The test

The Selective High School Placement Test is designed to measure ability through tests in reading, mathematics, general ability and writing. The test is held only in NSW and only on the test date each year.

Review of selective education access

In December 2018, the NSW Minister for Education, Rob Stokes, announced the findings of the Review of Selective Education Access: Findings and Action Plan. Future changes to the test will be advised here when information is available.

Test date

The test day in 2020 for entry to Year 7 in 2021 is Thursday 12 March 2020.

Test authority

On 27 February 2020, an 'Authority to sit the Selective High School Placement Test' letter is sent to applicants by email along with the test centre location and extra information about the test. Every effort is made to send this information but it is your responsibility to ensure that you receive this test advice. If you select 'mail only' for correspondence when you apply, the test authority will be sent by post on 27 February 2020.

The test authority information consists of:

  • a test authority letter which must be taken to the allocated test centre on test day
  • a Test information bulletin that explains the test and lists what your child should and should not bring. It also gives instructions for how to show the answers to the test questions.
  • information about a disability test provision if relevant
  • a notice about special parking restrictions if they apply to your test centre.

Test information

Download the printable version of the 2019 Test centre information for parents and students (PDF 206KB). This document will be updated for entry in 2021.

The Selective High School Placement Test 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).

No marks are taken off for incorrect answers in the multiple-choice tests.

Students are given a stimulus for the writing test – an image, statement, heading or question. Two pages are provided for the writing test. Assessment for the writing test is based on:

  • whether the writing is about the stimulus topic. No marks will be awarded if the writing is not based on the topic
  • quality of thinking about a topic
  • clear organisation of ideas
  • interesting and imaginative ideas
  • use of language.

The writing must be the student's own work and must not be very similar to the work of other students.

The writing test is double marked by trained markers. Multiple-choice tests are marked by computer. Answer booklets are identified by barcodes so students cannot be identified by the markers.

Students suspected of cheating risk disqualification from the test.

Preparing for the test

Students will be more comfortable with the test process if they are familiar with the format of the test, the types of questions and what the answer sheet looks like. Sample tests are provided to help students become familiar with the test and to practise answering quickly. However, the Department of Education does not recommend any specific coaching for the test.

Results of sample tests do not show how a student will score in their Selective High School Placement Test. The selection committee will not consider scores on sample tests or any practice tests by coaching colleges.

Sample tests

The following sample tests may assist in preparation for the Selective High Schools Placement Test. Students will use black pen (supplied) to complete the test. The questions and page numbers for the sample tests will not match the updated answer sheets.

(Please note these resources do not meet WCAG 2.0 accessibility requirements.)

Answer booklet

Students answer the multiple-choice questions on an answer booklet by colouring in the answer box for the alternative A, B, C or D that best answers the question. There are separate answer booklets for each of session 1 and session 2.  Go to a sample answer booklet (PDF 638KB) for an example to practise with (Question and page numbers will not match the sample tests).

Black pens are provided for the test.

The presiding officer (in charge of the test centre) shows how to record answers in the answer booklets at the start of the test, and students practise recording their answers. Students must raise their hands if they have any questions or problems during the test.

Students must show their answers in the answer booklet and not the question booklet unless authorised in advance or by the test supervisors as a special test provision. If students need to work anything out they may write in the question booklet but they must show answers in the answer booklet. If your child does not follow instructions and marks the answers on the question booklet instead of the answer sheet, the marks may not be counted.

Disability test provisions

Applicants may request specific disability test provisions because of a diagnosed disability, medical condition, injury or behavioural condition at the time of submitting a selective high school application. Evidence, such as a medical certificate, is required. In the case of potentially life-threatening medical conditions, parents must arrange disability test provisions beforehand.

If a student is injured or diagnosed after 20 February 2020, parents should email the High Performing Students Team for advice about late disability test provisions.

Find out more about disability test provisions.

Test centres

Parents are sent the test centre location by email on 27 February 2020. The allocated test centres cannot usually be changed after the test authority letter has been sent.

Candidates from the same primary school are usually sent to the same test centre. The list of primary schools and allocated test centres for 2021 will be available here on 27 February 2020.

A map of test centres for the test on 12 March 2020 will be available here on 27 February 2020. Students must attend the test centre they have been allocated to.

If you have not received notice of your child's test centre by 6 March 2020, email the Team or contact the principal of your child's NSW government primary school.

Test day

Students should wear school uniform, including a jumper if it is a cool day and a hat for the break. Before the test the students will be assembled in primary school groups outside the test centre.

Parents must drop students off at the test centre by 9.00am and return promptly at 1.30pm to pick them up. Do not arrive before 8:30am as there is no supervision available.

The test starts at 9:00am and finishes at 1:30pm. Students who arrive late may be allowed to take the test but will be required to finish at the same time as other students.

There is a 20 minute break approximately half way through the tests and short breaks between tests. In the longer break students will leave the test room and should go to the toilet. They should not run or play vigorous games, but they may eat food they have brought with them. The test centre’s canteen facilities will not be available to candidates. Students should not share food. Students should not bring food containing nuts or nut products.

The finish time will vary according to the size and location of the test centre. If the test is delayed, please wait quietly and take care to avoid disruption to the school. Parents must be ready to collect students at 1.30pm. Students are not to be left waiting after the test. If the test finishes early, students will be supervised.


