Is a Selective School Right for You?

With almost endless options available for High School education selecting the right school to enrol your child in can feel very daunting. The school you choose will be a place where they spend a large portion of every day for six years and develop friendships that could blossom into lifelong bonds. What they learn there, both academically and socially, will carry on with them throughout their entire lives. So, when we look at a question like ‘Is a Selective School right for you?’ We should take the time to consider multiple elements of the high school experience.

If you are someone who loves a challenge and really enjoys succeeding at school, then Selective Schools are the place for you. These schools offer challenges every day that will help you grow and develop self-confidence and resilience. If you are a parent of such a child, I would highly recommend looking into Selective School enrolment. Additionally, if you have a child who can perform very well academically but simply lacks the motivation to apply themselves then Selective Schools might be the right option as they provide a controlled amount of external pressure whilst fostering intrinsic motivation to help get your child engaged instead of coasting by.

You should also consider what your personal interests are. For example, do you love to play music? Perhaps you should have a look at the arts programs available at the schools. Selective Schools often offer extensive music and performing arts programs. Do you really enjoy maths or coding? Selective Schools often offer high quality learning opportunities as well as competition opportunities in these fields, as well as debating opportunities for their English focused students. Or does your passion lie in sports? Not every school has the same commitment to their sports program, and if you believe you are a talented sportsperson you might need to look at what schools will offer you the best training and competition opportunities. Every child needs to opportunity to develop their unique talents and interests, so making sure that your chosen school has programs that can support them is a key element in selecting a high school.

You should also consider the social and emotional elements affecting your decision for enrolment. Does your child have any friends also applying for that school? Will they welcome the opportunity to make tonnes of new friends when they arrive, or is it important they stay close to their best buds from primary school? For many students the opportunity to meet lots of new people with shared interests can be both nerve wracking and exciting. In a Selective School you’re bound to find many students who have overlapping personalities and interests, meaning their lifelong best friends might be just beyond those gates! On the other hand, if you think your child might find the process of fitting into a school with no friends from primary school around for comfort too daunting then you might need to consider a more appropriate school so they don’t withdraw socially.

Additionally, Selective Schools come with their own unique set of stressors designed to keep their students motivated and engaged. If you have a child who is resilient and can cope with a bit of pressure, then enrolling them into a Selective School is a good idea as these skills will be developed further over time and these stressors tend to help them thrive. However, if your child tends to withdraw from stressful environments and has negative emotional reactions to academic pressure then you might find they will thrive in a non-selective school environment.

Selective School Test 2021

The Selective School Test is an exam that students take to gain entry to a selective high school. The main intake occurs in year 7, with limited numbers being accepted from years 8 to 10. The below content is for the test taken in year 6 for year 7 entry.

When is the 2021 Selective School Test?

The exact date of the 2021 Selective School Test is yet to be confirmed by the NSW Department of Education, but it will take place in mid-March of 2021 and is open to students in year 6 in 2021.

Despite the disturbances of the 2020 Coronavirus pandemic, we expect the 2021 Selective School Test to go ahead as normal.

What is in the test?

The 2021 Selective School Test is made up of 4 separate test papers:

  • Reading
  • Mathematics
  • General Ability
  • Writing

All 4 components add up to give a total mark out of 200. An additional 100 marks come from internal school marks, giving a grand total out of 300.

With the exception of writing, all papers are multiple choice, and range from moderate to very difficult. The test is not negatively marked – so students do not lose marks for incorrect answers. Papers are written by hand and marked electronically.

The total testing time will be about 2 and a half hours with breaks in between each paper.

Once a mark out of 300 is assigned to a student, that mark will then determine the eligibility of that student to gain entry to a selective school. The minimum mark varies each year and by each school – in 2019 the lowest minimum score was 161 (Gorokan High School) and the highest minimum score was 250 (James Ruse Agricultural High School). You can view all minimum entry scores here.

How do you succeed in the Selective School Test 2021?

A comprehensive preparation program is crucial to succeed in the selective school test. It is very rare to see a student get in on natural talent – even the brightest students will work with tutors in the lead up to the test.

