The changes to the 2020 Selective School Tests, and what it means for your child.

Updated: Mar 9, 2020

Part 2 of a series of blogs we will do to break down the proposed changes to the Selective School Tests and what it means for you and your child. Keep up to date by liking us on Facebook!

If you are the parent of a child preparing entry into a Selective High School and have been keeping track with the news, you will know that there has been talks of a major overhaul of the Selective Test Exam from 2020, and minor changes in the 2019 exam.

The Department of Education has released a 26-page report named “Review of the Selective Education Access”, which can be found here:

To most of us, this document can be lengthy and confusing. That’s why we will be releasing a series of articles carefully breaking down this report and specifically focusing on what it means for Selective School Test Preparation. We will tackle issues such as the test format changing to online, what ‘adaptive testing’ is, how the difficulty of the tests will change, and so on!

We covered Action Points 1 to 3 in the last article. In this article, we will talk about the Action Points 4 to 6.


The report uses the term “standard error” to talk about how accurately the Selective Test system picks out the students with the best ability. This means that the government may want to make sure that the Test gives higher scores to students with the best ability, not the students with more money or more tutoring.

There are two ways that the report seeks to achieve this:

a. Difficulty (ACTION 5)

b. Reliability (ACTION 6)


The report finds that the Test is “not difficult enough for the students sitting them”. For example, in the last 4-5 years the students gaining entry into the top schools (James Ruse, Baulkham Hills, etc.) were getting close to 100% for Maths and General Ability.

The test says that there are not enough difficult questions to identify students of the highest level, especially for the Reading tests. This has already happened for the 2019 Test, where students reported that the Reading test was a lot trickier than previous years.

Based on the comments made by this report, we predict that future Selective School Tests will have higher focus on difficult Reading questions to separate the very top cohort of students.


In order to greatly improve the accuracy of the testing design, the report suggests a tailored test design.

This means that as a student attempts a test, the test itself automatically changes depending on how many questions the student is getting right/wrong.

For example, every student will start off with the same 5 questions:

Depending on how the student performs, the next 5 questions will be easier or harder:

The report suggests that more “modern approaches” such as the NAPLAN (which is now currently an online test) may also be the future for Selective School testing. If this change is made, this will be the biggest change the Selective School Testing industry has seen since it’s very beginning in the nineteenth century as it will most likely mean two things:

1. The test may be moved online – this makes sense with Action 1 allowing rural students to take the exam without having to go to a venue.

2. The test will be adaptive: every student will get a different set of questions depending on their performance throughout the exam.

What does this mean for you? It means two main things:

1. Expect more difficult questions, especially in Reading comprehension!

2. Expect the test format to change to something similar to NAPLAN (online and adaptive)!

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Stay tuned for the next article which will address Action Points 7-9!

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