Specialized High Schools Admissions Test

Looking to attend an outstanding Catholic high school? Then the High School Placement Test (HSPT) might be in your future! Read on to find out more about this lengthy, fast-paced test.

About The HSPT

The newest test in the Tutorverse library, the HSPT (or High School Placement Test), is an admissions test given to 8th grade students applying to certain Catholic high schools across the nation. For students, this test has a lot revolving around it: admissions decisions, scholarships, and even class placement all center on scoring well on this exam.

The HSPT runs for about two and a half hours and consists of nearly 300 multiple choice questions—that’s nearly two questions per minute! Students are only allowed to take the HSPT once, so doing well the first time is critical! For over ten years, our tutors have been helping students reach for the stars on tests just like this. We have the expertise and experience to help your student build their speed and confidence through consistent and thorough practice.

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Focus your Practice

Comfortable with some topics but struggling with others? The Tutorverse offers two workbooks to help students prepare for the HSPT; one book focuses on mathematics material, the other on English language arts. While we recommend students make use of both books to compliment their HSPT practice, students wishing to focus on one or the other should select the subject they’re least familiar with. Together, the books offer students over 3,000 questions, split between practice questions and five full diagnostic and practice tests. 

Format & Testing Dates

The HSPT has 5 sections consisting of 298 multiple-choice questions. Unlike many other standardized high-school admissions tests, there is no student-created essay portion on this test. Including breaks, students are given a total of 2 hours and 30 minutes to complete the exam.

The registration and test-administration for the HSPT is handled by individual schools. After students take the test once at an institution they’re applying to, the scores are made available to any Catholic high school that accepts this test for admission. Because different schools may administrate the test slightly differently, you always want to make sure you do your research before taking the test. If you require any specialized test-taking accommodations, make sure you contact the school where you’re planning on taking the test to make sure those requirements can be met. Traditionally, you can expect for the test to be administered sometime in December or January for admission to 9th grade the following year.

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Test Sections

The HSPT is split into five separate sections; verbal skills, quantitative skills, reading comprehension, mathematics, and language. 

Test Content

The Verbal Skills section tests students on their ability to logically and clearly understand and categorize information. Some questions give the students an abstract, grade-appropriate word and ask them to select the answer choice that is the most similar or opposite in meaning; in others, students have to solve logic and classification problems.

Ashamed most nearly means the opposite of

(A) brave

(B) embarrassed

(C) proud

(D) threatening

All dogs are soft. Some dogs are pets. All pets are soft. If the first two statements are true, then the third is
(A) True
(B) False
(C) Uncertain

The Quantitative Skills section assesses a student’s ability to reason mathematically and often requires little to no calculations. Often, questions in this section ask students to compare different quantities and examine series of numbers to discern overarching patterns. This section also contains word problems which test students on their abilities to understand exactly what a question is asking and how to convert it into an equation.

Directions: Choose the best of the four possible answers. 

Examine I, II, and III, and find the best answer.

III. 1/2 of 23
II. 1/3 of 23
III. 1/5 of 23

(A) I < II < III
(B) I < III < II
(C) II < III < I
(D) III < II < I

In the sequence 217, 219, 221…, what number should come next?

(A) 222
(B) 223
(C) 225
(D) 232

What number subtracted from the product of 7 and 4 makes 10 less than 19?

(A) 1
(B) 15
(C) 18
(D) 19

In the Reading Comprehension section of the exam, students are asked to read a passage and answer a set of questions specific to that passage. Students are expected to read and understand a mix of expository, narrative, and persuasive passages, as well as to understand a variety of grade-level vocabulary words both in and out of context. Students will likely have the most experience with problems of this variety in their school work.

This passage is mostly about

(A) birds that live in California.
(B) bird species that have gone extinct.
(C) the history of California condors and facts about their species.
(D) California condors, the first species of bird to go extinct in North America.

The author implies that, despite the city’s best efforts to rebuild, life after the hurricane will never be the same because 

(A) the specter of disaster will always loom on the horizon.

(B) the townspeople abandoned the community after the disaster.

(C) many of the objects destroyed were irreplaceable and priceless.

