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Melbourne selective schools are designed to cater to high-performing students who require an accelerated curriculum to meet and exceed their academic abilities. The Melbourne Selective Schools examination is one component of a competitive selection process for enrolment placement at one of four Victorian selective schools: Melbourne High School, The Mac.Robertson Girls’ High School, Nossal High School, and Suzanne Cory High School. 

Let’s take a closer look at each of these schools!

There are currently four select entry high schools in Victoria:

School NameGenderLocationAccepting
Melbourne HighBoys onlySouth Yarraapproximately 260 students
MacRobertson Girls’ HighGirls onlyAlbert Parkapproximately 225 students
Suzanne Cory HighAll gendersWerribeeapproximately 200 students
Nossal HighAll gendersBerwickapproximately 200 students

There are approximately 1000 places available across the four schools. Every year, approximately 4000 – 5000 students apply for one of these places so competition is fierce and many students who apply will miss out on achieving one of these coveted places, even if they meet the cut off score.

This guide is designed to help you understand the process so you can maximise your child’s chances of success.

Who might benefit from attending a Melbourne selective school?


Each student is unique, and their individual needs and learning styles should be considered when making educational decisions. While not all students will benefit from a selective school environment, attending a Melbourne selective school can be beneficial for the following types of students who possess specific academic and personal characteristics.

High-Achieving Students

Selective schools are designed to cater to academically talented students. If a student consistently excels in their studies, a selective school can provide an environment that challenges and nurtures their academic abilities.

Intellectually Curious Students

Students who display a genuine thirst for knowledge and have a strong desire to explore advanced subjects or unique learning opportunities can find enrichment and fulfilment in a selective school setting.

Motivated and Driven Students

Selective schools often have a more rigorous academic curriculum and higher expectations, which can attract students who are motivated to achieve and excel in their studies. If you find you often need to push or cajole your child to complete their work, a selective school may not be the right environment for them.

Students Seeking Intellectual Peer Groups

Selective schools tend to attract bright and like-minded students. For students who seek intellectual stimulation and want to be surrounded by peers who share similar interests and ambitions, a selective school can provide a supportive and inspiring social environment.

Students with Specific Academic Goals

Some selective schools may offer specialised programs or unique academic pathways that align with a student’s particular interests or career aspirations. This can be especially beneficial for students with a clear focus on specific academic or career goals.

Students in Need of Greater Challenges

For students who may find their regular school environment not challenging enough, a selective school can provide a more stimulating and intellectually challenging atmosphere.

 If your child displays some or all of the above traits, read on!

What are some other benefits of attending a selective high school in Melbourne?


Besides the benefits listed above, attending a selective high school can offer several other benefits for students who are high achievers and looking for an academically challenging environment. Some of the key benefits include:

Advanced Curriculum

Selective schools in Melbourne often cover more extensive and challenging curriculum material compared to regular schools, simply due to the fact that the standard is a lot higher. This exposure to advanced topics can better prepare students for higher education and future careers.

Access to Advanced Resources

Selective schools often have access to advanced resources, including specialised facilities, expert teachers, and a broader range of extracurricular opportunities. This can enhance a student’s overall learning experience.

Opportunities for Personal Growth

The academic challenges and high expectations at selective schools can foster personal growth and discipline. Students may develop strong study habits, time management skills, and a commitment to self-improvement.

Supportive Peer Group

Students attending selective schools are surrounded by peers who share similar academic goals and aspirations. This sense of camaraderie and support can create a positive learning environment.

University and Career Opportunities

Students who attend selective schools often outperform students attending elite private schools, but at a fraction of the cost to access such a high quality educational experience. Even with a scholarship, many families are still unable to meet the financial commitment of sending their children to elite schools, so may turn to selective schools to nurture their academic abilities and improve their child’s chances of achieving their goals in life. 

Graduating from a selective high school can also carry a positive reputation, and provide networking opportunities for future careers.