Parents must observe any parking restrictions near the test centre. Parents must not park or wait on school premises unless authorised by the High Performing Students Team prior to the test. The test centre schools must not be inconvenienced by parents remaining on the premises while unauthorised to do so. If parents are required to wait at the test centre as a special test provision they must:

  • make themselves known to the presiding officer
  • present the written authority from the High Performing Students Team
  • register as a visitor at the school office with their
    • volunteer Working With Children Clearance Check
    • 100 points of identification
    • special test provision letter.

The office staff will show parents where to wait.

Parents must abide by parking restrictions at and near the test centre.

What should students bring to the test

Students must bring a printed copy of their Test authority letter with their application number. They should bring any items approved as disability test provisions, including anaphylaxis kits containing an EpiPen, the Action plan for anaphylaxis and the medication. Students who wear glasses should remember to bring them. Students who require asthma inhalers or tissues should bring them to the test.

Students should bring a substantial snack to eat during the break between the two sessions of the test. This is important if the test is running late. Students can bring a  bottle of water to keep under the desk during the test.

Pens will be provided at the test centre. Students should not bring pens, pencils, rulers, erasers, note paper, or books. Watches, phones or other devices that compute, photograph, communicate or make a noise will not be allowed at or near the student's desk in the test centre.

Information for students

  • There is nothing you should study especially for the tests. It is most important to think clearly and to use your ability to deal with new problems and situations to choose an answer.
  • Pay attention when the presiding officer (the person in charge of the tests) talks to you and shows you where to record the answers for each test.
  • If you have any problems understanding the instructions put your hand up and the presiding officer or supervisor will answer your questions.
  • Do NOT open the question booklet until the presiding officer tells you to do so.
  • At the beginning of the first session there will be practice questions to make sure that you know how to show your answers. Answer the practice questions when you are told, and stop work when you are told to.
  • Read each test question carefully before you start answering it. Think about what it asks you to do. Use your time wisely. Work steadily. Choose the answer that you think is best. If you find a question too difficult, do not spend a long time on it. Mark the answer you think is best and come back to that question later if you have time.
  • To change an answer, draw an X through the answer you don’t want and fill in the box of the new answer. If you want to choose an answer you previously crossed out, circle the answer you now want and draw an X over the latest answer you coloured in.
  • In each multiple-choice test every question has equal value. Marks are awarded for each correct answer. Incorrect, double or blank answers score zero. Marks are not taken off for wrong answers. It is better to have a guess rather than leave an answer blank. Not leaving any answers blank helps you make sure you are answering on the correct line.
  • 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. Check this with the ‘Answer check’ reminders throughout the tests (like the one shown below). If you find you are answering a question at the wrong place, put your hand up and tell a supervisor. The supervisor will record the details for the selection committees to check later. Start the next question at the correct place and come back to fix the problem later if you have time, changing one question at a time. You should not cross out a whole group of answers at once as you could run out of time correcting them. Do not waste too much time trying to fix the problem before you have finished the last question.
  • In the writing test, you must write about the topic or no marks will be given.
  • 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. Check this with the ‘Answer check’ reminders throughout the tests. If you find you are answering a question at the wrong place, put your hand up and tell a supervisor. The supervisor will record the details for the selection committees to check later. Start the next question at the correct place and come back to fix the problem later if you have time, changing one question at a time. You should not cross out a whole group of answers at once as you could run out of time correcting them. Do not waste too much time trying to fix the problem before you have finished the last question.
  • 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. The question and answer booklets will be collected at the end of the tests, but any notes that you have made in the question booklet or the writing planning page will not be marked.
  • There will be no time warnings during the test. You will need to check the test centre’s clock to find out how much time you have left. The presiding officer will tell you which test centre clock is the official one. Put your hand up if you cannot see it clearly.
  • Put your hand up if you have any other problems or any questions at any time.
  • Be careful not to look at the work of others during the test. Students suspected of cheating risk having the test marks not counted. Students must follow the presiding officer’s and supervisors’ instructions both during the tests and in the breaks.

Illness or misadventure

Students unable to take the test will not be eligible for placement at a selective high school unless there are exceptional circumstances. If your child misses all or part of the test because of exceptional circumstances, submit a request for consideration of illness/misadventure using the Illness/misadventure form within 14 days of the test. Parents may submit an illness/misadventure request if students took the test while they were ill or because of misadventure which prevented them from doing their best.

It is generally better to do the test and lodge an illness/misadventure request than to miss the test, as long as it does not put the child at risk of harm. Parents should seek medical attention for the student on the day of the test if the child is ill on the test day. Attach a medical certificate and/or other evidence to the Illness/misadventure form. Ask the doctor to complete the ‘Independent evidence of illness’ page of the Illness/misadventure form as well.

For entry in 2021, the Illness/misadventure form must be submitted by 26 March 2020. Find out more about illness/misadventure and about what happens after the test.

Marking of the test

See the selection process section for information about scoring.

For marking, answer booklets are identified by barcoded numbers only, not by the students' names.

To gain high marks for their writing students should include interesting and imaginative ideas and communicate their ideas clearly. The markers will give no marks if the writing is not about the topic or if the writing is using someone else’s ideas or words. The writing test is double marked by trained markers. The markers pay more attention to what is written than to how much is written. The markers need to be able to read the handwriting. The writing must be completed on a maximum of two pages.

Placement outcome

The outcome of the placement process will be sent to parents by email overnight on 4 July 2020.

Translated information

See translated information about the Selective High School Placement Test.

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