Exam Success' Ultimate Test Preparation Guide for Scholarship Yr 7 (Level 1) Tests Offered by ACER®

A 20% fee-reduction scholarship saves parents $7374 each year** - Gain access to the most prestigious schools to give your child a significant advantage in life.

In this guide, you’ll find out what an ACER exam format looks like (number of questions, time, areas tested), what schools generally use ACER to set their exam, how hard a scholarship exam is and what is expected. As a bonus, an exam expert will show you how to best do test preparation for your child for this competitive exam.

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Research Limited. Any products available for sale on this website are not approved by The
Australian Council for Educational Research Limited.

What is an ACER scholarship exam, how hard is the test and should you prepare?

If you have applied for your child to sit a scholarship or are planning to do so, you may be advised that it will be an ACER scholarship exam.

Scholarships provide parents with access to the top private schools at a fraction of what it normally costs, saving parents around $7,000 each year ($40,000 over 6 years).

A scholarship is a once in a lifetime opportunity that gives your child a significant advantage in life. So what is an ACER scholarship test and more importantly, how do you prepare your child for it?

There are 3 major test setters in Australia; they are ACER, Edutest and Academic Assessment Services (aka AAS and formerly known as Robert Allwell & Associates).

Most schools don’t write their own scholarship exams, as assessments are quite difficult to do. Instead, they outsource testing to companies. ACER is one of the 3 major companies that do this. ACER (also known as the Australian Council for Educational Research) is one of the oldest and respected of the 3 companies with around 10,000 students sitting ACER exams (Sydney Morning Herald, 2018).

An ACER scholarship test for Level 1 (this is if your child is doing the exam to enter Year 7 or Year 8) generally has 4 parts being 2 written expression tasks, mathematics and "humanities" - comprehension and interpretation (this is really a reading comprehension test). Each of these test parts will be explained in more detail below (time, format, what it tests exactly).

So how hard is an ACER scholarship exam?

Like most scholarship exams, ACER scholarship exams are very difficult because they test things that your child DOESN'T learn at school. Reasoning and problem solving feature heavily. As quoted by the General Manager of School Assessment, Barbara Smith:

The tests assess a student’s ability to interpret, infer, deduce and think critically,....they aren’t curriculum based so don’t test a student’s ability “to retrieve learned knowledge"

Additionally, there is the problem of the very short time limit – usually 60 seconds to complete a multiple-choice question and 25 minutes to write a full-length essay.

As a guide, your child should be performing 1-2 grades above their current grade in both Maths and English. This means an A to A+ in order to be considered baseline competitive as candidates who sit the exam are most likely to be at that level already.

ACER scholarship exams are even harder in selection compared to their exams for selective schools (ACER also produce the NSW selective school test, Brisbane State High and GATE in Western Australia). This is because a scholarship may provide 1-3 spots a year while selective schools often have 225 spots or more.

So should you prepare? The ACER website and all the test preparation people tell us not to!

Our short answer is "Yes". Not because we work in test preparation but because it makes sense to prepare. It is an exam afterall.

The savings for a scholarship can be more than $44,244 over 6 years from Grade 7 – 12, the stakes are high because of the financial reward and so is the competition. Many children commonly put in 168+ hours of preparation 6 months ahead of test date.

We believe the reason why exam companies discourage preparation is because they want their exam to select students fairly, however, in the real world, people do prepare and students who do prepare can get an advantage. I have personally seen instances where naturally gifted students missed out to someone who was prepared because they had poor exam technique (just because you are gifted doesn’t mean that you naturally have good exam technique).

Another reason we believe companies discourage preparation is because it isn't good practice to be seen encouraging students to be competitive and to engage in coaching that stresses students out.

However, if parents take this advice and their child doesn't prepare at all, they're at a significant disadvantage. They'll be stressed out during the exam as everything is unfamiliar to them and they'll be competing with students who did prepare.

The thing with preparation is that it can be done in a sensible way - preparing early and making it part of a regular habit is a way of preparation that doesn't cause unnecessary stress and can be effective.

It would be unfair to put your child into the ACER exam without preparation. It is a time-driven exam and totally different from what they get at school.

Get them help so they go into the test knowing what to do and how to do their best.

What’s in an ACER scholarship Level 1 exam – test format, number of questions and time limit?

An ACER scholarship Level 1 scholarship exam has 4 parts although schools can customise for their own needs.