At Alchemy, we have been helping students get in to selective high schools for more than a decade. Our selective school preparation program has proven successful for thousands of students across the state.

Our program is one-on-one; so every lesson is tailored to your child’s needs based on their unique learning profile. Our research shows that one hour of one-on-one tuition is more effective that 4 hours in a classroom – as your child receives undivided attention through the entire lesson.

Your tutor can meet in your home, online or at a library or school at a time that works for you – giving you complete flexibility and ease; no battling after school traffic or fighting for parking.

Read our reviews from parents just like yourself here and see why we have more 5-star reviews than anywhere else. You can learn more about our program here or book your first lesson here and get your child started on the journey to selective school success!

Are Selective Schools Stressful?

All High Schools have their elements of stress. Can you, reader, honestly tell me there was never a moment in your high school life where you weren’t cramming for a test, or sweating on a mark, or simply feeling anxious about high school drama that you thought would quite-possibly-very-literally ruin your life? If your answer is yes then you, my friend, are one exceptionally lucky soul. But if your answer is no, then you fall within the majority of people who did at some point feel the stress of high school environments press down upon you.

There is no beating around the bush that the high school system causes stress for its students, with a huge emphasis on high stakes testing (starting all the way back in year 3 with NAPLAN right up until the final HSC examinations), and the exceptionally daunting question of “What on Earth do I want to do with my life once I graduate?” leading up until that final goodbye handshake with your principal. I personally found that I experienced stress in both the High Schools I attended (my local public school until year 9, then Manly Selective from year 10 onwards), and majority of it was centred around academic marks. And Selective Schools do have extra pressure, as everyone inside is bright and hardworking, and you need to apply yourself if you want to keep up.

That being said, the teachers are attuned to the emotional experiences of their students. They are aware that students in their schools often feel the pressure to succeed as they are now competing against students as advanced as themselves. They generally have visits from studying skills companies as well as mental health seminars to help students learn successful coping techniques for stress. For many students, stress in schools comes from workload and expectations. The best way to help your children learn successful stress management skills is to teach them time management skills, study techniques like chunking, personal scheduling, and make sure they still have some down time with their friends and family.

Furthermore, throughout my University Education courses we learnt that applying controlled degrees of stress to students helps bring out the best in them. The scholarly studies on the effects of correctly applied stress on optimum performance are numerous (have a look at the Stress-Performance bell curve if you’re interested), and a students’ sense of achievement is much stronger when they succeed in a stressful environment rather than in a relaxed one. Gifted and talented students will often take the pressure off themselves and go into cruise mode, putting in low effort for good marks and failing to reach their full potential. An environment in which they feel expectations are high and slaking will not get them by, like a Selective School, can be the perfect environment for encouraging them to reach their full potential.

As I’ve said, controlled stress assists in developing students social and emotional skills as well as encouraging consistent application to their work as students rise to the challenge. But be aware that not all children will thrive in a stressful environment, and it’s important to consider your child’s personality before you enrol them into a school that might be overwhelming so they can thrive in the educational environment that’s the right fit for them.

What is a Selective School really like?

There is no way to pin down one single word or quick answer to this question. Selective Schools, depending on where you are in your educational journey, are different every term, every year. They recognise that students need a well-rounded education to assist them in blossoming into successful adults and are constantly throwing challenges at their students to keep them on their toes. Before I go further, I should say I speak from experience, as both my brother and I graduated from Manly Selective Campus and have since gone on to university and started very successful careers. The Selective School experience is something that I feel truly did give us a flying start into our adult lives.

What I would first like to note is that, no matter your passion or talent, a Selective School will always strive to make sure that you have a space to grow and thrive. Not only do they offer a broad subject selection but usually have very strong arts programs for writers, artists, musicians, actors, singers, and design students but they offer well rounded sports programs, often making extra effort to ensure their students have access to high calibre competitions and receive the praise they deserve for their successes. For those more academically competitive there are frequently competitions in various fields such as maths and coding challenges and debating competitions. Selective Schools also focus on fostering a sense of community through buddy programs and peer tutoring, and volunteering opportunities both local and abroad. If there’s one thing I know for sure it’s that any student at a Selective School will be spoilt for choice with opportunities for enrichment.

