NSW Selective Schools Test Yr 7 - Ultimate Test Prep Guide for Parents (2023)

Less than 30% Get a Selective School Offer … and the Test Gets HARDER in 2023!

What is the NSW Selective School Test & How to Prepare Your Child?

The NSW selective test is one of the most competitive high school exams in Australia (around 15,000 students sit the test each year). It’s a crucial test… and you get one chance so it’s very important to get that extra edge to get a high ranking.

So what is it?

The current NSW selective school test includes the following subject areas:

  • Reading
  • Writing
  • Mathematical reasoning
  • Thinking skills

This means that students will have to:

  • Develop a deeper understanding of concepts (not rote learning or scraping the surface),
  • Demonstrate creativity
  • Hone their critical thinking skills.

It also means that literacy - reading and writing will likely be weighted more heavily.

What is a selective school?

Selective schools are schools where gifted and talented students are grouped together. In NSW, there are 22 fully selective schools and 24 partially selective schools (2018).

Selective schools are public schools. This means they don't have the very high fees of private grammar schools ($30,000+) but can request a voluntary contribution (usually $500 - $2000).

A selective school provides a very high quality education without the private school price tag.

While the Department of Education does not recommend any specific coaching for the Selective High School test, if you don’t want to put your child in a position of disadvantage, some form of test preparation is needed. Why?

The NSW high school placement test is an extremely difficult test and your child will have over 10,000 competitors. If your child does no preparation, they’d come across some questions and be completely lost – so they’d probably guess, and get 0.

You also don’t know what your competitor’s abilities are and your child should not underestimate how much their competitors have prepared. It’s quite common for students to prepare for 3 hours every Saturday with some even doing 8 hours of coaching each Saturday. But… don’t lose hope because the number of hours doesn’t really make a big difference by themselves.

What really matters is the student’s current level of ability and what is being done during preparation time. Exam Success has helped students prepare in a month and they’ve have been successful in gaining a place just as students who have been preparing for a year.

Next, find out what’s in the test and how your child can ace their exams.

With such fierce competition, your child needs that extra edge to be one of the 30% to get a school offer. Luck doesn’t play a part – being prepared does.

What’s in the NSW selective school test (test format, number of questions and time limit)?

The NSW high school placement test has four parts. The multiple choice parts are heavily based around critical thinking, creative problem-solving and mathematical application and therefore, rote learning such as memorizing multiplication tables or formulas, isn’t going to give your child the edge they need.

What they need are strategies in order to problem-solve quickly and correctly when faced with an exam question.

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

Thinking Skills (NEW!)

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

The above number of questions and time limit is an estimate based on Cambridge Assessment's other Thinking Skills Assessment.

This is a multiple choice test. Exam Success believes that questions in this section will present problems in both text and numerical form. Some may be similar to numerical reasoning and we anticipate that other questions will present arguments where students will have to deconstruct and find meaning and insights from, similar to reading comprehension.


Number of questions: 1 writing prompt
What’s the time limit*? 30 minutes
Time per question* ~ 30 minutes

Your child won’t get a high rank with just normal sentences and correct spelling. In the selective school test, they’re basics and it’s expected that your child writes with proper grammar. To get the school offer, it’s about content – what you write and how you write it. Students need to write a piece according to the question or stimulus given to them. It they don’t, they don’t get any marks. Higher marks are awarded for thoughtfulness in their piece. Remember, writing isn’t only expression; it’s about content – and crafting this based on what's being asked. Then it’s about communicating that clearly.


Number of questions: 30 multiple-choice questions
What’s the time limit*? 40 minutes
Time per question* ~ 80 seconds

Students are asked to read or review a variety of media such as articles, narrative extracts, poetry and maybe even cartoons. They’re also asked to answer questions based on these texts. It’s not a simple “find the matching word in the text” and if it matches, you win—No, it’s about deep understanding and making those “invisible” connections that the text implies, but is not explicitly stated or obvious.


Number of questions: 35 multiple-choice questions
What’s the time limit*? 40 minutes
Time per question* ~ 68.5 seconds

Don’t expect to see simple calculations that need to be solved - this mathematics reasoning test is about application and problem solving using mathematics. Most of the questions involve very simple adding, subtracting, multiplication and/or division – but what’s hard is figuring out what mathematics to use, how to use it and when to use it to solve the question.

﹡ The number of questions and time limit have been taken from the NSW Education website across multiple years. 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.

The NSW selective school test isn’t just a routine test to see if your child meets the standard at Grade 6 (when they sit their test). It’s a test that’s extremely difficult to see if your child has not only mastered the basic, but can extend and use their knowledge to problem solve (mathematics and general ability), to understand deeply (reading) and to communicate (written expression).

How can your child ace the NSW selective school test (and get a school offer)?

When we do private tuition, the process we use to help students gain a NSW selective school offer involves just 5 steps!

For reading, mathematics and general ability:

  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. As a start, your child can practice for free on the test papers issued by the NSW Department of Education and Communities. You can find the NSW selective school sample tests by clicking here.

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 into selective schools, we’ve found that students improve dramatically 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.

With the NSW selective school test, your child doesn’t get a second chance. They get one chance only.

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
General Ability to Reach for Exam Success (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.

Have A Question?

Get in touch!