Your Guide to the HSPT

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Created by the Scholastic Testing Service (STS) over 5 decades ago, the High School Placement Test (HSPT) is a nationally-recognized entrance examination, as well as an integral component in the private or parochial school application process. Administered only twice per year (in the spring and the fall), 8th-grade students take the HSPT to complete their enrollment application to private Catholic high schools across the country.

Like other standardized exams – such as the SSAT and ISEE – the HSPT comes with a unique set of rules, standards, and sections. For instance, the test appears in two different formats: The Closed Form and the Open Form. The main difference being the Closed form is scored locally while the Open Form is scored by Scholastic Testing Service (STS). The HSPT gets administered by individual schools or dioceses, so students should contact their school of choice for more details about the HSPT registration process and actual test dates and times.

Why Should Students Take the HSPT?

Strong skills displayed on the HSPT can be a determining factor in a student’s application for admission into a private or parochial school, as well as class placement and scholarship opportunities. A top private Catholic school brings with it challenging and diverse courses, competitive and fulfilling extracurricular activities, and a supportive network of caring teachers. Higher-level academic classes on your child’s academic transcript can make a difference later on in his or her high school career when your student begins the college application process.

What Content Appears on the HSPT?

The content found on the HSPT is somewhat similar to that of the SSAT and ISEE, but the HSPT is much faster-paced. More specifically, the HSPT has roughly twice as many questions as the other two tests, but the test runs for about the same amount of time. The HSPT test includes a collection of mathematical, quantitative, reading, verbal, and language subtests.

The HSPT was designed to measure “basic” as well as “cognitive” skills developed by the applicant. “Basic” skill questions can be found in the reading, mathematics, and language sections, utilizing more simple and direct questions. Meanwhile, the “cognitive” skill questions found in the Verbal and Quantitative section will ask more subjective questions.

Decoding the HSPT’s Structure

The HSPT contains five parts and includes two short breaks, containing 298 questions and lasts approximately 3 hours. All questions on the HSPT are presented as multiple-choice with four or five answer choices. Still, the number of questions and time allotted for each section varies:

  • Verbal Skills: With 60 questions and a 16-minute time limit, this section tests students on synonyms & antonyms, verbal classifications, logic, analogies, vocabulary, and sentence completions
  • Quantitative Skills: With 52 questions and a 30-minute time limit, this section focuses on number manipulations, geometric & non-geometric comparisons, and series
  • Reading: This section has 62 questions and lasts 25 minutes. Students must demonstrate an ability to understand central meaning and details in reading passages
  • Mathematics: Lasting 45 minutes, students will encounter 64 questions about arithmetic, elementary algebra, mathematical concepts & problem-solving, and basic geometry. (Students cannot use calculators on the math sections)
  • Language Skills: With 60 questions and 25-minute time limit, students must show proficiency in spelling, composition, usage, capitalization, and punctuation

The HSPT test also includes optional sections focusing on the catholic religion, mechanical aptitude, and science that some private schools require for entry.

How to Read Your HSPT Score

Like other important standardized tests, the HSPT has a unique scoring rubric. Students will receive one point for each correct answer throughout the 5 different sections. Students’ scores aren’t penalized for incorrect or unanswered questions.

There is no “passing” score on the HSPT; scores are forwarded to the school for which the student is applying, and their administrators will use a unique criterion to evaluate the results. Unlike other standardized tests, students should not retake the HSPT. If a student chooses to take the HSPT more than once, private schools will receive the lower of two scores.

Once completed, 8th-grade students will receive a comprehensive HSPT report, which includes several scores:

  • Raw Scores: Correct, incorrect, and omitted answers are tallied for each test section to produce a raw score. The raw scores are then converted to standard scores and national percentile rankings for each subtest.
  • Scaled Score: Ranges between 200 and 800
  • Percentile Rank: This tells what percentage of students had scores below or above in a national sample ranging from 1 (low) to 99 (high).
  • Total Cognitive Skills Score: This is the total score for the verbal and quantitative skills sections.
  • Total Basic Skills Score: This is the total score for the reading, mathematics, and language skills sections.
  • Battery Composite Score: This score is a total of all the subtest scores

The HSPT score report also shows the following scores:

  • Cognitive Skills Quotient (CSQ): It measures your learning ability and skills based on your age. The score may range from 55 to 145, and the average CSQ is 100.
  • Grade Equivalents (GE): It compares your basic skills in reading, mathematics, and language with the students of your grades level.

How Students Can Conquer The HSPT

With so much riding on a high score, taking the HSPT can be stressful for even top-performing students. But private, one-on-one HSPT tutoring provides both the knowledge and confidence that 8th-grade students need to succeed on this important high school placement test. Through holistic, individualized, and proven stress-quelling methods, 8th-grade students can realize their full potential in preparation for test day. Need help studying for the upcoming HSPT? Subscribe to our blog for more helpful test-taking tips.

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