Selective Schools are incredibly supportive environments. It is often true that gifted and talented students feel anxious about school, particularly towards their HSC years when University entry is on the horizon. For junior students starting year 7 and facing the realisation that they are once again a small fish in a big pond, they will instantly feel welcomed into a community of likeminded learners  where instead of feeling awkward about being a high achiever they find their talents and skills are truly valued. As they move into their senior years and are reaching towards the freedom lying just beyond year 12 graduation the staff and teachers will be consistently supportive. They will encourage resilience, patience, and self-confidence as they guide their students towards their full potential. Often the teachers at Selective Schools went to them themselves and are well attuned to the journey their students are passing through. They will go above and beyond to make sure their students are appropriately challenged and supported, encouraging them to be confident, independent thinkers.

I know everything that has appeared thus far has been a glowing report of the Selective School system so you might be thinking my account is a little biased. Students in Selective Schools still face challenges as they progress through puberty, and the academic side is no walk in the park. But the personal growth that comes from teachers having high expectations is exceptionally rewarding, and if I were to redo my High School years I would remain in a Selective School as it offered me the opportunity to thrive where other schools couldn’t.

Is getting into a Selective School Hard?

People might tell you your child is the crème de la crème of their primary school, that they are gifted and talented, that the world is their oyster! And chances are very high that all these facts are true. These thoughts, along with glowing teacher report cards and endless wondering about your child’s future, may have brewed the idea that a selective school is the place for your child’s progression through high school. If you are thinking these thoughts, that is fantastic! Your child being nurtured and encouraged towards a bright future, and at Alchemy we know that academic success always starts with support at home. Now with your sights set on a selective school you can begin the entry process.

About now you might notice that an entrance exam plays a very large part in your child’s entry into a selective school. This exam is very challenging, it tests a wide range of skills in literacy, numeracy and problem solving. Not only that, but it asks them to complete four papers in only 2 hours and 20 minutes in a hall full of other kids just as talented and focused as they are. I know what you’re thinking – “My child’s a super star, there’s no way they’ll fail this, they’ve never failed anything before!” And that might very well be true, but getting into a selective school is, honestly, hard.

You can trust me on this judgement. I had my sights set on starting Year 7 at Manly Selective and though I tried my darndest to prepare I missed out on entry. But this piece of advice I am about to give you is by far more important than my placement failure. I kept applying myself, I kept working hard for top grades, I kept doing extracurricular activities, and when I tried the test again… success! I moved to Manly Selective for year 10 onwards, graduated in 2016, and I am about to graduate university as a High School English and History teacher.

What do I think sets a student apart from the others as one deserving of a place in a Selective School? They must be passionate about their learning. They must love to be challenged and thrive when a little bit of pressure is applied. They should not only be critical thinkers but also creative ones who can see ideas and possibilities where others cannot. Most importantly, they need to be determined to push themselves. There are many things you can do to increase your child’s likelihood of acceptance. Teach them to be resilient, to be intrinsically motivated, to take pride in the skills that set them apart from the rest. Enrol them in extracurricular activities if you can and encourage them to pursue leadership opportunities in their primary school. Teach them some time management skills and encourage them to see failure not as something detrimental, but as something they can use to spur them on to improve.

At Alchemy we know just how challenging this process can be. Many of our talented tutors, including myself, have passed through selective schools and are eager to pass on our knowledge to your children to guide them towards promising futures. We are committed to helping our students develop the skills that allow them to tackle the entry exams and we hope we can help your children experience the high level of education and support they deserve.

How to get in to Manly Selective High School

Looking to get in to Manly Selective? This article will outline the requirements and how best to prepare for the selective school exam.

Manly Selective High School is located at 138 Abbott Rd, North Curl Curl and is a co-ed school for students in years 7-12. It is part of the Northern Beaches Secondary Campus and is a consistent top 10 performer in the HSC.

