What are Selective Schools?
Selective high schools are schools which cater for students who are academically gifted. Such students often struggle to make friends and are often not challenged academically in mainstream high schools. The selective high school provides an environment in which students are encouraged to reach their high potential, and where they can meet and make friends with others with similar interests, abilities and motivations. Reports from many selective schools suggest that they provide a collaborative environment in which these students thrive, both academically and socially. In addition, the highest performing students in the NSW Higher School Certificate (HSC) and Victorian Certificate of Education (VCE) have consistently attended selective high schools.
NSW, Victoria, Queensland and Western Australia all have government-run selective high schools. Some private selective high schools also exist. NSW selective high schools cater for students in years 7 to 12, while there are four Victorian selective high schools which cater for gifted students in years 9 to 12. Victoria also has a Select Entry Accelerated Learning (SEAL) programme which is offered by more than 40 government-run selective schools. This programme allows students of high ability to complete their secondary schooling in five years and/or to take VCE extension studies, enabling them to complete some university subjects as part of their final years at school or to enter university after only five years of secondary studies. Admission to these programmes always requires a high level of achievement on an entrance examination, but there may be other requirements such as the completion of an audition, the provision of a portfolio of work, references from teachers and interviews.
Queensland has four selective high schools, and Western Australia has eighteen public schools which have specialist academic, language or creative and performing arts classes which provide education to gifted and talented students through the Gifted and Talented Education (GATE) programme which is operated by the Western Australian Department of Education. Admission to these programmes in both Queensland and Western Australia is on the basis of academic selective entrance testing, NAPLAN results, primary school grades and, potentially, interviews or auditions, depending on the programme being applied for.
Let’s focus now on selective schools in NSW and Victoria. The good schools guide is a worthwhile starting point for information about selective schools in New South Wales, Queensland and Victoria: https://www.goodschools.com.au/start-here/choosing-a-school/school-sectors/selective-and-comprehensive-schools. Further information about the GATE programme in Western Australia is available from the Western Australian Department of Education website: https://www.education.wa.edu.au/key-dates-and-application-guidelines.
Entry Tests for Selective High Schools in NSW
The selection examination for NSW selective high-schools is administered centrally, and includes examinations in reading, mathematical reasoning, thinking skills and writing. These examinations are held on the one day at an allocated test centre between 9 am and approximately 1:30 pm. Students are given short rest breaks between tests and a longer break during which they can eat food they have brought with them. The tests will be moving to an online, computer-based format in 2022. A total of 4196 places across a wide range of fully selective, partially selective and agricultural high schools were available in 2021. Although most of these schools are in Sydney, Newcastle and Gosford, there is an online selective high school, the Aurora College, which is available to students in regional areas.
Applications for year 7 admission are made towards the end of the student’s time in year 5, and the tests are administered on one day early in year 6. The tests for year 7 admission in 2022 were held in early March, 2021. It is worth noting that the tests changed format in 2021, based on a 2018 review of access to selective education. The new test aims to test students over a wide range of areas and to improve the ability of the tests to detect the difference between students who are genuinely of high ability and those who have been extensively tutored for the test. The outcomes of the test and selective high school placements are expected to be made available to parents in July. Examples of each of the new tests, which provide samples of the types of questions they contain are available on the NSW Government Education website: https://education.nsw.gov.au/public-schools/selective-high-schools-and-opportunity-classes/year-7/the-test#Test2. You should note that in 2021, many of the workbooks which provide practice tests and guidance for test preparation are still based on the old format of the selective schools test.
Entry Tests for Selective Schools and Accelerated Learning in Victoria
The selection examination for Victoria’s selective entry high schools is a series of centrally administered examinations in verbal reasoning, numerical reasoning, persuasive or creative writing, reading comprehension and mathematics. These examinations are held on one day over a period of approximately 3 hours at a central location. They are offered to students in year 8 for year 9 entry the following year. Some additional places are offered to students in years 10 to 12, but their admission is handled directly by the schools. Each year, approximately 1,000 places are offered to students across Victoria’s four selective high schools. Applications for the centralised examinations usually open in mid February and close in mid May. The examinations are held in mid June, and offers are made to students in August. An examination application fee is payable, but may be waived in certain circumstances. Some sample examination papers and further information about selective entry high schools in Victoria is available from Victoria’s Department of Education and Training web site: https://www.education.vic.gov.au/parents/going-to-school/Pages/selective-entry-high-schools.aspx.
Admission to Victoria’s SEAL programme is judged on the basis of an examination hosted by the individual school, an interview and a reference from the student’s teacher. Entry to selective schools specialising in creative and performing arts may also require interviews and auditions in addition to a sufficiently high score on the admission tests. Most SEAL entry examinations are held during April, and applications are made for these examinations three to six weeks prior to the examination dates.
Selective School Test Preparation
The selective school tests are highly competitive, and test preparation is essential. Many students begin tutoring for the selective high school test in the early years of primary school. Unfortunately, genuine high ability is no longer sufficient to gain your child entry to many selective schools. As a minimum, your child should practice completing several tests like those found on the websites linked in this article, and the SubjectCoach site. It is important that your child becomes familiar with the types and wordings of questions in the tests, the format of the tests, and to practise the time management skills required. This will ensure that your child will perform to the best of their ability, and have the best chance of success for admission to the selective high schools of their choice.
Where does SubjectCoach fits?
SubjectCoach provides high quality online selective school practice to help Year 6 students (seeking entry into Year 7) get familiar with the level of questions asked. Most of our test questions conforms with the ACER (HAST – High ability selection test), EduTest & AAS (Academic Assessment Services) question formats. These are the three main testing services used by Australian and some international schools for selective schools and scholarship assessment. Our practice tests, which includes all components in the real exam are written by qualified teachers with PhDs and can be accessed anytime as long as your subscription is active. Our practice tests also comes with fully worked out answers and explanations. This means if your child does not know how to solve a given problem, they can learn and solve it efficiently next time around. The explanation algorithms may or may not comply with the way students will be taught in the classroom (in future years), however are selected on a simplest solutions basis to help them remember how to solve any given problem quickly.
FREE selective sample practice tests
Links to free resources