In the world of Harry Potter, various wizards are described as being "powerful".

Harry had been a year old the night that Voldemort – the most powerful Dark wizard for a century, a wizard who had been gaining power steadily for eleven years – arrived at his house and killed his father and mother.

But how is wizardly power actually measured in the franchise? Is it just a matter of O.W.Ls and N.E.W.Ts or is there more to it?

  • 9
    – Lexible
    Commented Apr 15, 2015 at 17:54
  • 1
    How is the first paragraph relevant to your question?
    – user931
    Commented Apr 15, 2015 at 17:54
  • @SS-3.1415926535897932384626433 that paragraph sparked this question. I can see a similar train of thought, hrm how would dumbledore be able to do this, he must be much more powerful then the average wizard, i wonder how you rank wizards power...
    – Himarm
    Commented Apr 15, 2015 at 18:13
  • @Himram Or, it's simply possible you know how to break specific security.
    – user931
    Commented Apr 15, 2015 at 18:27
  • Using a ruler. Oh wait, that measures something else :p
    – Möoz
    Commented Apr 15, 2015 at 22:33

2 Answers 2


TL;DR Magical ability is not measured in the Harry Potter universe (books or movies).

OWLs and NEWTs are academic achievements that measure the ability to perform useful tasks. Scores on these tests are used for career guidance and especially for admission to training programs and government jobs.

It is my belief that a measurement of magical ability would be about as useful as a measurement of IQ - an indication of potential, but not a prerequisite or even a predictor of actual success.


As far as I am aware, at no point in the books is a method of measuring the amount of magical power a wizard has ever mentioned. I found an interesting source after a Google search which has an interesting take on the matter:

The most accomplished wizards in the Potterverse are often described as elderly or hard-working. Voldemort began his reign of terror by the age of 40, but he had spent the previous twenty years working harder than anyone to become powerful. Horace Slughorn was already a teacher at Hogwarts in the late Thirties (and perhaps before), and he is described as an extremely able wizard who evaded Voldemort for one year (HBP4). Dumbledore is 150 years old and has spent most of his life studying. These wizards are powerful because they refined their abilities and amassed an extensive knowledge of magic, and because they had a lot of time to do it.


Thinking about it, I would agree that instead of differing amount of raw power possessed by individual wizards, the thing that differentiates the different levels of ability is being dedicated to improving and having a quick mind to respond to situations (such as in a duel, where fast - thinking is critical). Whether everyone has the ability to use all their magic power (for example, if they are mentally disabled) is a different matter.

If the amount of raw power differed from wizard to wizard, it would seem likely that pure bloods would be far more powerful than half-bloods or especially Muggle-borns. Hermione is often described as being "the best witch in the year", so this seems unlikely.

Like Muggle exams, OWLS and NEWTS are qualifications, and someone who is not very good at magic, but studied hard, would probably do better than a talented one that was complacent and did no revision.

  • this biggest counter to this, is how strong Voldemort was described to be while still in school. Dumbledore, and his partner is crime, were also extremely more advanced then their contemporaries. Also while Voldemorts "knowledge" wasn't as complete as Dumbledors, his pure magical ability was almost equal, at 100 years younger.
    – Himarm
    Commented Apr 15, 2015 at 18:09
  • The first section of your answer is a point that I would need to think about. My immediate answer would be that he had such a thirst for knowledge that he worked very hard to improve his magical knowledge, a bit like Hermione having read all the text books before coming to Hogwarts. With regard to the second section, Voldemort delved into dark magic (such as the creation of Horcruxes), which gave him power, but also left him weak in other regards (eg. unable to understand the concept of love).
    – Matt
    Commented Apr 15, 2015 at 18:13
  • I feel there is something innate. It may not be measurable by known means, or "raw power", but the first scene at Ollivander's always left me with the feeling that the wands know something we don't.
    – Geobits
    Commented Apr 15, 2015 at 18:23

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