Going to a selective high school

Learn all about how to get into a selective high school.

High school students sitting outside using their laptops High school students sitting outside using their laptops

Are you a parent or carer?

Please visit the Selective high schools and opportunity classes – information for parents and carers to learn about the placement process to apply.

Student resource hub

Check out the Student resource hub where you can learn whether a selective high school might be a good fit for you.

It also has:

  • interactive quizzes
  • practice test items
  • and lots more to help you prepare.

What are selective high schools?

  • Selective high schools are one of the ways that teachers and other school staff support our high potential and gifted students in Years 7 to 12.
  • In a selective high school, children learn in a classroom full of other like-minded students.
  • It can be a great option for students who like an academic challenge.
  • High potential and gifted students can also choose to go to their local high school to have their learning supported.

Watch the video below to learn more about selective high schools.

VIDEO: What are opportunity classes and selective high schools?

Transcript of video animation: “What are opportunity classes and selective high schools?” (2 minutes 50 seconds)

[upbeat music]

[music fades]

[Female narrator]

The NSW Department of Education is committed to supporting all students to achieve their educational potential.

We recognise that all students require support to optimise their growth and achievement, including high potential and gifted students. One offering that the Department provides for these students is opportunity classes and selective high schools.

So, what are opportunity classes and selective high schools?

Opportunity classes, often called OC classes, are located in government primary schools and cater for high potential and intellectually gifted Year 5 and Year 6 students. There are:

  • 87 opportunity classes across NSW, and
  • Aurora College, a virtual opportunity class for students living in rural and remote areas and are enrolled in authorised host schools.

Selective high schools are government schools for high potential and gifted students. There are:

  • 17 fully selective high schools - where all students attending the school are high potential or gifted
  • 26 partially selective high schools - where a school has a specialist class or classes for high potential or gifted students within a regular comprehensive high school
  • 4 agricultural selective high schools, some with boarding facilities for students from regional and remote areas, and
  • Aurora College, a virtual selective high school for high potential and gifted students who live in rural or remote NSW and don’t have access to a selective high school in their local area.

Opportunity classes and selective high schools help students to learn by grouping them with students of similar ability and using specialised evidence-based teaching methods. These settings aim to meet the intellectual needs of the students by moving through curricula at a faster pace, and allowing students to explore concepts in more depth and with greater complexity.

Research demonstrates that grouping high potential and gifted students together has academic benefits and is also good for emotional wellbeing. The majority of students in opportunity classes or selective high schools report higher levels of satisfaction from learning with, and being friends with, like-minded students.

For further information please visit our website.

[music becomes louder and then fades out]

[End of transcript]

What do students say about going to a selective high school?

Students tell us that they love learning with other students who are like them – students who enjoy asking questions, delving into topics, and being challenged academically.

Hear the students below bust some myths about selective high schools.

VIDEO: Get the whole picture about selective high schools

[Transcript of video animation: ‘Get the whole picture about selective high schools’ (3 minutes 50 seconds)]


[Fort Street student 2]
Everyone is super nerdy and always studying.

[Baulkham Hills student 3]
I think everyone is the super nerdy. Yes, we got to an all nerd school. But I think there's a community in that. I'm not even kidding.

[Fort Street student 2]
I think a good balance is what we all have.

[Baulkham Hills student 1]
There is no student diversity.

[Fort Street student 2]

[Caringbah student 2]
It's, you know, people come from all over. And in terms of like diversity, it's a very diverse environment, very in terms of not just like, you know, appearance or culture, but like in terms of who we are as people, which I think is really important. There is too much academic pressure.

[Fort Street student 2]
I think there's a there's a healthy, like, push to get us to perform to our best ability. But I don't think like any of it is, like, too stressful or, like, unwarranted. Like everything is for, our like, best performance yeah.

[Caringbah student 3]
I think with the stigma of this pressure, the teachers try really hard to combat it. They always say, Just do your best. And that's that's it. There's no point always aiming to get 100% because that is not achievable. And if you do your best, really, that's what you're improving on and that's the skills you're building and the skills you're going to keep for life.

