2021 Selective Placement Test – Most Recent Changes Every Parent Needs to Know

by admin | 03rd November 2020 |

The NSW Selective School Placement Test will change next year.

If the changes made earlier this year were not enough to keep you on your toes, the more recent changes made by the NSW Department of Education should do just that.

This is the biggest reform we have seen to the structure and content of the Placement Test in over a decade.

So, what are the changes?

The test design has shifted its focus from assessing general ability (GA) to assessing students’ ability to think critically and creatively.

We believe this is a worthy change as critical thinking and creative problem solving are necessary skills to thrive in the world.

We need the ability to critically assess the flood of information we face daily to develop informed opinions. Our problem-solving abilities can easily be the deciding factor for whether we are handed that job offer.

In fact, cognitive thinking is a skill many employers are beginning to actively look for right from the first stage of reviewing a candidate’s resume!

To develop such skills in students pursuing education at the top academic high schools is a step in the right direction.


How has the test changed?

The previous Placement Test measured English (reading comprehension), mathematics (problem-solving skills), general ability (abstract and verbal reasoning), and writing.

In the new test, reading comprehension and writing will remain. However, the general ability section will be replaced with thinking skills and mathematics will be re-shaped as mathematical reasoning skills.

For a clearer comparison between the old test and the new test, refer to the below table.

Old Test

New Test

English (reading and writing) English (reading and writing)
Mathematics Mathematical Reasoning
General Ability Thinking Skills

Though the adjustments to the weightings between each section are yet to be advised, please note the general ability section previously carried the heaviest weighting. Chances are that the new thinking skills test will also carry a significant weighting. However, there is no confirmation of that yet.

Why the change?

This is the first time in three decades that the company responsible for the test design has changed.

The changes came after a review by the NSW Department of Education in 2018, which found that the Placement Test was “too easy” and made it difficult to separate the bright students from the exceptionally bright students.

This new test encourages greater depth in cognitive thinking, believed to be a key attribute of more gifted students.

The re-design is also an effort to make the Placement Test more accessible to a diverse range of students. This reasoning came from the finding that disabled, Indigenous, disadvantaged, regional and female students were under-represented in selective schools.

Our response to the changes

At Global Education Academy, we always believe in teaching how to think not what to think.

Empowering students with tools to think creatively and critically has been at the core of our practice. This is how our tutors are trained to deliver our courses. We always emphasised that to succeed in the selective placement test, old methods will not produce the desired result.

Therefore, in our tutoring courses we have adapted our Selective Preparation and our Mock Tests to reflect the changes to the test design.

The General Ability component of the course is replaced with Thinking Skills. This new component covers:

  • Within English – critical thinking, creative thinking, reading reasoning, logical reasoning, problem-solving, lateral thinking and much more
  • Within Numeracy – mathematical reasoning, problem-solving, logical thinking, mathematical deductions, spatial reasoning skills and much more

If you have questions about the changes to the Placement Test or changes to our Selective Preparation Course, please call us on 1300 001 432. We would love to hear from you!

For at-home preparation, our key tips and strategies remain the same. Please be wary that new practice papers will not be available until late December 2020. For more specific approaches on how to prepare for the thinking skills and mathematical reasoning test components, please contact us today.

Take the first step…

Book a Benchmark Assessment with us today

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