The Selective School Exam: What Is It And How To Prepare

What is a Selective High School?

Most of us have heard the term ‘selective school’, but many of us don’t understand what is encompassed by such a broad term. In NSW, a ‘selective school’ is a government public high school which caters specifically for academically gifted students. There are two types of selective schools – partial and fully selective schools.

For a partially selective school, students who are identified as academically gifted are separated into their own peer group, and attend English, Maths, and Science classes which cater specifically towards their advanced intellect, while all other classes are made up of local students that live within the area. Once the grade becomes Year 10, all students are integrated and reorganised into their revise academic level. 

A fully selective school, however, retains only academically gifted students, and caters subjects for these students up to year 12. In Western Sydney, we have predominantly partially-selective schools; all selective schools, however, are not subject to zoning, so your child should not be disadvantaged if they wish to attend a school which is ‘out of the area’. The reason why selective schools are incredibly popular with most parents is because their child will then be able to mix with other academically gifted children. In addition, leading up to Year 12, those in the selective schools has a greater chance to obtaining a better ATAR due to the scaling system used. 

An ATAR is a score students in Australia graduate with that allows them to select university courses. Essentially the higher the ATAR, the more oppotunities the student has to select whichever course they would like to undertake. 

How do we prepare and get into a Selective High School?

The selective schools test can seem daunting, but can definitely be prepared for if your child is committed in their studies! The test is comprised of 4 exams; one 20 minute writing exam, and 3×40 minute multiple choice exams which test your child’s skills in reading, mathematics, and general ability. The exam is typically held at a local selective school, but applicants who wish to apply should seek further information about the tests location from the NSW Department of Education website. Lets take a deep dive into each section so Markitup can provide tips as to how your child can excel!

Image result for selective general ability


The Reading paper is similar to the NAPLAN test, but considerably more difficult for students transitioning into year 7. The 40 minute paper consists of 45 multiple choice questions pertaining to texts which students must read during their examination. To excel in this section, we suggest students should get into the habit of reading widely! Encouraging your child to not only read novels, but other texts types, will build their literacy skills and give them the opportunity to apply these skills within the test.


The Mathematics paper requires students to think diligently for 40 minutes and answer 40 multiple choice questions, testing their ability to work under pressure and the breadth of their mathematical knowledge. This paper is dependent on a students dexterity when calculating numbers, as no calculators are allowed during the exam. A great way to aid your child in succeeding in this section is to encourage them to do short bursts of maths questions at home. Giving them 15 minutes to answer 15 questions may allow them to sharpen their minds and answer questions both quickly and accurately.

SECRET TIP: To really shine in the Mathematics section, the best way is to get tutoring and learn your Mathematics content at least one year in advance. Why? Because that is what all the other capable Selective students are doing. You’ll need this level of understanding even after your child makes it into a selective school – they will need to sustainability compete well in the school. 


The Writing paper is the one section which is not based off multiple choice answers, and provides students with only 20 minutes – instead of 40 – to craft their best piece of writing. For this paper, students are provided a stimulus which will generally encourage them to write a short story. To achieve a great mark in this section, students should attempt to write consistently prior to the examination to get into the habit of coming up with stories. Encourage them to think outside the box, and get involved by giving them different ideas to write about!

Image result for improve your writing


The Thinking Skills paper may be the most foreign section to both you and your child, as most exams don’t test such a broad concept. This section is comprised of 60 multiple choice questions to be answered in 40 minutes, and encourages students to use their logic and problem-solving skills to answer the questions. As a new format for students to adjust to, we recommend sourcing sample general ability papers which are provided by the NSW Department of Education to give your child the opportunity to practice before attempting the exam.

We have provided a couple if different methods to prepare your child for the selective schools exam, but if youre looking for some additional aid from a professional, try out our METS program here at Markitup! We provide an extensive weekly program which encompasses Mathematics, English, and Thinking Skills to prepare students for exams just like this one! Feel free to contact us for more information 😊

SECRET TIP: Some parents might think that preparing Thinking Skills is only useful for the Selective Exam. That is incorrect. The General Ability test can actually appear in graduate work interviews as well! For example, if your child wishes to get a job at Macquarie Bank or Reckitt Benckiser (a large marketing company) – then they will request you to sit a cognitive test that can be online or in person up to 3 hours. This Year 6 General Ability test will set them up for that too!

Related image

Let’s have a chat!