[Caringbah student 1]
Everyone is super competitive and focused on beating each other

[Baulkham Hills student 3]
I care about how well I do as like myself. I know a lot of other people do feel this competition is a good opportunity for them and they thrive when they're like competing against others.

[Caringbah student 3]
People love to share resources again, love to make sure everyone else understands the concept and we're just teaching and learning together.

[Baulkham Hills student 3]
It is not a supportive environment. I think it is. I think we are supportive of each other.

[Caringbah student 3]:
It's just a supportive environment that allows everyone to do that best and to, you know, follow their interests.

[Fort Street student 2]
That’s false, I think it is a supportive environment. Yeah.

[Fort Street student 3]
Yeah. We all try and push each other up. We all support each other. We’re all there for each other. We all help each other.

[Fort Street student 2]
The students are all coached. Nope! I’m not.

[Fort Street student 1]
I’m not.

[Fort Street student 3]
Neither am I.

[Baulkham Hills student 3]
No, we are definitely not all coached.

[Caringbah student 3]
The teachers here are excellent at their jobs and they understand what they're teaching very well and they have all the resources to give us.

[Caringbah student 1]
it's hard to make friends. I was a bit scared to come to this school because I didn't know anyone but, um, you click really, really easily

[Fort Street student 3]
I really connected with a lot of people really well, really fast. Better than any other schools I've ever been to.

[Caringbah student 2]
We're all really good friends and there's a really positive atmosphere just in the school. And yeah, I think it's I think it's a really, really good environment to be in.

[Baulkham Hills student 1]
Question is, the students are only good at academics.

[Fort Street student 1]
I mean, we're all here because we're good academics, but that's not the only thing.

[Baulkham Hills student 3]
Well, I mean, even if you look at all of us, we all have extracurriculars. And I think I think everyone in our grade, our school has something outside of academics that they really are good at or they really like putting in a lot of effort and passion into.

[Caringbah student 1]
A big part of doing well in academics is just having like an all around like balance in your life. And I feel like the school's sense of balance is really good. We have, yes, sport creative stuff. We have. Yeah, it's way more than just academic performance. So yeah,

[Fort Street student 3]
Anyone who's thinking about going to the selective schools test, just give it a go. It doesn't matter if you get in. It doesn't matter if you don't get in, give it a go. If you get into selective school, that's amazing. Come join our cool, quirky cohorts. Yeah, You'll find people that you belong with.

[End of transcript]

Hear from past student Mouhtadi about selective high schools and finding his passion studying medicine.

VIDEO: Meet Mouhtadi Sjarief —past selective high school student and proud Ngemba man

Transcript of video: ‘Meet Mouhtadi’ (1 minutes 57 seconds)


[Mouhtadi speaking]

Hi. My name's Mouhtadi and I'm fourth year medical student at UNSW. I'm an ex-techie who previously graduated here from 2018. I'm a proud member Ngemba man from Sydney, however, my Indigenous roots are from Bourke.

Coming from a small primary school in Mascot to Sydney Tech, I was quite ecstatic, you know, getting into a selective school.

It has a good environment around it, especially like an academic environment.

It can push you to do better and just have the expectation, you know, that you're, you can go to uni and you can achieve.

Selective schools aren’t necessarily, ah, just focused on academics and that's something that I learnt through my time out here. So at Sydney Tech, there are a lot of opportunities. So, for example, in Year 7 to Year 11 I played saxophone in the school band.

There's a lot of good sporting opportunities as well, if you're in, like, competitive sporting teams; we have good soccer teams, and there are a lot of things that can help enrich student things, not just from an academic perspective, but career building and personal building skills.

Learning from my PHP teacher and other things, there's a big gap between Indigenous health, between Indigenous people and non-Indigenous people, which is one reason that I wanted to get into medicine so to potentially help close that gap.

Yeah, I really enjoyed my time at tech. Just hanging around with different people, you know, playing soccer every day. Yeah. Just enjoying, you know, the student lifestyle.