When does the selective school exam usually take place?

The exam takes place in June/ July each year when students are in Year 8 for Year 9 entry. 

What is the duration and structure of the selective school exam?

The duration of the Selective Schools examination is approximately 3 hours and covers the following components:

Test 1. Reasoning – Reading (35 questions in 35 minutes)
Test 2. Reasoning – Mathematics (35 questions in 30 minutes)

Short break (approx. 20 min)

Test 3. General Ability – Verbal (60 questions in 30 minutes)
Test 4. General Ability – Numerical/ Quantitative (50 questions in 30 minutes)

Short break (approx. 5 min)

Test 5 & 6. Writing Tasks (Creative and analytical – 40 minutes for both essays)

How are students selected?

Most students enter a selective school in Year 9 through an entrance examination. Students are ranked according to their aggregate score and entry into Year 9 is allocated in the following way: 

  • Examination results (85%): students who achieve the highest results on the examination (in accordance to school preferences and placements available
  • Equity and consideration (10%): ensures that all students have access to the same opportunities. Eligibility for students whose parents hold a Commonwealth Health Care Card or a Pension Card and qualify for income support benefits, and students who identify as Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islanders. Verification required at the application stage.
  • Principal’s discretion (5%): a direct invite to submit an application for the principal’s discretionary category which shortlists students for interviews, after which an offer is either made for entry from a specific school or declined.

What scores are needed to succeed?

A student’s aggregate scores are ranked amongst their peers according to the following:

  • Superior: Top 11%
  • Above average: Following 12%
  • High average: Following 17%
  • Average: Following 20%
  • Low average: Following 17%
  • Below average: Bottom 23%

What is the 4% rule?

At any given school, the allocation of ‘standard’ or ‘principal discretion’ places at Selective Entry high schools is limited to no more than 4% from a single source school, regardless of academic performance compared to students from other schools.

For P-9 schools, a 10% cap on offers applies to maintain fairness and prevent any school from becoming the sole feeder into these selective schools.

Candidates from home-schooling, interstate, or overseas schools are treated as separate cohorts, and there are also caps on the places available for them.

The Principal’s Discretionary category offers are released after the initial round of standard offers. These places are only offered when the cap from any one source school has not been reached yet, ensuring a fair and balanced enrolment process.

Let’s look at some examples!

Suppose we have four students: Jordan, Anna and Bethany and Jonathan. 

The Year 8 cohort at Jordan’s school has 100 students. The maximum number of students to gain entry is 4.

Anna attends a P-9 school that only has 50 students in Year 8. The maximum number of students to gain entry from Anna’s school is 5. 

Bethany is in Year 8 at Jordan’s school. She achieved a high aggregate result and her parents have a Commonwealth Health Care Card. 

Even though the caps quota was reached at this school with 4 students being admitted, Bethany was offered a place at a selective school.

Only 4 students at Anna’s school reached the cut-off to gain entry into a Selective School. Jonathan was invited to apply for the remaining place and after writing an application letter and after going through the interview process, was subsequently offered admission.

What if my child misses out in Year 8 for Year 9 entry? 

Though most students enter the school in Year 9, each of the four selective schools enrols a minimum of 28 students into Year 10.

The caps policy does not apply for any intake past Year 9 and students will gain a place if they fulfil the selection criteria.

This additional enrolment will enable students with high academic achievements and demonstrated commitment to co curricular and sporting involvement to enter the school.

I’ve been told that if my child is already advanced at school, they shouldn’t have to prepare. Is this true? 

The prevailing belief is that talented students shouldn’t need to prepare for the selective or scholarship exams, but this viewpoint often comes from individuals who may not fully understand the entire exam process, including some school principals! 

The reality is that academic standards can vary widely from one school to another, and many schools lack the necessary resources to adequately prepare students for the complexity of reasoning, mathematics, and reading comprehension questions commonly found in the Victorian Selective Exam.

