NSW Selective High Schools

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.

The Selective High School Placement Test consists of:

  • Mathematics (40 multiple-choice questions in 40 minutes)
  • General Ability (60 multiple-choice questions in 40 minutes)
  • Reading (45 multiple-choice questions in 40 minutes
  • Writing Task (20 minutes)

-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
  • Organisation of 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 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.

Minimum Entry Scores
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Review of Selective Tests System

The NSW Department of Education conducted a review of the methods and processes used to identify and place gifted students in selective schools. The department created a thirteen-point action plan to make the selection process more fair and accessible to all.

Summary of Action Items

Encourage more gifted students from under‑represented groups to apply
Ensure appropriate provisions and adjustments for gifted students with disability
Make the selection process more relevant for gifted students from rural and remote areas, and the selective schools that target them
Minimise imprecision to increase confidence in the accuracy of measurement
Align the difficulty of the tests to the ability levels of the gifted students sitting them
Update the frameworks used to guide test design and incorporate state-of-the-art assessment strategies
Ensure mathematical and English ability are correctly weighted
Reduce predictability and coachability, and support schools in preparing their students to sit the selection tests
Partner with schools, families and communities to revise the School Assessment Score process
Closing the gender gap in the selection system
Consider adjustments to the process of nominating school preferences
Partner with schools, families and communities to review post-Year 7 entry to selective education
Strengthen the department’s ability to link data across the NSW education system and its responsiveness to emerging trends in selective education

Download Official Review Report

Score Moderation and Calculation

Moderation of school assessment scores

A process of moderation adjusts scores in a fair and consistent way as each school has different assessment methods and marks differently. Moderation allows scores to be compared against each other statewide.

The high performing students unit uses the reading and writing tests to moderate the English school assessment score and the mathematics test to moderate the mathematics school assessment score.

School assessment scores are provided for English and mathematics. They rank all candidates from a particular primary school in order of merit, showing the relative gaps between the students.

For example, a school with five candidates may provide the following school assessment scores.

Students English Mathematics
Student A 95 72
Student B 83 89
Student C 79 91
Student D 77 90
Student E 64 61

Submitted school assessment scores are adjusted through a process of moderation to allow comparison of student scores from different schools. The scores are adjusted based on that group's performance in the Selective High Schools Placement Test.

The mean (average) and standard deviation (spread of scores) of the English and mathematics sections of the test are calculated for all students who sat the test. The mean and standard deviation are then applied to the school assessment scores. This method ensures the rank order and relative gaps between students at a school stays the same.

  • Where the candidate is the only one who has applied, even if the school has provided school assessment scores, the scores cannot be used. Two or more candidates have to apply from the same school and have both school assessment scores and test scores before the school assessment scores can be moderated. Students from single candidate schools will be considered using the test scores for English and mathematics only, instead of partly from the test and partly from school scores.
  • If a non-government primary school does not provide school assessment scores or the school assessment scores cannot be moderated the calculated placement score is calculated using the test scores for English and mathematics only, instead of partly from the test and partly from school scores.

Scaling of Test Marks

Different maximum marks apply to the various test components.

  • reading – 45
  • writing – 20
  • mathematics – 40
  • general ability – 60

Each test component needs to be adjusted so they are weighted equally. Additionally, the test results need to have equal weighting with the moderated school assessment scores.

The scaling of the test marks is done on a statewide basis regardless of the schools attended by the students. Each test component is adjusted so they are weighted equally and have equal weighting with the moderated school assessment scores.

Different maximum marks apply to the various test components.

  • English – 20
  • Mathematics – 20
  • General Ability – 30

Each component of the Opportunity Class Placement Test is scaled to a mean of 60 and a standard deviation of 12.

The following graph shows an example of scaling for the mathematics test. In the example, a raw mark of 17 out of 40 was scaled to 60 out of 100 with a standard deviation of 12 – 68% of the candidates received a scaled mark of between 48 and 72.




Scaling of School Assessment Scores

The school assessment scores are scaled just like the test results, using the mean and standard deviation from candidates from one school. These are applied to the raw scores provided by that school. This gives the raw school assessment scores parity with all schools statewide – giving them equal weighting with the scaled test scores.

For example, in 2015 a sample school with 64 candidates had school assessment scores for mathematics with a mean of 83 and a standard deviation of 13. When those students sat the mathematics test their scaled scores had a mean around 65 and a standard deviation around 14. You can see the results of the scaling of these assessment scores in the graph below.

Calculated Placement Score

The calculated placement score is a mark out of 300. For most students, it is provided at the bottom of the email advising the application outcome.

The calculated placement score is made up of:

  • moderated school assessment scores for English and mathematics
  • scaled test marks for English = 2/3 of the scaled reading test marks + 1/3 of the scaled writing test marks
  • scaled test marks for mathematics
  • scaled test marks for general ability.
Test component Scaled school assessment score Scaled test mark Total
English (2/3 reading and 1/3 writing) 50 50 100
Mathematics 50 50 100
General ability No school score 100 100
Total 100 200 300

For most students, the calculated placement score determines offers of placement. A small group of students may be granted special consideration or an illness/misadventure request.
It is unlikely a student will achieve a calculated placement score of 300 as the test is very difficult and school assessment scores rarely moderate to 100. You cannot compare scores from one year to another.

Score details for parents

Outcome letters and emails advise parents of their child's calculated placement score. A further letter or attachment is provided with the breakdown of the raw school assessment scores and test marks. In a few cases, the score cannot be published. If parents do not receive their child's score they can write to the Team for an explanation.

Scores information, where available, will include the following.

  • School assessment scores:
    • English out of 100
    • mathematics out of 100.
  • Selective High Schools Placement Test results:
    • reading out of 45
    • writing out of 20
    • mathematics out of 40
    • general ability out of 60.

You cannot recalculate a calculated placement score using the above raw marks as results are moderated and scaled statewide

The selection committee may adjust a child's score based on criteria such as a student's Aboriginality, length of time doing all school work in English, illness/misadventure request, appeal and a number of other factors. This is why a student may appear higher on a reserve list than another student with a higher calculated placement score. Adjusted placement scores cannot be published as they can vary across the three selection committees considering the application.

Information Source: Public Schools, NSW Department of Education

Selective Test Dates

Year Dates of the Selective High School Placement Test
(for Year 6 students seeking entry to Year 7 the following year)
2021 Thursday 11 March 2021 for 2022 entry
2022 TBA

Information Source: Public Schools, NSW Department of Education

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