(D) the quality of the new boardwalk will be inferior to that of the original. 

The Mathematics section consists of questions based on national mathematics standards asking students to identify the problem in a question and find a solution to said problem. Some of these problems require more than one step to calculate the answer.

The circumference of a pizza pie 12𝜋 inches. If the pizza pie is split into 4 equal pieces, what is the area of each of the slices?

(A) 6𝜋 sq. in.
(B) 9𝜋 sq. in.
(C) 12𝜋 sq. in.
(D) 24𝜋 sq. in.

The Language section asks students to identify and correct errors in spelling, grammar, word-use, and paragraph composition. These questions, which often include common errors in these categories, can be particularly tricky, requiring students to pay close attention to every word of the question and answer choices in order to determine the correct answer.

Select the sentence which contains an error in spelling, grammar, punctuation, or capitalization. If all of the sentences are correct, select (D).

(A) Brown eyes are the most common; green eyes are the most rare.
(B) Despite losing his job, Damon was in high spirit’s.
(C) The joke’s effect was lost on the audience.
(D) No mistake.

Private Tutoring

Unlike many other standardized admissions tests, the HSPT can only be taken once! This means that getting it right the first time is essential; the only way to guarantee this is through thorough and focused preparation! Having a trusted educator guide your student through his or her individual process is invaluable. Our knowledgeable tutors can help with the unique challenges presented by the HSPT. This is a long, fast-moving test, with almost 300 questions, which is a much bigger task than many students this age have been met with before. It is critical that students learn the skills to keep moving and get to the end of every section in the time allotted. In addition, the HSPT’s notorious Language section requires students to recognize errors in grammar, word usage, punctuation, capitalization, and spelling—a heavy lift for many adults, not to mention 8th graders! Test-prep is a long, arduous journey, and no student should have to take it alone.


The key to beginning your test prep journey is deciding on goals; what target scores do you need to reach to get into your desired schools? What areas are your strongest? What areas do you need to work on?


Once you've got an idea of where you're aiming, work with your tutor to develop a detailed and consistent plan of study. You've got your goals; how are you going to reach them?


This is the fun part—time to start studying! Work through your plan with a tutor and trusted adult, and when you're ready, take a practice test! See how you do and begin the process again. With this structure, the sky's the limit for your HSPT score!

Unlike some test-preparation companies and tutors who suggests students should begin with a “cold-read” diagnostic test, we think a little differently. We find that taking a test without any initial instruction can be disheartening and negatively impact students’ confidence. Instead, we recommend that students have a few meetings with a tutor before taking any diagnostic; this allows us to more meaningfully decide a course of action tailored to your student’s specific personality, knowledge, and ability.

We have experienced tutors, teachers, and consultants who can help you evaluate your student’s needs, execute a plan, support your student’s practice, and repeatedly re-evaluate every element of your student’s test prep to make the best best use of limited time available. Let us help your student navigate their path forward so that they might emerge victorious!

Pacing & Strategy on the HSPT

There’s no one-size-fits-all way to beat the Digital SAT. Through proper preparation, each student will develop and hone his or her unique test-taking strategies. However, there are a few key concepts for all students to keep in mind:

Fill in an answer for every question

There is no penalty for incorrectly answered questions. So, when you submit your module, there should be no questions unanswered; save time to guess, if you have to! If you can narrow down multiple choice questions to two answer choices, you’ll have a 50-50 chance at a earning a point!

Use all of the allotted time

Think you’re done early? Use any extra time to check your work. Or, revisit those really tricky questions. Practice strategies to organize your scratch paper to help you with this. Learn how to double check your arithmetic!

Practice active reading habits

Read with your pencil out! Some students are reluctant to annotate because they think it takes too long. However, the time it saves you from having to return to the text is worth it in the end. By the time you finish reading a question, your notes may already contain the answer!

Don’t spend too much time on any single question

The HSPT is a speed test. Practice strategies to manage time. One such strategy is to skip questions and come back to them later, if you struggle to answer them! Just make sure you return to them before time runs out!

Knowing how the HSPT is scored can help you develop your plan. After all, the goal here is to achieve a score as possible to make your student’s high school application as attractive as it can be.

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