NSW Selective High Schools: Guide for Parents

Posted by North Shore Coaching College BELLA VISTA on

NSW Selective High Schools: Guide for Parents

Many of you will have heard about the NSW Selective High Schools system. In this article, we explain what Selective schools are, how to apply, and how to prepare for the Selective High School Placement Test.

What are selective high schools?

Selective High Schools are specialist government schools catered especially towards gifted and talented students in Years 7-12. By bringing together bright minds and using specialised teaching methods, Selective Schools create a more suitable learning environment for high performing students. You can read more about the Selective school system on the NSW Department of Education website.

What is the application process for Year 7 entry into Selective schools?

Entry into Selective Schools is decided on academic merit using scores from school assessment and the Selective High School Placement Test. To apply for Year 7 placement, Year 5 parents must submit an application around October, two calendar years beforehand. Year 6 students sit the placement test in March, with offers sent out in July. Please see the table below for the key dates of the 2021 Selective Schools application/placement process.

1 Parents read the application information online From late-September 2019
2 Parents register, receive a password, log in and then complete and submit the application online From 8 October 2019 to 11 November 2019
3 Parents request any disability provisions From 8 October to 11 November 2019
4 Principals provide school assessment scores From 21 October 2019 to 7 December 2019
5 Parents are sent ‘Test authority’ letter On 27 February 2020
6 Students sit the Selective High School Placement Test for entry to Year 7 in 2021 On 12 March 2020
7 Any illness/misadventure requests are submitted By 26 March 2020
8 Last day to change Selective high school choices 26 April 2020
9 School selection committees meet In May and June 2020
10 Placement outcome sent to parents Overnight on 4 July 2020
11 Parents submit any appeals to principals By 22 July 2020
12 Parents accept or decline offers From July 2020 to at least the end of Term 1 2021
13 Students who have accepted offers are withdrawn from reserve lists At 3pm on 16 December 2020
14 Parents of successful students receive ‘Authority to attend’ letters to take to the school on the first day of term in 2021 Mid-January 2021

Parents can choose up to three school choices, with the first one being the first preference. There are currently around 50 Selective Schools across the state, with about 4,200 places available in total. In 2020, almost 15,000 students sat the Selective High School Placement Test, so only the top 30% (roughly) will be accepted into a Selective School. Choosing and ranking three Selective school preferences is thus an important decision, the complexities of which cannot be covered in a short blog post like this. Not only do families need to consider travel times, academic rankings and school environments, but they must also make a judgment about their child’s ability and the likelihood of getting into particular schools. 

Click here to read more about the Year 7 application process. For Years 8 to 12, there is a different process for Selective school entry. You can read more about it on the NSW Department of Education website.

How can we prepare for the Selective test?

For many families, the Selective test is the culmination of years of hard work, setting students up for an exciting and challenging high school experience. It’s never too early to start thinking about boosting your child’s academic journey, and it’s never too late to make a difference by supplementing their education with external coaching. That said, it’s generally more effective to work consistently over a longer period of time than (just) to prepare intensively in the lead-up to examinations. If you think your child would benefit from regular, personalised learning outside of school, weekly tuition might suit you.

A small number of sample tests are available from the official website, but the best way to prepare is through North Shore Coaching College’s programs as early as possible. We provide expertly developed courses focusing on English, Mathematics, General Ability and Writing (the four components of the Selective test) as early as Kindergarten levels. Mock tests and homework help sessions are regularly provided as part of the Programs, as well as additional exam preparation workshops and the Selective Written Assessment Test. 

Why choose coaching?

It is well established that preparation improves performance in the Selective High School Placement Test, and that schools do not provide preparation specifically for the Selective test. Entry to Selective schools is highly competitive by nature, but coaching gives students an edge by developing critical thinking and problem solving skills that will be useful throughout all of their schooling. Education is an investment in your child’s future, and here at North Shore Coaching College we take the responsibility and privilege of nurturing young minds very seriously. In providing tuition that works, our aim is to set your child up not just for the Selective test, but for a lifelong learning journey.

Is the Selective system going to remain the same forever?

No. Although the 2020 Selective test will be in a similar overall format to previous years, with some minor changes such as a better balance and variety of question types, the Selective Schools application and assessment process will be overhauled in 2021.

At North Shore, we pride ourselves on our expertise, with decades of experience preparing students for the Selective test and beyond. However, we also recognise the need to adapt to changes in the educational system. The NSW Department of Education has flagged major revisions to the application and assessment process from 2021. This could include a stronger weighting on English skills and increasing the difficulty of the test. We are monitoring these changes very closely, and our teachers and curriculum developers have adjusted our strategy as necessary in order to provide the best educational services possible – developing critical thinking and problem solving skills relevant not only for the Selective test but for a continuous, lifelong journey of learning. 

If your child will be sitting the Selective test in 2021 or onwards, keep an eye out on this blog for further updates as more information about the new test format becomes available. 


  • Selective high schools cater for academically gifted students by grouping them together and using specialised teaching methods.
  • To apply for Year 7 placement, parents must apply two years beforehand in October/November (when their children are in Year 5) to sit the Placement Test in March (when children are in Year 6).
  • Based on both school assessment scores and placement test scores, applicants to Selective schools are placed according to preferences and rankings.
  • The best way to prepare for the Selective test (and for school success in general) is to enrol in our preparation and Fastrain programs. Email us anytime bellavista@northshorecoaching.net for more details.

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