Applications for entry into a Selective High School in 2021 are not open until 8th October, but early preparation will put your child in the best possible position when the test finally rolls around.
The selective process can be overwhelming, particularly if your child is the first in the family to apply. However, knowing key dates, understanding the test format and tailoring study sessions to individual needs will simplify the process and give your child the best chance.
But where to begin?
Listed below are 8 tips you can follow from now until the morning of the exam (Thursday 12 March 2020.) They cover all aspects of the test including study pointers, technical details and well-being tips.
1. Know the test format
As of 2020, NSW students will be sitting a renewed version of the Selective High School Placement Test. To find out more, read here.
As for the current format, the exam consists of:
- A writing test (20 minutes) – Narrative
- 45 reading multiple choice questions (40 minutes)
- 40 mathematics multiple choice questions (40 minutes)
- 60 general ability multiple choice questions (40 minutes)
Any changes will be updated on the Department of Education website when finalised.
Regardless of changes, the selective test always aims to test a wide range of skills therefore, being capable in each area, and familiarity with the style of questions, is essential.
2. Identify strengths and weaknesses
Have a clarity on the above components of the exam. Which one does your child find the most challenging?
Looking at past reports, talking with teachers and having an assessment done can help to identify which areas you need to focus on. All skills should be assessed and practised, however you can allocate time accordingly to make the most of study sessions.
3. At home study
The NSW Department of Education provides sample tests to take at home.
In addition to testing their knowledge, these exams familiarise your child with the layout of the question-and-answer sheets. This may seem like an unimportant detail, but being familiar with the format means there’s one less thing to worry about under pressure. There are also many books in the market that can help with practising. Any practising needs to be timed and under exam conditions.
4. Extra help
The renewed test aims to restrict the impact of a robotic style of coaching, but it could be beneficial to seek help from teachers and tutors to help form a strategy for long-term study and for approaching the different types of questions. The best thing you can do for your child is to find someone who can teach them how to learn, how to become problem-solvers and enable them to think outside the box.
5. Exam techniques and reducing cognitive load techniques
Picking up a few test-specific skills will shorten your child’s response time and give them the advantage of having extra time to think about their answers.
In multiple-choice questions, students need to know that they are asked to find the correct option out of four, which is completely different to solving an open-ended question.
It’s important to note that students are not marked down for incorrect answers on multiple-choice questions, which means that a guess is better than no answer at all. Using the elimination process, students can enhance their chances of guessing correctly. Knowing how the options in multiple choice questions work will significantly help them in this situation.
Also, as certain question styles are repeated in the exam, it’s a good idea to learn to recognise and categorise them.
Reducing cognitive load or stress is conducive to a good performance. There are methods and strategies on how to reduce the stress, such as breathing, being active readers (underlining key words while reading the question), following the UPSLTM Strategy and other methods.
Strategies for reading and writing include:
- Developing a reading program to expand vocabulary. Students need to start their own dictionary and record the new words.
- Developing their ability to strategically read passages with the question in mind. That means, reading the questions first, then the passage.
- Reading for information not just to enjoy reading.
- Practising creative and persuasive writing. Plan for 3 minutes, then write for 15 minutes, and end with a 2-minute edit.
7. Mathematics/General Ability
Strategies for mathematics and general ability include:
- Practising turning worded questions into mathematical equations
- Using the UPSLTM Strategy to understand, plan, solve and learn, to answer and learn from the word problems
8. The day before and the morning of test
The best thing for your child at this point is a good sleep and some brain food.
In terms of sleep, 9-11 hours is the recommended amount per night, and some yummy brain food includes blueberries, matcha and wholegrains
Try working these foods into their meals in the days leading up to the exam!
These exams are probably going to be the most intense your child has experienced yet, so it is vital to find all the help they can get.
The most important element in this equation is your child. At the end of the day, he/she is the one sitting the test. If they are not motivated enough, they are less likely to do well. It is a long and challenging journey for them. As a parent, you need to help them keep going. Setting short-term achievable goals helps them significantly. Another important tactic is to incentivise them. As a parent, I know what excites my child and keeps her motivated and I used it when she prepared for her selective school entry test.