What is the HSPT? How Do I Prepare?
The High School Placement Test (HSPT) is an admissions exam taken by eighth-graders who are applying for private Catholic high schools. It is comprised of five required sections: Verbal, Quantitative Skills, Reading, Mathematics, and Language Skills. It is important to contact each school your child is applying to as some require one or more of the three optional sections of the HSPT, which includes Science, Mechanical Aptitude, or Catholic Religion. Students are to register for and take the exam at their prospective high school, typically in January. If applying to multiple schools, it is possible the student’s test results can be sent to the other schools, but you must confirm this on a per-school basis.
Test Structure And Time Allotment
The HSPT is a multiple-choice exam. Each correct answer is worth one point and there is no penalty for incorrect answers, meaning guessing is encouraged if your student is unsure of the right answer. The exam runs for a total of two and a half hours but includes two short breaks. The number of questions and time allotted for each section varies:
· Verbal: 16 minutes for 60 questions
· Quantitative: 30 minutes for 52 sections
· Reading: 25 minutes for 62 questions
· Math: 45 minutes for 64 questions
· Language: 25 minutes for 60 questions
As you can tell by the question to time ratio, the HSPT is a fast-paced exam; however, the questions are shorter and much more to the point than other admissions exams, which the HSPT blog addresses in “The Relationship Between the HSPT and Other Standardized Tests”.
The Verbal Section
The Verbal section focuses on vocabulary with a mixture of synonyms, antonyms, analogies, sentence completions, and comparing word meanings. Even though the vocabulary words tend to be more common-place, your student must be able to answer quickly and confidently since they need to complete nearly 4 questions a minute to complete the exam in time.
The Math and Quantitative Sections
These sections of the tests deal with basic math skills, including arithmetic, exponent rules, order of operations, and understanding of mathematical terms. Students are not allowed to use a calculator. Like the rest of the exam, the questions are less complicated and more straight-forward than ones you would find on other placement exams. The content of these sections is not necessarily limited to what your child is currently learning or familiar with. It is important to review the specific content that will be covered in the HSPT to ensure your student is properly prepared.
The Reading Section
The reading section consists of short passages followed by a 22-question synonym section. Students often find pacing themselves in this section to be difficult so it is often recommended they efficiently complete the synonym section first and then return to the short passage section that focuses on topics from history and the humanities. Outside knowledge of the short passage topics is not necessary, as the purpose of these questions is to test your student’s understanding of the passage, not their knowledge of the content. Completing practice exams for this section is particularly helpful to improve pacing and confidence.
The Language Section
The language section tests your student’s understanding of grammar rules and their spelling skills. Grammar instruction varies quite a bit between schools so it is important to review the particular content the HSPT focuses on to ensure your student is familiar with the topics. Frequent topics of the language section include parallelism, subject/verb agreement, and the subtleties of punctuation
The Optional Sections
If any of the three optional sections are required by your student’s prospective school, they will need to be familiar with a wide variety of topics for each section. For instance, the science section covers biological, Earth, physical sciences, implications of scientific technology, the principles of scientific research, and experimentation. As with all sections, reviewing the specific content covered by the HSPT and taking current practice exams will help prepare your student for these sections.
The student’s raw scores, which is the summation of their correct multiple-choice answers in each section, is converted into a scaled score of 200-800. The student will also receive a percentile rank based on the national sample. This score and ranking will be used by the school to help determine admissions, academic placement, and assignment of scholarships.
Many are relieved to learn the scores from the optional sections are not included in the composite score, but they are submitted to the schools to serve as a basis of your student’s understanding and skill level in those areas. Despite not being included in the overall score, these sections should not be disregarded since they may determine placement in honors and advanced placement courses.
Students are not allowed to retake the HSPT exam. Therefore, it is vital the student properly prepares for the exam beforehand to identify problem areas before it is too late. Reviewing the specific material covered in each section, completing multiple practice tests, and learning test-taking skills before exam day will greatly increase your student’s chance of success.
The HSPT exam is an important factor of the admissions process into Catholic high schools, but many other factors are considered as well, including GPA, extracurricular involvement, character and maturity, the student’s interest in learning, and more. Different schools will apply different degrees of importance to each factor, but your student’s HSPT score is a clear-cut way to stand out among other applicants.
There are lots of great resources available to you through the HSPT website, school guidance counselors, online sources, and test prep services. Test prep services usually include step-by-step guidance, customized study plans, test-taking skill training, and up-to-date study materials. The admissions process can seem long and daunting but understanding the procedures and expectations for individual schools and properly preparing for the HSPT will help you and your student succeed.
Gallagher Prep has been around for over 30 years helping thousands of children achieve top scores and admitted to the most prestigious and competitive schools. Taking prep classes and having someone leading the way can help further educate your understanding of the HSPT.