Selective School Reading and Writing Sample Test Questions

selective school practice sample questions

The Selective High School Placement Test was created so that students may exhibit, among other things, their reading comprehension, mathematical reasoning, and critical thinking. The objective of the exams is not to measure academic performance, but rather to evaluate an individual’s overall intelligence.

This article will address the exam’s Reading and Writing part. Allow your kid to respond to the following example questions from the Selective High School Placement Test. If they are aware of the kind of questions that may be asked, students will feel more at ease with the testing procedure. Notably, sample test results cannot predict how a student would perform on the Selective High School Placement Test. Practice tests and sample exams will not be evaluated by the selection committee.


Extract A: from Picnic at Hanging Rock by Joan Lindsay

They were off; the College already out of sight except for the tower through the trees as they bowled along the level Melbourne-Bendigo road, vibrating with particles of fine red dust. ‘Get up Sailor, you lazy brute … Prince, Belmonte, get back in your collars …’ For the first mile or two, the scenery was familiar through the girls’ daily perambulation in crocodile formation. The passengers knew only too well, without bothering to look out, how the scraggy stringy bark forest lined the road on either side, now and then opening out onto a lighter patch of cleared land. The Comptons’ whitewashed cottage whose sprawling quince trees supplied the College with jellies and jams, the clump of wayside willows at which the governess in charge would invariably call a halt and head for home. It was the same in Longman’s Highroads of History, where the class were forever turning back for recapitulation at the death of King George the Fourth before starting off again with Edward the Third next term … Now the willows in rich summer green were gaily passed and a sense of adventure ahead took over as heads began to peer through the buttoned tarpaulin flaps of the horse-drawn coach.

At Mrs Appleyard’s college SILENCE WAS GOLDEN, written up in the corridors and often imposed. There was a delicious freedom about the swift steady motion of the coach and even in the warm dusty air blowing up in their faces that set the passengers chirping and chattering like budgerigars. 

The road to Hanging Rock turns sharply away to the right a little way out of the township of Woodend. Here Mr Hussey pulled up outside the leading hotel to rest and water his horses before starting on the last lap of the drive. Already the heat inside the vehicle was oppressive and there was a wholesale peeling off of the obligatory gloves. ‘Can’t we take our hats off too, Mam’selle?’ asked Irma whose ink-black curls were flowing out in a warm tide under the brim of her stiff school sailor. Mademoiselle smiled and looked across at Miss McCraw, sitting opposite, awake and vertical, but with two closed eyes, two puce kid hands locked together on her lap. ‘Certainly not. Because we are on an excursion, there is no necessity to look like a wagon load of street urchins.’

The rhythmic beat of the horses’ hooves combined with the close air of the coach was making them all sleepy. As it was still only eleven o’clock, with plenty of time in which to reach the picnic grounds for lunch, the governesses conferred and Mr Hussey was requested to let down the steps of the coach at a suitable spot off the road. In the shade of an old white gum the zinc-lined wicker basket that kept the milk and lemonade deliciously cool was taken out and unpacked, hats were removed without further comment and biscuits handed round. 

Extract B: from The Family Law by Benjamin Law

My Family isn’t the outdoors type. Despite being raised on the coast, Mum detested visits to the beach (all the sand it brought into the house), while Dad disapproved of wearing thongs (‘It splits the toes’). We never camped. All those things involved in camping – pitching a tent; cooking on open fires; the insects; sleeping on rocks – they never appealed to us.

We preferred theme parks. For parents raising five children, theme parks made so much sense. They were clean and safe. There were clearly designated activities, and auditory and visual stimuli that transcended racial, language and age barriers. Also, you could buy heaps of useless souvenirs.

It was a family tradition that once a year, our family of seven (eight, including my grandmother) would cram ourselves into a 1990 grey five-seat automatic Honda.

