How to Apply & Prepare for the Selective High School Exam

How to Apply & Prepare for the Selective High School Exam

Placements for Selective Schools are limited, deadline-driven and highly competitive with applications for Year 7 entry submitted more than a year in advance of study. In this article, we offer key dates, exam tips and an overview of the process – from application to the outcome.

Selective Schools have a responsibility to provide targeted talent development, extension, and advanced learning for high potential and gifted students from all backgrounds. High expectations and effective, explicit, evidence-based teaching creates an environment where students are engaged in learning and challenged to achieve their potential across multiple spheres of education: intellectual, creative, social-emotional, and physical.

  • High potential students are those whose potential exceeds that of students of the same age in one or more spheres of education.
  • Gifted students are those whose potential significantly exceeds that of students of the same age in one or more spheres of education.

If your child is high-potential and/or gifted, then you must begin the application process in term four of their Year Five studies. Parents and students will both work to secure a Year Seven placement in one of the 46 NSW Selective High Schools.

The Application Process

Applications for Year 7 entry to a selective high school are open for one month during term four each year – 15 months in advance of study – and are completed and submitted online.

Once applications open, as parents your first step is to register to receive password-protected access to the online application form. If the registered email address is suspected of belonging to a student, email communication will be disabled, and correspondence will be sent by mail to prevent unsupported student applications. Key considerations for the application process are outlined below.

Parent Contact Details & Documentation

Where parents live at different addresses but have equal responsibility for the care of the child, only the parent with whom the child lives or is residing with at the time of applying, should submit the application. Record the names of two parents if the second parent needs to contact the High Performing Students Team and or make decisions about the application. Where applicable a copy of court orders may be requested, relating to decisions about the child’s education or communication concerning the child.

Parents Choose Three Selective Schools

There are 46 selective high schools offering 4196 places for entry to Year 7 students in 2021. Located throughout NSW, selective high schools are not zoned so parents can apply regardless of where they live.

As part of the application process, you can select up to three selective schools for your child’s placement. You should list these in order of priority. There are Combined (Co-Ed), Boys only and Girls only options with schools being either fully or partially selective.

21 Fully Selective High Schools NSW
There are 21 fully selective high schools in NSW, in which all classes are academically selective. Twelve are Co-Ed, five Boys only and four Girls only. Of the 21 fully selective types, four are agricultural high schools which emphasise the study of agriculture. Three of the agricultural high schools are Co-Ed, one boy only. Three agricultural high schools offer both day and boarding placements with isolated students receiving extra-consideration for the limited number of boarding places.

25 Partially Selective High Schools NSW
25 high schools are partially selective, in which one or two classes are selective while other classes are non-selective for local students. Students in the selective stream participate in separate english, mathematics and science classes.

Twenty-one of the partially selective schools are Co-Ed with two each of Girls only and Boys only schools. In addition, Aurora College offers Years 7 to 10 selective classes for english, mathematics and science through a virtual high school. Students must intend to enrol in a rural or remote NSW high school to be considered for entry to Aurora College.
Changing Selective School Choices
You can only change selective school choices by written request up until the due date usually early in term 2. Changes of school choice cannot normally be made after the due date or after outcomes are released. So, choose carefully, do your research by visiting the school websites, talking to teachers or tutors and weigh up your options well in advance of the application deadline.

Provision for Disabilities & Documentation

If your child has a disability or condition that could affect his or her performance on the test, you will need to request disability provisions for the test during the application stage and provide documentation in the form of a medical certificate or diagnostic document for any disclosed disabilities, medical or behavioural conditions. You must disclose medical information if life-saving medication is required.

Some examples of possible test provisions for students with qualifying disabilities, medical or behavioural conditions include:

  • large print test papers
  • FM transmitters
  • test papers printed on a specific colour
  • separate seating or a seat at the front
  • closer supervision
  • showing answers in the question booklet instead of the answer sheet
  • medications or equipment to be taken to the test centre

The High Performing Students Team has the discretion to refuse to test any student with the potential to exhibit behaviour which may intimidate or harm others unless a parent will be available on-site during the exam to immediately remove the student if required.

Deadlines & Additional Documentation

Strict deadlines apply, no exemptions are made on compassionate grounds and the only circumstance which may be considered for a late application are:

  • parents applying for children’s placement in rural or remote areas where there is a shortage of suitable candidates.
  • both legal guardians can provide evidence to support a claim that “circumstances beyond their control’ prevented them from completing an application.

Please be aware that changes cannot be made to application details online once submitted. Any changes must be sent to the High Performing Students Team in writing so review your submission carefully before submitting. After submitting your application, you will receive a confirmation email with:
1. a copy of the application including a student application number which is required on all communication
2. an ‘attachments cover sheet’ for use if additional documentation is submitted
3. a ‘Principal’s page for provision of school assessment scores’ for NSW non-government school principals to complete.

Where they apply to your child the High Performing Students Team may require the following additional documentation:

  • evidence of previous schooling for students who have studies in the English language for less than 48 months,
  • for students without school assessment scores or Selective High School Placement Test results, a reliable full-scale WISC V IQ report
  • evidence of ethnicity for Aboriginal students
  • an explanation of why the child is older or younger than the usual age range or not in Year 5 when applying.

Remember to use either the ‘attachments cover sheet’ sent with your confirmation email or quote the student name and application number when sending documentations in addition to those provided in the submitted application.

The Selective High School Placement Test

The Selective High School Placement Examination consists of a 20-minute writing test and three 40-minute multiple-choice tests in:

  • reading (45 questions)
  • mathematics (40 questions)
  • general ability (60 questions).

In multiple-choice tests, every question has equal value with marks only awarded for correct answers. Marks are not taken off for wrong answers. It is better to have a guess rather than leave an answer blank and helps to ensure that you answer all questions on the correct line. Incorrect, double or blank answers score zero.

For the 20-minute writing test students are provided a stimulus image, statement, heading or question. Written responses are double marked by markers trained to evaluate factors such as whether the stimulus topic is addressed, use of language, the organisation of interesting and imaginative ideas and the quality of thinking expressed.

All the normal exam etiquette applies. Students need to follow the presiding officer’s and supervisors’ instructions both during the tests and in the breaks. Raise a hand for help and do not open the question booklet until told to do so.

Students will have one chance to practice multiple-choice questions to make sure that they know how to provide answers. There will be no time warnings during the test so students will need to check the test venue clock to find out how much time remains.

Exam Success Tips

The Selective Schools exam may be the first important test that your child has undertaken so the following tips are universal keys to exam success, no matter what your age or ability.

  • Read each test question carefully before you start answering it. Think about what it asks you to do before you respond.
  • Use your time wisely. If you find a question too difficult, do not waste time trying to decide there and then simply mark the answer you think is best (as in all cases) and come back to any question you were uncertain on, only if you have time at the end.
  • Keep checking that the number of the question you are working on in the question booklet is the same as the number you are marking on the answer sheet.
  • If you want to work anything out in the multiple-choice tests you can write on the question booklet. There is also space provided for planning in the writing task question booklet if you choose to use it.
  • Be careful not to look at the work of others during the test. Students suspected of cheating risk having the test marks not counted.

Our MWNS Selective School lessons and courses are focused on allowing students to become familiar with past exam papers and question styles as well as learn to implement exam tips and strategies to help them achieve their end goal – performing their best in the Selective School exam.

Think your child would benefit from specialised Selective School Tutoring?

To achieve this end goal, we recommend a combination of Weekly Tutoring lessons and our Selective School Preparation Course.

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