As the only selective high school on the Northern Beaches, Manly Selective is very hard to get in to. Thousands of students apply and only about 120 are accepted, so it is crucial that students go through a comprehensive preparation program in the lead up to the exam.

In 2019, the minimum required score to get in to Manly Selective School was 219 out of 300. This is the 11th highest required score in the state. You can view all entry scores here.

This score is made up of both internal school marks and test scores. The test accounts for 200 of the marks, of which English and Maths count for 50 each, and general ability counts for 100 marks. The internal school marks include both English and Maths for 50 each.

How can I get my child in to Manly Selective School?

Getting in to Manly Selective High School is not easy, and even the brightest students struggle without an adequate preparation program. But the good news is that we are here to help!

Alchemy Tuition has been assisting students with selective school preparation for more than a decade and has thousands of success stories to show for it. In 2018 our success rate was 92% – while the state average success rate is only 30%. Working with an Alchemy Tutor triples your child’s likelihood of success.

Our program is one-on-one, which means every lesson is tailored around your child’s unique needs. We come to you at a time that works for you, and one of our selective-school accredited tutors will work closely with your child to ensure they walk in to the exam with confidence and come out with their head held high.

Our selective school tuition is affordable, contract-free and flexible. You can view further details about our program and offering here.

See why we have more verified 5-star reviews on Google than anywhere else. We hire the best tutors and treat them like family, which makes them go the extra mile – resulting in incredible results amongst our students and families.

At Alchemy we care about more than just marks. We want to see your child come alive to their full potential. It would be an honour to partner with you, help your child get in to Manly Selective School and ultimately bring out the gold that we know is within them.

Get started with your first session here.

Selective School Entry Scores 2019

Are you targeting a specific selective school for your child? This article shows the minimum entry score for every selective high school in NSW in 2019, how these scores are calculated and what you can do to ensure your child makes it in to a selective high school.

Year after year, NSW selective schools continue to rank in the top 10 performing schools in the HSC. These schools offer an opportunity for gifted students to showcase their talent and thrive in a competitive environment that prioritises hard work and dedication.

There are 17 fully selective high schools in NSW, 26 ‘partially’ selective schools (that will have at least one selective class in each grade) and 4 agricultural selective high schools.

In 2019, 14,501 students attempted entry for 4,526 selective school seats; meaning that about 70% of students that attempted the exam were unsuccessful. Selective school entry is fiercely competitive with students often starting their preparation from as young as second grade! Below we will show you how you can make sure your child is one of the 30% that achieves success!

The minimum entry scores in 2019 were:

School Min. Entry Score Status Area
Alexandria Park Community School 186 Partially Alexandria
Armidale High School 160 Partially Armidale
Auburn Girls High School 160 Partially Auburn
Aurora College (Virtual) 172 Partially Aurora
Baulkham Hills High School 230 Fully Baulkham Hills
Blacktown Boys High School 195 Partially Blacktown
Blacktown Girls High School 189 Partially Blacktown
Bonnyrigg High School 162 Partially Bonnyrigg
Caringbah High School 198 Fully Caringbah
Chatswood High School 215 Partially Chatswood
Elizabeth Macarthur High School 162 Partially Narellan
Fort Street High School 222 Fully Petersham
Girraween  High School 225 Fully Girraween
Gorokan High School 161 Fully Lake Haven
Gosford High School 188 Fully Gosford
Grafton High School 161 Partially Grafton
Granville Boys High School 161 Partially Granville
Hornsby Girls High School 227 Fully Hornsby
Hurlstone Agricultural High School 207 Fully Glenfield
James Ruse Agricultural High School 250 Fully Carlingford
Karabar High School 160 Partially Queanbeyan
Kooringal High School 160 Partially Kooringal North
Macquarie Fields High School 179 Partially Macquarie Fields
Merewether High School 191 Fully Broadmeadow
Moorebank High School 176 Partially Moorebank
Normanhurst Boys High School 225 Fully Normanhurst
North Sydney Boys High School 234 Fully Crows Nest
North Sydney Girls High School 226 Fully Crows Nest
Northern Beaches Secondary  College (Manly Campus) 217 Fully North Curl Curl
Parramatta High School 210 Partially Parramatta
Peel High School 161 Partially Tamworth
Penrith High School 215 Fully Penrith
Prairiewood High School 177 Partially Wetherill Park
Rose Bay Secondary College 184 Partially Dover Heights
Ryde Secondary College 201 Partially Ryde
Sefton High School 197 Partially Sefton
Smith’s Hill High School 194 Fully Wollongong
St George Girls High School 207 Fully Kogarah
Sydney Boys High School 229 Fully Moore Park
Sydney Girls High School 225 Fully Surry Hills
Sydney Secondary College (Balmain Campus) 182 Partially Rozelle
Sydney Secondary College (Leichardt Campus) 186 Partially Rozelle
Sydney Technical High School 198 Fully Bexley
Tempe High School 189 Partially Tempe