Faces smashed against glass; no leg room; the two smallest children illegally wedged between various legs – we traveled like this for a good three hours before we reached the Gold Coast. We’d nod off at such extreme angles that our spines contorted. When we woke up, our shirts would be covered in drool we weren’t even sure was ours. By the time we got to the theme park, our limbs were numb, our nerve endings destroyed.

On the day of the trip, we’d wake before sunrise in order to get there by opening time. Despite the three hours of pain we’d endured, we’d feel an overwhelming sense of wonder as the Thunderbolt, Dreamworld’s rollercoaster, painted with flames, emerged from the trees that bordered the Pacific Highway. It would appear so suddenly, like a strange apparition or a mirage. We would crane our necks back, trying to take in the sheer majesty of it.

For questions 1 – 8, choose the option (A, B, C or D) which you think best answers the question.

1) Both extracts mention that during the trip, the passengers

A. were able to stop and have a snack.

B. saw a spectacular landmark

C. experienced some discomfort

D. tried hard to stay awake.  

2)Which group(s) of travelers passed the time by talking?

A. The College group 

B. The Law family

C. Both

D. Neither  

3)In which extract(s) do the people dislike spending time in natural surroundings? 

A. Extract A

B. Extract B  

C. Both 

D. Neither  

4)In Extract A, why is ‘the clump of wayside willows’ significant for the students?

A. It is the furthest point on their regular walks. 

B. They can buy homemade food there. 

C. It reminds them of a scene in their history book

D. They are allowed to go there alone. 

5) In Extract A, who appears to be in charge on the excursion?

A. Mr Hussey  

B. Mademoiselle

C. Miss McCraw 

D. Mrs Appleyard  

6)In Extract A, what does the writer suggest by ‘hats were removed without further comment’?

A. The governesses did not notice what had happened

B. The girls rarely had the chance to wear their hats

C. Wearing a hat was optional outside the College grounds.  

D. College standards were now being relaxed

7)How does the writer in Extract B feel when the roller coaster comes into view? 

A. terrified 

B. relieved  

C. bewildered 

D. awestruck

8)From the first two paragraphs of Extract B we get the impression that 

A. not every family member shared the parents’ enthusiasm for theme parks

B. the writer is aware that others might find his family’s love of theme parks puzzling.  

C. the writer regrets not experiencing camping trips when he was a child.  

D. theme parks are no longer as attractive to the writer as they used to be.


The Fish


through black jade

The barnacles which encrust the side

of the wave, cannot hide

there for the submerged shafts of the 


split like spun

glass, move themselves with spotlight swiftness 

into the crevices—

in and out, illuminating 


turquoise sea 

of bodies. The water drives a wedge

of iron through the iron edge

of the cliff; whereupon the stars


rice-grains, ink-

bespattered jelly fish, crabs like green

lilies, and submarine

toadstools, slide each on the other.  



marks of abuse are present on this 

defiant edifice—

all the physical features of 



of cornice, dynamite grooves, burns, and

hatchet strokes, these things stand  

out on it; the chasm-side is



evidence has proved that it can live 

on what can not revive 

its youth. The sea grows old in it

For questions 9 – 14, choose the option (A, B, C or D) which you think best answers the question.

9) The title of this poem

A. prepares us for the important last line

B. contrasts with the overall theme

C. actually refers to a person.  

D. leads us into the poem itself

10) What is compared to ‘an injured fan’?

A. the sea 

B. an ash heap  

C. a mussel 

D. a bird  

11) What lights up the water?

A. the spun glass

B. the sunlight 

C. he starlight 

D. a spotlight 

12) In the way the writer uses the following words, which is the odd one out?

A. lilies 

B. crabs

C. jellyfish 

D. toadstools 

13) The cliff has ‘marks of abuse’ caused by

A. exposure to wet, windy weather. 

B. the movement of the sea

C. animals and vegetation. 

D. the actions of people

14)  What does the form of the poem as a whole reflect?

