NSW Selective High Schools: Guide for Parents

This article is current as of January 2021. To read more about the new Selective High School Placement Test format, please click here.

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.

Date Activity
13 October 2020 Applications open for entry to selective high school placement in 2022
17 November 2020 Applications close for entry to selective high school placement in 2022. (Closing date updated)
4 December 2020 Principals provide school assessment scores
25 February 2021 Test centre information and Test authority letters available to parents
11 March 2021 Selective High School Placement test
18 March 2021 Illness/misadventure requests due
25 April 2021 Last day to change school choices
May-June 2021 Selection commitees meet
2 July 2021 Placement outcomes expected to be released
9 July 2021 Appeals due 5 working days after outcomes are released
July 2021-May 2022 Parents accept or decline offers
Early August Reserve list activated – until May 2022
October 2021 Appeals outcomes released
15 December 2021 at 3pm Students who have kept offers are removed from reserve lists
Mid-January 2022 Authority to attend letters for entry in 2022 are sent

Luckily, North Shore hosts regular Education Seminars where you can learn the ins and outs of the Selective application process, as well as other educational topics. Furthermore, our mock tests and exam preparation programs are a great way to gauge your child’s performance trajectory, with comprehensive results reporting included.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 Year 5 and Year 6 Fastrain programs. We provide expertly developed courses focusing on English, Mathematics, General Ability and Writing (the four components of the Selective test). FREE mock tests, personalised homework help and review 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. The Selective Schools application and assessment process has be overhauled in 2021. Click here to read about the changes to the Selective High School Placement Test format in 2021 and beyond.

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. Our teachers and curriculum developers have revised 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 Selective test but for a continuous, lifelong journey of learning.


  • 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 primary school programs.

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