that Harry was doomed to die a terrible death every five minutes) and later Firenze – who happened to be a centaur. Though often considered rather ‘woolly’, this subject centred on predicting the future using methods such as reading tealeaves, palmistry and gazing into crystal balls.


The Study of Ancient Runes
This is another lesson that we heard about but never witnessed. According to J.K. Rowling, it was taught by Professor Bathsheda Babbling. Taking this subject involved studying Ancient Runes and decoding their meanings – which sounds rather tricky to us!

Care of Magical Creatures
One of the most practical subjects, this was the study of magical creatures, their behaviours, needs and habitats. As it was taught outside in the Hogwarts grounds, students were often able to get up close and personal with the creatures – whether that was a Niffler, unicorn or even a humble Flobberworm. During Harry’s time at school, he was mainly taught by Rubeus Hagrid who had a fun, if unorthodox, teaching style.

Additional optional subjects

According to J.K. Rowling very specialised subjects, such as Alchemy, were offered to students in their final two years at Hogwarts if there was sufficient demand. In the Muggle world, Alchemy was a medieval science focused on the process of transforming base metals into gold, the search for a universal cure for disease and figuring out ways to extend life… we can safely assume that this subject covered similar matters.

Apparition lessons took place in sixth year and were for those students who wanted to take the Apparation exam once they turned 17. It was not a lesson without some risk as it focused on how transport yourself from one location to another using magic. If you were to lose your concentration you could accidentally (and rather gruesomely) leave part of your body behind – otherwise known as ‘Splinching’. It is no wonder that young witches and wizards had lessons in a controlled environment first. Normally, nobody can Apparate in or out of the Hogwarts grounds, but special dispensation was given for these lessons.


End of year exams
All students, except those undergoing their O.W.L.s or N.E.W.T.s, take end of year exams during the Hogwarts summer term. Often comprising of both practical and written elements, each subject sets their own test. Occasionally, they have been known to cancelled for very special reasons – much to the disappointment of the extremely brainy Hermione Granger (who once got 112% in her Charms exam don’t-you-know).

O.W.L. exams
In their fifth year at Hogwarts, all students are required to take their O.W.L. exams aka the Ordinary Wizarding Levels. Though these are far from ordinary… each involve a practical and written test for every subject. All students take the O.W.L. exam for both their compulsory subjects and chosen optional subjects. In order to pass students must achieve an Outstanding (O), Exceeds Expectations (E) or Acceptable (A) grade. Poor (P), Dreadful (D), and Troll (T) were failing grades. The results of these exams determined the subjects a student could take at N.E.W.T level and could even impact employment options.

N.E.W.T. exams
The Nastily Exhausting Wizarding Tests, otherwise known as N.E.W.T.s were taken by students in their seventh and final year at Hogwarts. Known to be, well, nasty and exhausting, they weren’t for the faint-hearted. The results of these exams determined the different career paths a student could take after leaving school. Fun fact! If you wanted to be an Auror, not only would you have to achieve five N.E.W.T.s but they would all have to be grades of either Outstanding (O) or Exceeds Expectations (E) – better get studying!