How is the entry score calculated?

The entry scores takes in to account both internal school marks and performance in the challenging selective school exam.

The total is out of 300, with 100 of that coming from internal marks and 200 from the exam. Within the exam, English and Mathematics are worth 50 each and General Ability is worth 100. Internal marks are comprised of mid-year report results and NAPLAN results, and include 50 marks for both English and Mathematics.

Component School Assessment Score Test Score Total
English (Reading, Comprehension and Writing) 50 50 100
Mathematics 50 50 100
General Ability 100 100
Total 100 200 300

How can I get my child in to a selective school?

Alchemy Tuition have been helping students prepare for the selective school exam for more than a decade with thousands of success stories to show for it.

Unfortunately due to the extreme competition in the exam, natural intelligence is no longer enough – a comprehensive preparation program is a necessity to achieve success in the exam. A recent article in the Daily Telegraph revealed that 95% of students in one selective school had engaged a tutor in the lead up to the exam, with some starting work with a tutor as early as second grade.

Our selective school preparation is one-on-one and is designed to target your child’s unique strengths, weaknesses and learning styles. It covers all four components of the exam with the ultimate goal of your child walking in to that exam with confidence and leaving with their head held high that they will be going to the selective school of their choice next year.

We come to you and work around your busy schedule. All our selective school tutors go through our selective school accreditation ensuring that they have the skills to effectively prepare your child across all components of the exam. Our tuition is affordable, contract-free and flexible. You can download our course prospectus here to learn more about our tutors, program and how we work.

In 2018, our success rate was 93% – which is more than triple the state average. Get started today and see why we have more verified 5-star reviews on Google than anywhere else.

Alchemy is all about bringing out the gold in the students we work with. We care about so much more than just marks. We want to see your child grow to their full potential, and we carefully choose our tutors to align with this.

Book your first session here.

The proposed changes to the selective school entrance exam

A recent article in the Sydney Morning Herald talks about a proposed overhaul of the selective school entry exam due to coaching concerns.

The article speaks of how the current system favours wealthy families who can afford coaching over those that can’t – creating an imbalance of students in selective schools.

This is absolutely true. Selective school tutoring is now not just a benefit, but a requirement to succeed in the exam – because if you don’t have it, you are disadvantaged against students who do. The article doesn’t provide stats on how many successful students received coaching in some form, but it is my own experience that most do.

The government’s review will look at replacing the selective schools test with “computer-adaptive IQ tests that assess cognitive skills, student work portfolios” or “problem-solving tasks that rely more on higher-order and critical thinking skills”.

The issue here is that there is always going to be a way to prepare. If they need to test all students fairly, it is going to be impossible to do this without allowing students to prepare for the test without coaching. Let’s say they base it on recommendation from teachers, followed by interviews by admission staff (the only way I could really see them overcoming tutoring influencing outcomes), there are still students that will get coached on what to say in the interview and how to impress the interviewers, plus additional pressure on the teachers from parents pushing to get their referral.

The reality is that when the outcome is important, not all can be equal.

I would recommend that if they want to balance the socioeconomic make up of selective schools, they reserve a number of spots at each school based on household income. It is in no way a perfect plan, but it is probably the only way of achieving what appears to be their goal. That being said, a low household income does not mean they still won’t be willing to make sacrifices to pay for coaching – especially when they know they are more likely to get a place that is reserved for them. I would say that 50% of the students I have worked with over the year have been single parent families, not wealthy families.

