[NSW] Is your child ready for the new Selective Test format?

What is the new Selective High School Placement Test format?

In late 2020, the NSW Department of Education announced a new format for the Year 6 Selective High School Placement Test in 2021 and beyond. This is consistent with what has been previously foreshadowed in the Review of Selective Education Access Action Plan from 2018, and North Shore Coaching College has long been anticipating and preparing for these major changes.

The new Selective High School Placement Test format is as follows:

Reading: 30 multiple-choice questions (4 options) — 40 minutes

Mathematical Reasoning: 35 multiple-choice questions (5 options) — 40 minutes

Thinking Skills: 40 multiple-choice questions (4 options) — 40 minutes

Writing: 1 task — 30 minutes

What is in the new Thinking Skills section?

While the Reading, Mathematical Reasoning (previously Mathematics), and Writing sections remain largely the same as in previous years, a new paper on Thinking Skills replaces the old General Ability section. How is this new Thinking Skills section different from General Ability? Here are the main differences:

  • There are now 40 questions (reduced from 60) in a 40-minute paper.
  • More reading and thinking is required for each question. Students should look to spend an average of 1 minute per question.
  • A stronger focus on thinking skills rather than general knowledge. This means no more synonyms/antonyms, analogies, odd ones out, number/shape series, pattern finding, etc. However, a certain level of numeracy and spatial reasoning skills are still required for some questions.

Instead of these simpler, more straightforward question types, there will be two main categories of questions in the Selective High School Placement Test’s new Thinking Skills section: Logical Thinking and Critical Thinking.

Logical Thinking

Logical thinking is the ability to analyse (a situation) and/or make logical conclusions. A logical thinker must be rational and objective when forming reasons, and consider all possible outcomes of a situation. Logical thinking skills are crucial to being a good scientist.

There are a few different question types that test your ability to think logically. You will either have to: determine the correct conclusion from the options provided; determine whether a conclusion made by someone is true or false; or determine why a conclusion is flawed.

To approach such questions, carefully read the situation provided. You do not need to make any conclusions on your own, so once you finish reading, move on to the conclusions that they provide for you. For each conclusion, cross-check with the information provided. Remember to consider all possibilities when determining whether a conclusion is true or false.

Sample Question

In order to receive an award in recognition of academic excellence, a student must either be ranked in the top 10% in 3 of their subjects, or be the highest ranked student in 1 of their subjects.

Sam: “Arnold received an award in recognition of academic excellence. This must mean that, for at least one of his subjects, he was ranked in the top 10%”.

Leslie: “Patrick did not receive an award, which must mean that he did not place in the top 10% for any of his subjects.

If the information in italics is true, whose reasoning is correct?

A         Sam only

B          Leslie only

C          Both Sam and Leslie

D         Neither Sam nor Leslie

Critical Thinking

Critical thinking is the ability to determine whether there is “value” to a reason. While this sounds similar to logical thinking, it is not as simple as determining whether a conclusion is true or false. You are expected to be “critical” of the reasons, and judge them in terms of whether they are helpful or not. Remember, a reason may be true and logical without actually helping the situation. For example, when arguing that junk food is bad for you, it may be true that the junk food industry makes a lot of money, however it does not help very much with the argument.

The critical thinking skills questions generally follow the same style. They will present to you a situation where there is an opinion/argument made about it. Then, it will ask which option, if true, also strengthens or weakens the argument made.

To approach such questions, carefully read the situation provided and deduce the argument that has been made. Sometimes the situation can be rather lengthy and the argument might be obscure. Once you understand the argument, read the options to see which would also strengthen/weaken the argument. Be aware that the options might be similar in style to comprehension, where there are incorrect options, “somewhat correct” options and a “most correct” or “best” option. This means that you may be able to determine the answer by process of elimination.

Sample Question

Automation is the development of technology that minimises the need for human involvement in the production of goods and services. ATMs (automated teller machines) are an example, where a machine handles withdrawals and deposits of money for bank customers. A growing concern is that if technology continues to improve, more and more people will find it difficult to get a new job after they have lost theirs. For this reason, Victor believes that people should stop working on automation and AI (artificial intelligence).

Which of the statements, if true, most weakens Victor’s argument?

A          It is predicted that only 17% of jobs will be replaced by automation by 2027.

B          Some jobs simply cannot be replaced by automation as it requires human thought.

C          Automation is a slow and gradual process, which gives people plenty of time to prepare to learn and master a new job.

D         Only certain jobs are simple enough to be replaced by automation.

How is North Shore preparing students for the new Selective Test in 2021 and beyond?

Based on analysis of official sample test papers and extensive consultation with educational experts, North Shore Coaching College has worked tirelessly to revise and refine our Year 5 and Year 6 term programs. Our comprehensive Exam Preparation programs have also been tailored to provide the best preparation possible for the new Selective High School Placement Test format.

Our teachers and curriculum developers will continue to adjust our materials as necessary in order to provide the best educational services possible – developing critical thinking and problem solving skills relevant not only for the OC and Selective placement tests but for a continuous, lifelong journey of learning. It is this adaptability and commitment that has produced North Shore Coaching College’s 29+ years of success stories, including the highest ever OC and Selective scores.

Contact your local Campus Director to enrol now or learn more. Your child’s success in the Selective High School Placement Test and beyond is in good hands with Tuition That Works!


  • The Selective High School Placement Test will follow a new format in 2021 and beyond.
  • The Thinking Skills section replaces the old General Ability section, with a focus on higher-order thinking skills such as Logical Thinking and Critical Thinking.
  • Preparation is more important than ever, and North Shore Coaching College’s term programs and exam preparation programs are the best way to prepare for the new Selective High School Placement Test.

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