Selective Schools Victoria: The Complete SEHS Guide

Selective Schools Victoria: What are they? How does my child get into one? We have the answers.

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Matrix Education

What is a Selective Entry High School?

When it comes to the topic of “selective schools Victoria”, there are plenty of questions that need answering. But first, what actually is a selective school? Selective Entry High Schools (SEHS) are government schools that are specifically designed to nurture and challenge academically gifted Year 9 – 12 students. These schools aim to offer the same elite education associated with private grammar schools, without the steep enrolment fees or other financial barriers.

There are four Selective Entry High Schools in Victoria:

Melbourne High School (all-boys) in South Yarra.

Melbourne High School is an all-boys Selective Entry High School renowned for its exemplary VCE results. While an academic institution, the school is well regarded for its music, sports, and debate programs, and offers a wide array of extracurriculars. Melbourne High School is responsible for the highest number of intakes into Monash University and the University of Melbourne of any school in Victoria.

Selective Schools Victoria
Melbourne High School

The Mac.Robertson Girls’ High School (all-girls) in Melbourne.

The Mac.Robertson Girls’ High School is an all-girls Selective Entry High School and the sister school of Melbourne High School. It has a long history of ranking first in the state for VCE results. Alongside its academic excellence, The Mac.Robertson Girl’s High School is known for fostering a sense of community, connection, and collaboration.

Selective Schools Victoria
Mac.Robertson Girl’s High School

Nossal High School (co-ed) in Berwick.

Nossal High School is a co-educational Selective Entry High School that was founded in 2010 as demand for selective schools in Victoria increased. While equally specialised in academic excellence, Nossal High School rejects many archaic school traditions, such as single-sex education and school bells. Instead, the school draws pedagogical inspiration from Harvard Psychologist Howard Gardner; students are respected like adults, and trusted to know when and where to be at all times.

Nossal High School

Suzanne Cory High School (co-ed) in Werribee.

Suzanne Cory High School is a co-educational Selective Entry High School that was founded in 2011 under the same initiative as Nossal High School. Aside from its stellar academic program, the school also benefits from partnerships with The University of Melbourne and Victoria University, whereby students can access their world class facilities and academic staff.

Selective Schools Victoria
Suzanne Cory High School

How do you get into a Selective Entry High School?

Admission to a Victorian Selective Entry High School is determined by your child’s performance on ACER’s (Australian Council for Educational Research) annual Entrance Exam. Applications to sit the exam are open to Year 8 students between March and June each year.

As the exam assesses an applicant’s suitability to commence Year 9 at a Selective Entry High School the following year, all nominees must be in Year 8 at the time of application. Successful applicants sit the exam in July, and enrolment offers are awarded between August and October if of the same year.

Should my child sit the SEHS Entrance Exam?

Selective government schools aren’t for everyone, and it is very possible to score an excellent VCE result at either an independent or non-selective school. This is demonstrated annually with the release of the Top VCE School Rankings, which showcase a diverse pool of high-achieving secondary schools in Victoria.

Moreover, your child might demonstrate intellect outside the realm of academia, such as in music, the arts, or in interpersonal communication. Such students might benefit from a less rigorous educational system, one that provides time to pursue creative interests or extracurriculars.

That said, students who are naturally gifted in academia may benefit from being surrounded by like-minded peers and immersed in a curriculum designed to nurture their unique talents. For these students, selective schooling can be a great way to push them to exact their potential (as long as it is never at the expense of their rest, self-care, or happiness).

It should also be noted that there is an SEHS application fee of $160 (low-come, Aboriginal, or Torres Strait Islander families are exempt). Fortunately, the application for the SEHS Entrance Exam is really just a form collating you and your child’s details. Most applicants who have correctly filled out the application will be accepted at this stage; the real challenge is the exam itself.

What is in the SEHS Entrance Exam?

The SEHS Entrance Exam assesses five domains. The first two of these five domains fall under the category of “ability tests”:

The Ability Tests

These tests measure your child’s ability to solve problems without prior knowledge of the subject. Ability tests generally predict how quickly your child will be able to learn new material or solve unseen problems, as well as how much complexity they can handle. The two SEHS ability tests are verbal reasoning and numerical reasoning.