A. the scaly shape of a fish 

B. the tiny movements of sea life 

C. the movement of the waves

D. the destructive power of the sea  

Six sentences have been removed from the text. Choose from the sentences (A – G) the one which fits each gap (15 – 20). There is one extra sentence which you do not need to use.  

Octopus farming

Plans to create octopus farms in coastal waters round the world have been denounced by an international group of researchers. They say the move is ethically inexcusable and environmentally dangerous, and have called on private companies, academic institutions and governments to block funding for these ventures. 

The researchers say that farming octopuses would require the catching of vast amounts of fish and shellfish to feed them, putting further pressure on the planet’s already threatened marine livestock. The group, led by Professor Jennifer Jacquet of New York University, argues that octopuses are highly developed and curious creatures. 15 ………… . ‘We can see no reason why, in the 21st century, a sophisticated, complex animal should become the source of mass-produced food,’ says Jacquet. “Octopuses eat fish and shellfish, and supplying enough to feed large numbers of them puts further pressure on the food chain. It is unsustainable. Octopus factory farming is ethically and ecologically unjustified.” 

There are about 300 species of octopus and many behave in surprisingly sophisticated ways. In tests, some have been shown to use tools, for example. 16 ………… . ‘Once octopuses have solved a problem, they retain a long-term memory of the solution,’ the researchers state in a paper in Issues in Science and Technology.  

Octopuses are also a culinary delicacy. About 350,000 tonnes are caught every year and served in restaurants from Spain to Chile and from Mexico to Australia. However, numbers of octopus caught are reported to be in decline. 17 ………… . Wild-caught males and females are allowed to mate. Then their fertile eggs hatch out in containers and are grown into adults to be sold to markets round the globe.

18 ………… . This has made feeding them difficult and expensive. Keeping young animals in water whose salinity and temperature are carefully controlled has also proved tricky. These drawbacks have prevented octopus farms from making progress – until recently. Aquaculturists have learned that the young of some octopus species are less fussy about the food they eat and have used these species as basic stock for breeding. 19 ………… . As a result, companies in Australia, Japan and Mexico have said they are hatching octopus eggs in captivity and will soon be ready to sell farmed octopuses. 20 ………… . The main markets for the animals – the US, Europe, Japan and China – are areas where people are already well-fed. Octopuses are delicacies and do not deserve to be the focus of intensive farming. Peter Godfrey-Smith of Sydney University commented: ‘Why should research money be used to support a project that will inevitably have so many welfare and environmental problems once it is scaled up?’

A. Fish farmers have turned to the rearing of octopuses to try to replace these dwindling catches. 
B. But might this actually be the best way to protect the species over the long term? 
C. Farming them intensively would probably cause large numbers of deaths from stress. 
D. There have also been advances in controlling the environments in which octopuses are raised. 
E. In one such experiment, scientists observed octopuses building shelters from pieces of coconut shell.  
F. But the case for octopus farming is weak, according to Jacquet and her co-authors.  
G. These efforts have foundered, however, because octopus larvae eat only live food.

For questions 21 – 30, choose the option (A, B, C or D) which you think best answers the question.

Which extract…  

describes a feeling awareness of being in a dream? 21 _____

refers to using dreams as a source of professional inspiration? 22 _____

mentions being able to do something in a dream that would be impossible in real life? 23 _____

argues that dreams can teach us something useful? 24 _____

says that people mostly dream about everyday things? 25 _____

states that dreams usually lose their power once the person wakes up? 26 _____

mentions a place that looked different in a dream from its appearance in the writer’s memory? 27 _____

describes how a strange occurrence prevented the writer from doing something? 28 _____

explains the reason we are willing to accept absurd things in our dreams as significant? 29 _____