They say that any changes are still a long way off, so until then it is business as usual.

If you have a child attempting to gain entry to a selective school ensure you have the right coach to prepare them for the selective school test. Get in touch and let me help them be one of the fortunate few to gain entry to a selective high school.

Why selective school coaching is so important

The selective school entrance exam is really hard. Like really hard. And not just for year 6 students. Most adults would struggle with many of the questions in the exam.

They do this on purpose; to make it hard for even the brightest of students so that they essentially create outliers.

The exam is also very clever in how it is written. They intentionally write questions that are virtually impossible for a year 6 student to answer, but it then becomes about how they can determine the most appropriate answer to the question.

Let me give you an example from a recent exam paper:

Three of the following words have similar meanings. Which word has a different meaning?





I feel like I didn’t even know the difference between contempt and content until after High School!

Whilst you may be able to work this one out (D is the right answer), there is no denying that it is super challenging for a 12/13 year old student – and I think this is an easy example!

The selective school exam tests a students ability to think logically – so that even when they don’t know the correct answer, they can use their skills of deduction to determine the best answer.

One of the greatest challenges for students attempting the selective school test is that they are very unlikely to receive help from their classroom teacher. Teachers are so busy trying to keep 30 students engaged that they can’t redirect attention for the 1 or 2 students that have a shot at the exam.

They also can’t go it alone. There are too many challenges in the preparation process – they need someone to guide them through.

That is why I really like the term Selective School Coaching – because like any good coach, we take the natural talent that is already there and we refine it. We show them how to best utilise the skills they have and when to use different parts of their brains.

If you are considering a selective high school for your child, they need an experienced coach for the selective school exam. It is hard. Really hard. Natural talent won’t get them through it alone. Get in touch today to start the conversation about how I can get them prepared for the selective school test – I maintain a 100% success record with my students since 2005! Learn more or book your child’s first session

Top ranking selective schools 2016

NSW Selective Schools consistently fill the top 5 spots in the HSC. Whilst one school has dominated every year for the last 26 years, there is always an interesting battle between the next 4 schools for the title of highest performing (after James Ruse of course…).

The success rate of a school is determined by the number of band 6’s received in total (a band 6 is a mark of 90+ in a subject). This means, total number of Band 6’s received, divided by number of exams sat (each student will sit around 5 or 6 exams). Whilst this usually means a high ATAR (the rank that Universities look at), ATARs are not made publicly available so the number of band 6’s achieved is the best metric we can use.

Here are how the top ten selective schools ranked in the 2016 HSC:

#1. James Ruse Agricultural High School, 73% success rate (773 Band 6’s out of 1058 exams – impressive!)

#2. Baulkham Hills High School, 62% success rate

#3. North Sydney Boys High School, 59% success rate

#4. North Sydney Girls High School, 52% success rate

#5. Hornsby Girls High School, 51.5% success rate

#6. Sydney Boys High School, 50% success rate

#7. Manly Selective High School, 49% success rate

#8. Normanhurst Boys High School, 46% success rate

#9. Sydney Girls High School, 43% success rate

#10. St George Girls High School, 42% success rate.

It is worth noting that this just compares selective schools, and is not their overall ranking across the state (although 1-5 were the top 5 performing schools in the state). The top ranked private school was Sydney Grammar School, with a success rate of 50%, and the top ranked non-selective public school was Sefton High School, with a success rate of 24%. It shows the incredible results that selective schools achieve, but more than just the marks, the importance of self-discipline and motivation taught to the students. Considering the significant difference of the cost of a selective school vs private school, it is clear why entry is so competitive each year.

If you are considering a selective high school for your child, they need a comprehensive preparation program for the selective school exam. It is hard. Really hard. Natural talent won’t get them through it alone. Get in touch today to start the conversation about how I can get them prepared for the selective school test – I maintain a 100% success record with my students since 2005! Learn more or book your child’s first session.