In fact, many students opt for opportunities like the selective exam precisely because their current schools may not be challenging them enough or meeting their academic needs. Moreover, schools may not be familiar with the types of questions typically seen in these exams, leading to difficulties in sourcing and curating relevant materials. These exam questions differ significantly from those found in regular textbooks. Consequently, relying solely on the school curriculum may place your child at a significant disadvantage compared to students who have invested time in dedicated preparation.

How to prepare for the Selective Schools exam


Preparing for the Victorian Selective Exam requires a systematic approach and consistent effort. 

Here are some steps to help your child prepare effectively:

Step 1: Understand the Exam Format

Familiarise yourself and your child with the format of the exam, including the types of questions and sections that will be included. This will help you tailor your preparation accordingly.

Step 2: Identify Strengths and Weaknesses

Assess your child’s strengths and weaknesses in various subjects and skills relevant to the exam. This will help you prioritise areas that need more attention during preparation. It may also be helpful to refer to your child’s latest NAPLAN results as it provides useful information regarding where they are currently sitting within their cohort.  

Step 3: Start Early

Begin preparation well in advance, allowing sufficient time for comprehensive learning and practice. Beginning early can help reduce stress and ensure your child covers all the necessary topics. 

We recommend starting at least 6 months to a year ahead, giving your child the opportunity to grasp essential concepts and apply this to sample exam papers. This preparation will familiarise them with the types of questions they are likely to encounter and improve their time management skills.

Step 4: Set Realistic Goals

Establish achievable study goals and create a consistent study schedule from the time you start up until the exam. Regular study sessions can build positive study habits and establish a consistent routine which can lead to more effective learning.

Step 5: Stay Positive and Supportive

Maintain a positive and supportive attitude throughout the preparation process and regularly check in with your child to see how you can further support them. This can be a very intensive process for some students, so it’s important to encourage your child’s efforts and acknowledge their progress.

Step 6: Improve Problem-Solving and Reasoning Skills

Focus on enhancing your child’s problem-solving and reasoning abilities, as these skills are essential for performing well in the exam.

Step 7: Read Regularly

Encourage your child to read a wide variety of texts, including fiction – both modern and classic texts across a range of different genres, poetry, non-fiction, and informational materials. Reading improves comprehension and language skills, which are crucial for the exam.

Step 8: Practise Sample Exam Papers

Obtain sample exam papers and have your child practise them under timed conditions. This will familiarise them with the exam structure, the different types of questions they are likely to encounter, improve time management skills and will build their stamina and confidence for the actual exam day.

Step 9: Seek Professional Help

If you would like assistance with the above, you might consider enrolling your child in a reputable test preparation program or hiring a tutor who specialises in selective exam preparation. Gaining access to the latest information to effectively prepare can be challenging and professional guidance can be incredibly valuable in honing your child’s skills and boosting their confidence.

Get help with selective school exam preparation

Since 2001, Spectrum Tuition has been helping students prepare for this very exam. We offer a variety of resources, including classes, workshops, exam packages, and revision courses, all designed to improve your child’s chances of success.

We recommend starting with a free, no-obligation assessment to identify your child’s current strengths and weaknesses. Based on this assessment, we can create a personalised plan, tailored to enhance your child’s performance and improve their chance of success in the exam. 

Remember that each child is unique, so it’s important to adapt the preparation approach to suit their learning style and preferences. The key is consistent practice, targeted learning, and building confidence to help your child perform at their best on the day of the exam.

Regardless of the outcome of the exam, a program can help your child establish positive study habits that will enhance their performance overall at school.

For more information about the entire selective exam process, please visit online.spectrumtuition.com/f/selective

To start your free assessment, please visit our website at www.spectrumtuition.com or call us on 1800 668 177.


Spectrum Tuition is a sponsor of Melbourne Schools. Learn more about them here​ *

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