1. Verbal Reasoning

This is a multiple-choice test that measures your child’s ability to think and reason using words and language. Items in the test tap relate to vocabulary, word relationships, classification, and deduction.

Verbal Reasoning SEHS Example Question (vic.gov)

You can download a practice Verbal Reasoning Test here!

2. Numerical Reasoning

This is a multiple-choice test that measures your child’s ability to think and reason using numbers. Items in the test relate to series, matrices, arithmetical reasoning, and deduction.

Numerical Reasoning SEHS Example Question (vic.gov)

You can download a practice Numerical Reasoning Test here!

The last three domains of the SEHS Entrance exam fall under the category of “achievement tests”:

The Achievement Tests

These tests measure actual achievement or performance in key academic areas. In other words, students will be required to use their prior knowledge of skills and subjects taught in school in order to ace these tests. The three achievement tests are reading comprehension, mathematics, and written expression.

1. Reading Comprehension

This is a multiple-choice test that measures your child’s capacity to read and interpret meaning from written passages. Some questions also require students to correct, complete, and punctuate sentences.

Reading Comprehension SEHS Example Question (vic.gov)

You can download a practice Reading Comprehension Test here!

2. Mathematics

This is a multiple-choice test that measures your child’s Year 8 mathematical knowledge. Questions include measurements, algebra, geometry, and data.

Mathematics SEHS Example Question (vic.gov)

You can download a practice Mathematics Test here!

3. Written Expression

This test requires students to compose either a creative or persuasive text. Students should prepare to write in either form, as they will not get to choose between them; the exam question will nominate one of these forms.

Creative Text:

This test asks students to write an original imaginative piece in response to a visual or written prompt. This piece will usually be in the form of a short story, and will measure your child’s ability to write creatively.

Imagine you are zoologist that has just discovered a new and rare animal. Construct an imaginative piece of writing that narrates this discovery in the form of a diary entry.

Students are expected to demonstrate a good understanding of paragraph structure, punctuation, spelling, descriptive language, characterisation, vocabulary, plot, and other narrative features.

You can download a practice Creative Written Expression Test here!

Persuasive Text:

This test nominates a social issue, and asks students to compose a persuasive response to the matter. Prompts include questions such as:

“Are the Olympics a waste of money?”

“Should Victoria implement a 3-day work week?”

“Should non-recyclable plastics be banned?”

Students are expected to respond to their given prompt in a way that makes a logical, cohesive, and evidence-based argument, and also uses rhetorical techniques (like ethos, logos, and pathos) to persuade an audience. Spelling, grammar, vocabulary, and structure are also assessed.

You can download a practice Persuasive Written Expression Test here!

How can my child prepare for the SEHS Entrance Exam?

Aside from being a diligent student both at school and in the completion of homework, there is plenty your child can be doing to prepare for their SEHS Entrance Exam. Importantly, three of the five sections of the SEHS Entrance Exam relate to English, so it is very important your child is comfortable with words!

To accomplish this, ensure your child is reading widely, and reading for enjoyment. For a comprehensive guide on how to nurture your child’s love of reading, visit our Ultimate Reading Guide here!

Otherwise, consider having your child sit a SEHS practice exam or two, which can be accessed via the official vic.gov website. Before they take the exam, ensure your child is well rested, and reward them for any effort they put into sitting these exams, no matter their results. We recommend offering these exams as a choice for your child. Students who feel they have autonomy over their education and who are intrinsically motivated are much more likely to excel!

Ultimately, findings in psychology and neuroscience suggest that there are many different kinds of intelligence, not just in the realm of academia. Accordingly, the most successful individuals are not simply the most academically rigorous, but those who have nurtured their unique gifts, whether or not these gifts are measured in high school examinations. Encourage a growth mindset in your child, always reminding them that education is a journey, and that they can achieve anything they put their mind and effort into.

Written by Matrix Education

Matrix is Sydney's No.1 High School Tuition provider. Come read our blog regularly for study hacks, subject breakdowns, and all the other academic insights you need.

© Matrix Education and www.matrix.edu.au, 2023. Unauthorised use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Matrix Education and www.matrix.edu.au with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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