I am trying to prepare a list of students who have taken an exam to be admitted to a course. In this list, there are 20 highly-placed people and 20 candidates who got lower marks. These people will be called up for the course if any of the first list don't take up the opportunity.

I'd like to know what to call the first group:

Name Result
John Doe
Alice Jones
???? (There are twenty of these)
John Smith
Sue Bloggs
Substitute (Twenty of these too)

All of the candidates passed the exam, so they are all "successful" in that sense; but we only have twenty places available, which will be offered in order of the mark each candidate achieved in the exam.

  • Please explain what you mean by "the exam winner". Academic examinations are assessments of the level of a student's understanding of the subject of the exam, not a contest or a lottery. I could understand the concept of the highest scoring student but your example seems to deal with 20 original candidates and 20 substitutes. This makes no sense to me at all.
    – BoldBen
    Commented Jul 13, 2021 at 7:17
  • @BoldBen Think like this is an exam for a free course with a 20 seats, and there are candidates take the exam. As a result, there will be 20 original winners (I don't know how to say which is I am asking), and there will be 20 substitute candidates in case one or more original winners don't apply even they pass the exam.
    – WhoCares
    Commented Jul 13, 2021 at 7:23
  • @WhoCares Please edit the question to include all necessary information: don't bury it in comments. (It seems you are conducting an entrance exam. You could ask what term is appropriate for those who pass an entrance exam.)
    – Andrew Leach
    Commented Jul 13, 2021 at 7:42
  • 1
    Exams don't produce "winners". If you are using exam scores to select students for something with limited places available then you could describe students who received a place as "accepted" as already suggested. If you wanted to describe the selection process you could say something like, "the available places will be awarded to the 20 highest scoring students, with the next 20 students placed on the reserve list".
    – nnnnnn
    Commented Jul 13, 2021 at 7:54
  • 1
    @WhoCares If I've got anything wrong in interpreting your explanation, please do put it right. But it's important that everything is explained in the question. You know exactly what your situation is, but it's easy to assume that everyone else does too: that's probably a bit optimistic.
    – Andrew Leach
    Commented Jul 13, 2021 at 7:58

2 Answers 2


You could say admitted. The verb to admit has this meaning recorded in the dictionaries:

If someone is admitted to an organization or group, they are allowed to join it.
He was admitted to the Académie Culinaire de France. (Collins)

to allow to enter; grant or afford entrance to:
to admit a student to college. (Dictionary.com)

To accept into an organization or group:
The college admits fine arts students. (FreeDictionary)

But I think the best option is the noun admissions (in the plural):

Admissions to a place such as a school or university are the people who are allowed to enter or join it.

  • Each school sets its own admissions policy. (Collins)
  • 1
    Accepted for admission, and wait-listed.
    – Xanne
    Commented Jul 13, 2021 at 18:41

The obvious way to describe candidates who gain a place on the course ('get on', 'get a place'...) is to call them 'successful' (candidates). Similarly, candidates who do not get a place on the course are unsuccessful in their ambition, even though they may have achieved a 'pass' mark (which presumably ensures that they are competent).

It is a nonsense to call candidates who fail to get onto the course 'successful'. They did not take the exam to 'pass', they took it to get on the course and they were unsuccessful in this aim.

Unsuccessful candidates ('alternates', 'reserves', 'on the waiting list') may be offered a place subsequently if successful candidates drop out for any reason.

Successful - Of persons: That succeeds or achieves success, especially, that attains to wealth or position, that ‘gets on’. (OED)

  • A reason for the down vote would be helpful...
    – Dan
    Commented Jul 14, 2021 at 13:06

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