Part 3: The Selective School Test

The most common question parents have is: "What is the Selective School Test and how should I help my child prepare for it?" In this article, we give you the answers!

What’s in the selective school test? Can my child prepare for it? In this article, we will explain how the test is arranged, consider some types of questions, and provide you with practical study tips for your child.

What is the Selective School Test?

The Selective School test is the standardised test that all NSW Selective School applicants sit. It is designed to challenge even the most gifted of students to ensure they have the skills and knowledge to flourish at a Selective School.

What is being tested?

There are four components to the Selective School Test:

  1. Reading
  2. Mathematics
  3. General Ability (GA)
  4. Writing Test

You may be a bit unfamiliar with GA as it’s not a subject taught at school. Don’t worry! We have provided an explanation of what the different sections consist of and how to best prepare for it.


The Reading test contains 45 questions which are to be completed within 40 minutes. A question might look something like this:




Correct Answer: C

The Reading section can be quite challenging for most students. Comparably, the questions and texts found in the Selective Test is almost on par with the Year 9 NAPLAN Reading test in terms of difficulty.

Preparation Tip:  The easiest way to increase your literacy skills and understanding is to read!

Check out our list of recommended books for Years 7-8, which will be beneficial for Year 5 students preparing for the Selective School Test.



The Mathematics test contains 40 questions which are to be completed within 40 minutes. A question might look something like this:


Correct Answer: A

Calculators are not allowed in the Maths test and each question must be completed within a minute. Therefore, it is important that students are confident and quick at Mental Maths.

Preparation Tip:  You could try giving them 10 Mental Maths questions a day in the lead-up to the test to help them improve.


General Ability

The General Ability or GA test contains 60 questions which are to be completed within 40 minutes. The GA test consists of questions which test a student’s mathematical and verbal reasoning. In the past, GA questions tended to have a stronger focus on mathematical reasoning than verbal reasoning. However, since 2020, the test now has an equal balance of mathematical reasoning and verbal reasoning questions.


Here is what a verbal reasoning question may look like:


53. The word ‘Detriment’ is most nearly the opposite of:

A. Challenge

B. Improvement

C. Consumption

D. Departure

Correct Answer: B


Often, a verbal reasoning question in GA will require an understanding of the given word.

Preparation Tip: Encourage  your child to learn 5 new words every week!

Challenge your child with our free weekly Year 7 Vocabulary list in your inbox


Here is what a mathematical reasoning question may look like:


54. The numbers in each of the three brackets follow the same rule. Find the missing number.

[19, 25, 3]  [4, 26,11]  [?, 51, 9]

A. 20

B. 31

C. 33

D. 34

Correct Answer: C


The only way to get your child to excel in this area is to do lots of practice. Christina Ho, a UTS academic found that if a student practiced the right format, they will get better scores.


Preparation Tip: Practice lots of quick mental Maths questions with your child so they can quickly work out the pattern in each question.


Writing Test

The Writing Test is usually an imaginative/creative response to a stimulus which must be completed within 20 minutes. Students should write no more than 2 pages. Students are awarded high marks if the writing has:

  • A title
  • Creative ideas
  • Fluent and complex language
  • Clear structure with beginning, middle and end


Here is what a question may look like:


Use the following idea as the basis for a piece of writing:

If you had just one wish to make the world a better place, what would you wish for?


Scoring a high mark in this section can be quite hard. The most important thing you can do is encourage your child to read and write.

Preparation Tip: Create a blog with your child or buy a journal for them to encourage writing.


Preparing for the Selective School Tests: General Tips and Tricks

Do some practice tests under timed conditions

It is essential that if you want your child to succeed, they should get familiar with the structure of the exam. There are some past Selective School tests you can find here. However, one thing to keep in mind is that the format of the questions will change in 2020.


Create a study space with limited distractions

Some things that can be helpful include choosing a central study space or putting in a standing desk if you child likes to pace when learning. You can read more here.


Encourage physical exercise

The stress of getting into a Selective School can be huge especially for a Year 5 or Year 6 student. Get them to do at least 60 minutes of daily physical activity which will release endorphins, promote mental clarity and improve your child’s mood.


On the day of the Selective Test

What to bring:

  • Clear plastic water bottle
  • Snack to eat during the breaks
  • Tissues



Session 1: Administration9:20am10:00am
Reading Test (40 Minutes)10:00am10:40am
Maths Test (40 Minutes)10:45am11:25am
Session 2: Administration11:55am12:10pm
GA (40 Minutes)12:10pm12:50pm
Writing Test (20 Minutes)12:55pm1:15pm


Question Source: © State of New South Wales (Department of Education) 2019 <>


The calculation of results

We’ll provide you with even more tips so you can maximise your child’s entry score!

© Matrix Education and, 2020. 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 with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.


Get free study tips and resources delivered to your inbox.

Join 75,893 students who already have a head start.

Our website uses cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you continue to use this site, you consent to our use of cookies. Read our cookies statement.

OK, I understand