Selective tests such as the Victorian Selective Schools Test, NSW High School Placement Test (HSPT), WA GATE and Brisbane State High School Placement Test and scholarship exams are super competitive so it’s a good idea to have a timeframe of when and how to start preparing your child to sit one of these tests.
Below is my general guidance based on my experience for when and how a child should start preparing or studying for such competitive exams. However, each child is different and you should cater for your child accordingly.
Step 1: Determine if Your Child is a Good Candidate for the Exam
Step 2: Improve Your Writing in both Argumentative and Creative Writing and Get on a Reading Program (1 Year before the test regularly, for example weekly).
Step 3: 3-6 Months Before the Exam, Focus on Practice Questions along with Developing a Strategy for Answering Questions in Exams. You might have to cover in this time things like Abstract Reasoning, Verbal Reasoning, Numerical Reasoning (sometimes collectively known as General Ability), Mathematics and Reading Comprehension.
STEP 1: Is Your Child a Good Candidate for the Exam?
The first thing to consider before preparing for one of these exams is to check whether or not your child is a good candidate for the exam. Are they getting at least a B in school in both English and Maths at their current level? Or are they getting C grades and below?
The way selective school tests and scholarship exam work is that they try to identify the ‘cream of the crop’, that is, students who are already doing well in school and the ones who show very high academic promise. They are not there to provide supplementary classes. If your child is already getting a B grade or above, then it’s likely they will thrive in an academically competitive environment and a good candidate for these types of exams.
If they’re getting C grades or below then the first thing I would do is to support them in doing well at their year level. Until they reach the higher end academically in their current year level, then it would be realistic to apply for a selective or scholarship exam. It’s about setting realistic expectations. For example, I’m a very poor swimmer – I can’t even swim 50 metres so why would I apply for a swimming race until I could at least swim that far?
Of course, anyone can apply to do the exam and I wouldn’t discourage someone based on their marks because I believe that the exam is good practice. But it’s very important for your child to understand the competition they’re up against. I’ve heard of students who prepare at least 3 years in advance for a selective or scholarship exam and one boy who sat at least 10 exams (he did end up getting a scholarship in the end).
STEP 2: Improve Your Writing in both Argumentative and Creative Writing and Get on a Reading Program (At least 1 year before the test)
The reason why I recommend doing writing and reading at least 1 year or 12 months before your scholarship or selective school test is because the timeframe to improve in such areas is longer and by allowing a longer time frame, your child will be able to improve their writing and reading in a more leisurely pace that won’t stress them out.
An activity that you can do at home with your child is to use an image and get them to write a story about it each week. For example, you can find a photo that’s lying around and then ask your child to write their story. Once they’ve finished you can critique it with them. It’s a great way to spend time together and learn at the same time.
With reading, you can read a page of a novel at night with your child and if they’re inclined, get them to copy out word-for-work 1 or 2 pages each week. This is teaching them to model after good writing. When you read with your child you can also ask them questions like “How do you think this character feels?” and “How do you know that? What words show this?” This helps them to prepare for reading comprehension in a fun way.
STEP 3: Focus on Practice Questions along with Developing a Strategy for Answering Questions in Exams. You might have to cover in this time things like Abstract Reasoning, Verbal Reasoning, Numerical Reasoning (sometimes collectively known as General Ability), Mathematics and Reading Comprehension (At least 3-6 Months Before the Test)
The exam subjects above like abstract reasoning are ones that use multiple choice. It a lot of ways this makes it easier than the writing test. However, to prepare for this section, it’s essential to not only practice but to develop a strategy for types of questions.
A good way to prepare is to spend time with your child and let them have a go at doing a practice question first. Then you review the answer with them and think over more optimised and efficient ways in getting to the answer. Remember, don’t do many easy practice questions together, but rather, do less but go through difficult practice questions and understand them thoroughly.
If you’re interested, we do have self-study online courses in abstract reasoning, verbal reasoning, numerical reasoning, mathematics and reading comprehension specifically designed for selective school and scholarship exams that you can do with your child. A full range of online courses and course packages can be found here.
I hope this blog post has been useful to you in helping your child prepare for their upcoming exam!
If you have any questions, please feel free to post a comment below!