Barbara Smith, general manager of school assessment has said that “Writing tasks are graded on uniqueness and quality of original ideas, with structure and flow more important than perfect spelling and grammars." (Sydney Morning Herald, 2018)

Additionally, ACER is well-known to have questions that seem very difficult in terms of problem solving, but the mathematics used to get to the answer is actually very simple addition, subtraction, multiplication and division.

The 4 parts along with their description (including time limits and estimated number of questions per test *) are shown below:

Written Expression (Test 1)

Number of questions: 1 writing prompt
What’s the time limit*? 25 minutes
Time per question* ~ 25 minutes

There are two written expression tests (Test 1 - this one, and Test 4 - see below).

Any style of writing can be requested and if it is requested, your child needs to write accordingly or risk losing points. It's important to note that written expression 1 test will likely be different in style of writing requested compared to written expression 2 - this is so that assessors can see two different styles of writing. In the past, students have seen narrative, persuasive and discussion pieces requested. We recommend you have a set structure going into the exam so that you can do your piece quickly and in the right layout - Exam Success' writing club has set layouts that have been proven to work in a 20 minute time limit.

Just because your child can write sentences with perfect spelling and grammar, doesn’t mean they’ll get a good mark. They’re just the basics. Scholarship selection requires higher skills – these are:

  • Originality – unique stories stand out. But again, these need to be written well and planned carefully to fit within the 25 minutes you are provided. Your child should choose their storyline or structure of the piece carefully. Exam Success provides a set structure that students have used to win scholarship – see our masterclass video on this for persuasive and narrative writing.
  • Related to the prompt – your child can’t write anything they want, they need to come up with a piece that is directly related to the stimulus/question they’re given. This could be an image, a statement or both. Students that don’t do this risk getting a nil mark. It’s important your child relates to the prompt because in the past, students have come into the exam with rehearsed essays. We do not recommend you memorise essays beforehand. However, we highly recommend you practice a lot and have ‘backup’ sentences that you can use.
  • Fluency and strong control of syntax – your child should write clear sentences that are in order and can be easily understood. So not to write: “Yesterday, I will eat dinner”, but write: “Yesterday, I ate dinner”.
  • Grammar and vocabulary – One of the biggest misconceptions that students and parents (and teachers) have is that to score well in this area, you have to use a lot of ‘big words’. Using a ‘big word’ incorrectly and in the wrong context will lose your child marks. Also, if you don’t know how to spell the word, it will also likely lose you marks. Remember, words need to be selected carefully to ‘enhance’ your piece. Poorly chosen words will lead to loss of marks. For example, “A plethora of reasons why” is better written as the simpler “A number of reasons why…”

Humanities - Comprehension and Interpretation (Test 2)

Number of questions: 45 multiple-choice questions (estimated)
What’s the time limit*? 40 minutes
Time per question* ~ 53 seconds

When our past students have sat this exam, they have said that it is essentially a reading comprehension test. Our view is that it is a fancy name for a reading comprehension test but it is a reading test on subjects such as English, Art, History, Geography and Social Studies. It's important to note that your child doesn't need to read up on humanities subjects - in fact, sometimes coming into the exam with pre-existing knowledge may mean that that student does not select the right answer according to the text that is presented. All your child needs to do is read through the material, think about it, and make decisions (Exam has a reading comprehension course). Your child will be presented with a range of texts - this includes fiction, non-fiction, poetry, cartoons, diagrams and even maps!

Mathematics Achievement and Reasoning (Test 3)

Number of questions: 40 multiple-choice questions (estimated)
What’s the time limit*? 40 minutes
Time per question* ~ 60 seconds

According to the ACER website, the mathematics test "attempts to measure mathematical and scientific abilities rather than school achievement in these areas. The material used for the questions is selected from a wide variety of sources, and may differ from standard school-based curriculum materials."

What we have found is that what you learn at school is rarely tested in the way you learn it at school. Instead, the test is about application. Usually it’s very simple maths (e.g. adding, subtracting, dividing and multiplying) but the difficulty is in HOW to use it and when. The exam rewards students more if they do well for the reasoning parts. Questions like “If a person is 2 times another person’s age now, how old will they be in 10 years time” may appear. There are strategies your child can learn to help them answer these types of questions quickly and accurately.