discusses some advice about relaying dreams to others? 30 _____

Extract A

Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again. It seemed to me I stood by the iron gate leading to the drive, and for a while I could not enter, for the way was barred to me. There was a padlock and chain upon the gate. I called in my dream to the lodge-keeper, and had no answer, and peering closer through the rusted spokes of the gate I saw that the lodge was uninhabited. Then, like all dreamers, I was possessed of a sudden with supernatural powers and passed like a spirit through the barrier before me. The drive wound away in front of me, twisting and turning as it had always done, but as I advanced I was aware that a change had come upon it; it was narrow and unkempt, not the drive that we had known. At first  I was puzzled, and it was only when I bent my head to avoid the low swinging branch of a tree that I realized what had happened. Nature had come into her own again and, little by little, in her stealthy, insidious way had encroached upon the drive with long, tenacious fingers.

Extract B

Why do we feel the urge to talk about our dreams? We like to talk about dreams to help us prepare for how to act in dangerous situations in the future. Most of your dreams are going to seem pretty boring to most people. But if you’re going to talk about some of your dreams, pick the ones in which you deal with a problem in some new way. This would make them more interesting than your happy dreams, and if you feel that you learned something about how to deal with a threat, maybe your audience will, too.

We tend to think of dreams a being really weird, but in truth, about 80% of dreams depict ordinary situations. We’re just more likely to remember and talk about the strange or dangerous ones. Information we do not understand can often rouse our curiosity, particularly in the presence of strong emotion. The emotional pull of dreams makes even the strangest incongruities seem meaningful and worthy of discussion and interpretation.

Extract C

One morning, when I was younger, I gave a detailed description of my previous night’s dream to my mother. When I finished, she said, “I’m going to tell you something. Don’t ever share your dreams with anyone. It’s boring to listen to other people’s dreams.” I was offended at first. But of course she was right; it’s almost always deadly to hear other people talk about their dreams. As a rule, dreams die in the glare of the waking world, their shimmering aura evaporating in the harsh air outside the psyche. And yet, paradoxically, it’s the emotional aura of dreams that makes them feel so urgently worth sharing in the first place.

I still share my dreams – just not verbally. Like so many other writers (and artists too) I employ dreams in my creative work. They’re an engine, a lending library. It’s a thrill to awake with a strange, arresting image in mind, or still grasping the thread of an allegorical dream story.

Extract D

For the first time in a long while, I had a dream which feel like writing down. This was a dream where I was auditioning for an acting job, and the dream went lucid; I realized that what was going on was a dream. So, as I often do in these situations, I chilled out and tried not to actively do anything; I often like to just see what the dream reveals. A nondescript person came up to me and handed me a small white book with gold lettering. “Remember this book,” said the person, “because when you wake up you’re going to want to get a copy. Really remember it.” I thanked them and looked at the book in my hand. There was a title and author’s name written on it, but I couldn’t interpret the text. I’d look at it, trying to remember what is said then I’d look way, and when I looked back it said something completely different and I was unable to remember what I’d just read.

There’s a great Batman episode all about this! Sometimes I can fully recall bits of dreamed text, but on waking after other dreams, it’s all gone.

Writing Test

Read the task below and write your answer on the separate answer sheet.

New to the area

Three new students have just arrived in your local area. Your teacher has asked you to write an advice sheet for them, making them feel enthusiastic about coming to your school. 

Write an advice sheet for the new students about how to get on well in your school and local area. 


  1. 1. C
  2. 2. A
  3. 3. B
  4. 4. A
  5. 5. C
  6. 6. D
  7. 7. D
  8. 8. B
  9. 9. D
  10. 10. C
  11. 11. B
  12. 12. A
  13. 13. D
  14. 14. C
  15. 15. C
  16. 16. E
  17. 17. A
  18. 18. G
  19. 19. D
  20. 20. F
  21. 21. D
  22. 22. C
  23. 23. A
  24. 24. B
  25. 25. B
  26. 26. C
  27. 27. A
  28. 28. D
  29. 29. B
  30. 30. C


                                                                                                                                            Credit to: NSW Education Department

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