Yeah, I feel like applying for a selective high school—definitely should apply for one. And there are academic pathways out there for Indigenous people. And if you study hard and put your head down to it, you can achieve a lot of things.


[End transcript]

Not all about academics

Going to a selective high school isn't about just studying all the time.

Selective high schools encourage you to follow your interests and passions outside of studying with lots of co-curricular activities, such as:

  • sports
  • creative and performing arts
  • music
  • special interest clubs.

If you don't find your special interest covered, many schools let you start your own club.

A male and female high school student running together on the school oval with a rugby ball. A male and female high school student running together on the school oval with a rugby ball.
Image: Selective high schools offer lots of extra-curricular activities so you can follow your interests outside of the classroom.

The different types of selective high schools

There are 4 types of selective high schools:

  • fully selective high schools
  • partially selective high schools
  • agricultural high schools
  • Aurora College (online classes)

Fully selective high schools

These are schools where all students are in selective classes.

Partially selective high schools

These schools have a mix of local area students who attend non-selective classes, and students who have been placed into selective classes.

The students in the selective classes participate in separate English, mathematics and science classes. They generally join the non-selective students for classes in other subjects.

Agricultural high schools

Agricultural high schools are selective high schools which emphasise the study of agriculture. From Years 7 to 10, students must study agriculture.

There are 4 fully selective agricultural high schools in NSW.

  • Farrer Memorial Agricultural High School – day and boarding places for boys only
  • Hurlstone Agricultural High School – day and boarding places for girls and boys
  • James Ruse Agricultural High School – day places only for boys and girls
  • Yanco Agricultural High School – boarding places only for boys and girls

Three agricultural high schools offer boarding places for students. This means students live at the schools and go home for school breaks.

Aurora College – online selective classes for rural and remote students

Aurora College is for students living in rural or remote locations who don't have a selective school nearby.

Students join other high potential and gifted students online for English, maths, and science classes from their local host public high school.

Which schools can host Aurora College?
Map of Aurora College host schools

How do I know if it's right for me?

When you’re really interested in a topic, do you:

  • read about it and love to study it
  • learn and practise new skills
  • talk about it to your friends and family
  • go beyond what is expected at school.

If this sounds like you, then you might like to give it a try.

You might find a whole new set of friends just like you, in a selective high school.


  • Talk to your teacher about selective high schools.

  • Ask your family if they think you should apply.

Where's my nearest
selective high school?

Search the maps below to find one near you.

Map of selective high schools

How does applying work?

Your parent or carer needs to apply for you when you are in Year 5.

You will need to sit a  test. Your test results decide if you get a place to one of your choices.

If you think selective high school might be right for you, ask your family to apply and do the test.

If you get a place, you don’t have to take it if you change your mind.

Applying for entry in Years 8 to 12

Some selective high schools have a limited number of places available after Year 7 starting in Years 8 to 12. The application process is different from entry in Year 7 where everyone sits the same test.

In later years the schools decide on their assessments to get in – so visit their websites to find out more.

I sat the Opportunity Class Placement Test and didn't get a place. Can I apply for selective high schools?

Yes. There are many more places available for students in selective high schools than opportunity classes. Many students who didn't get into an opportunity class get a place in a selective high school.

Steps to get into a selective high school

1. Apply

October to November

2. Sit the test

Early May

3. Get your result

Late August

Don't forget to apply before applications close.

Tips for choosing a school

When your parent (or carer) applies for you, they can select up to 3 schools that you would like to go to.

Here are some tips to help you decide which schools to choose.

1. Location

It's a great idea to choose a school close to home so it's easy to get to.

2. School website

Go to the school's website to learn more about it.

3. Subjects

Check what elective subjects the school offers and any other programs you might be interested in.

4. Co-ed?

Would you prefer to be in a single sex school or a co-ed school with both girls and boys?

5. Partially selective or fully selective?

Would you prefer a school with all selective students or with a mix of selective and local students?

6. School visit

Visit the schools you like on their open days.


  • Teaching and learning


  • High school
  • Primary school

Business Unit:

  • Educational Standards
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