An example question could be:

A game show contestant must jump blindfolded into a pool filled with a thousand balloons that are coloured red, green or white. The contestant must select a white balloon to win. The ratio of red to green to white balloons is 3:7:10. What is the chance that the game show contestant will select a white balloon?

a) 10
b) 1
c) 0.5
d) 1/10

Students learn ratios and probability at school and would have already learnt how to add and multiply. These are all needed to answer the above question. But knowing these things individually doesn’t ensure that a student will know how to use them in combination to answer the question correctly or go about it in the most time-efficient way. To answer this question correctly, students need to figure out:

  • That the word “chance” means probability. This means that the answer must be less than 1 (because the chance of something happening is expressed as less than 100%. 100% is certainty).
  • That the ratio figures added together create a whole. So 3 + 7 + 10 adds up to 20 and when you multiply that by 50, you get 1,000 balloons.
  • Select the part of the ratio that is important – “white balloons” and calculate the probability of selecting a white balloon. So 10 / (3 + 7+ 10)) is one-half and this is 0.5 in decimal format.

The exam questions require students to synthesise the information provided and make decisions about what to use, how and when.

Written Expression (Test 4)

Number of questions: 1 writing prompt
What’s the time limit*? 25 minutes
Time per question* ~ 25 minutes

Similar to written expression (Test 1), the style in written expression 2 may be different. It's important that your child is able to understand the different structure (way of writing) for different styles of writing. If you haven't gone through Written Expression 1 description, please go through it as Written Expression 2 will require the same, except it may be a different prompt / style of writing that is requested. Remember, that with so many students sitting the exams (10,000), for your child's piece to stand out, it won't be through great grammar or spelling, it will be based on 'what' they say. That is, the content. Exam Success' writing club can help your child with content and structure.

﹡ The number of questions and time limit have been estimated from the ACER website and publicly available information. Please note that the authoritative body can change the number of questions and time limits from year to year so please refer to their websites for the most up to date information. Time per question is calculated by taking the time limit divided by number of questions.

﹡﹡ Calculated as the identified cost of private school tuition fees of $36,870 per year for inner suburb of capital city multiplied by 20%.

As you'll see, the scholarship test revolves heavily around thinking skills rather than curriculum – this means you’ll need test preparation that teaches logical reasoning. Logical reasoning is unfamiliar to many parents but it can be taught and is a study area under ‘logic’ a branch of study under philosophy. Our courses and test questions are developed by one of our exam experts who majored in philosophy and studied logic reasoning from a logic professor at the renowned University of Melbourne.

Your child needs support and expert programs designed around building skills in reasoning that they don’t teach you at school. These are the skills that will help your child answer those hard questions they get the high marks for. Most children can answer the easier questions but it’s the harder questions that help your child get selected for a scholarship.

How Do You Prepare Your Kid For the ACER Scholarship Test?

Because the questions reward children who can do problem solving, the questions are rarely straightforward. They require reasoning skills - something that is rarely taught in schools but something we teach at Exam Success.

So how can your child prepare?

The first step is to do sample question papers and to figure out what areas your child needs to work on.

ACER does produce a range of practice questions here that can be purchased on the ACER website.

However, these papers don't provide the detailed solutions and explanations your child needs to know to:

  1. Answer the question.
  2. Answer similar questions of the same type.

We have found that there are a limited number of ways you can test logical reasoning and have created our own set of questions with detailed solutions that explain, step-by-step how your child can get the answer correct.

These have been used by students to prepare for an ACER exam and successfully gain a scholarship.

You can sign up here for our teaching test bank - smart practice with sample similar to ACER questions + how-to-answer videos.

When I do private tuition, the process I use to help students gain a scholarship involves just 5 steps!

For ACER humanities and mathematics:

  1. Do a practice test disregarding the time limit. Focus on getting the question right and find out what your score is in the end.
  2. For any question you didn’t get correct, figure out what should be the correct answer (and check it with your answer key).
  3. For those same questions, come up with strategies so that when you’re faced with a similar question next time, you’ll be able to answer it. Hone your strategy over time so that you reduce the number of steps it takes to get to the answer (and so that you can answer the question more quickly).
  4. Repeat steps 1 – 3 until you get a score of 95-100%. Each time you repeat it, if done properly, your child should be seeing a higher score in their practice test.
  5. Then do practice tests within the time limit. What you’ll find is that working in a time limit is easier, once you have a process to answering various questions correctly.

While they look like 5 easy steps, going through each step does time a long time if done properly and coming up with strategies takes time. The strategy that has the least step is the quickest way there but it requires clear thought and understanding around logical links. You can develop these strategies yourself, or you can do our courses where these strategies are provided.

Written Expression is a bit trickier as there are so many ways where your writing can lose marks (we’ve identified 52!).

Based on our experience helping students get scholarships, we’ve found that students improve dramatically and quickly through targeted feedback. Writing improves quickly when you have experts providing feedback. Your child shouldn’t have to sit in class and learn grammar rules, but rather, they should:

  1. Write their essay
  2. Get customized feedback.
  3. Repeat steps 1-2 again. Using the feedback, overtime, students see an improvement in their essays. They stop making the same mistakes and their writing is better.

A scholarship is much sought after – it provides parents and children with access to the most prestigious and top schools at a reduced price (savings usually $40,000 over 6 years). It is a lifetime opportunity that provides your child with endless benefits.

Here's test preparation designed for your child's success

How to Write a Creative Piece in Under 20 Minutes (for Year 7 entry)

Author's Score (ATAR or IELTS): 96.04

The price above is inclusive of 10% GST. If you are purchasing for use outside of Australia, at checkout, you'll be charged the amount without GST
How to Write an Argumentative Piece in Under 20 Minutes (for Year 7 entry)

Author's Score (ATAR or IELTS): 96.04

The price above is inclusive of 10% GST. If you are purchasing for use outside of Australia, at checkout, you'll be charged the amount without GST

Frequently Asked Questions

See answers to frequently asked questions by parents

How does the extension work for courses? I need more than 6 months.

It's great that you're planning ahead. Once you purchase, access is provided for 6 months from the date of purchase. An extension is $19 per month for an individual course or $39 to have your whole originally purchased course package renewed per month. To get extension access, just extend on the website where you access your course.

How do we get more practice worksheets to work on? The videos are helpful but we need more practice material to practice under time constrraints [sic].

As a minimum, per course there are 10 questions x 10 checkpoints = 100 questions (some courses/checkpoints have more). The final checkpoints (Checkpoint 11 / 12) is the practice exam which has for the Year 7 exams, approximately 30-45 questions depending on the course and for Year 9, this is 50-65 questions depending on the course. The course should provide all the practice questions you require in order to prepare effectively for the exam.

Parents don't often realise that too many practice questions is not a good thing because students are more likely to skim over the question and 'do it' and opposed to understanding the logic more deeply. Understanding the logic leads to Exam Success!

I've seen this problem happen a lot where parents buy all this practice material and become confused and stressed not knowing where to start! Focus on quality of practice questions over quantity and your child will be less stressed, more focused and better prepared for the exam. It's about studying smarter not harder!

If I wish to purchase whole package, how much time (approx.) should it take for my 10yr old to complete all the units?

If you have the time for example, 6 months to spare, I'd recommend 3.5 hours each weekend. Each course has 12 checkpoints and there are 7 courses altogether (84 checkpoints - approximately 84+ hours of exam preparation. If you have 3 months to the time of the exam, I'd recommend doing a checkpoint per day (if doing the full package of 7 courses). Some students say it takes on average 37 hours to complete one course (for 7 courses that would be 210 hours) so potentially, your child could do the course full time during the summer holiday period and beyond.

If we complete certain units but want to go back to previous units, can we do that? How long are the videos available to us? Can they be downloaded?

Yes - that's what we wanted as students often have to reinforce their knowledge. You can revisit the unit whenever you like. It's like having the ultimate text book in video format and you can flip ahead or back whenever you need. Access is granted for a period of six months. If you need an extension it is $19 per month for an individual course or $39 per month to have your whole package extended per month.

No the videos cannot be downloaded, everything is available to access on the site.

Is there a discount if we want to buy more than 2 packages? If I plan to buy all packages, it comes up to almost $700/- which is quite pricey

There are packages available that provides savings.

Individual packages are there as sometimes, students may only need to polish up on one area and this provides them with that polishing up.

We price our products based on the work involved to prepare them and we put in alot of effort as shown by our results and reviews from students and parents. When you think about it, we are value for money compared to other providers as:

Hendersons charge around $180 - $270 for a 1-day workshop on 1 subject only. Ours is $150 and students have access for six months AND they can revisit whenever they need.

James An's selective trial test course cost around $1090 for four subjects over a 10-week term (Herald Sun 2013). Exam Success' full package is $449 which includes +3 more subject but also $641 LESS expensive than James An.

According to a Sydney Morning Herald article, "Mr Mysore said he had spent about $3000 to help prepare his son, who went to coaching for four hours a week, for the selective exam." (Herald Sun 2013). Exam Success' course is less than 1/3 of the cost and doing the full package (7 courses) over 6 months would take around 3.5 hours per week.

At the end of the day, it all comes down to the teacher. I've heard stories where students have a good teacher at a tuition school and when they don't they don't really take much in.

At Exam Success, we make sure that what your child is watching is effective so that they get the best learning possible and preparation for their exam.

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