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What is the HSPT?

The High School Placement Test (HSPT) is a nationally recognized private school entrance exam, created by Scholastic Testing Service (STS), available to students as part of the private school application process. The test is designed for middle school students trying to get into high school, so the majority of test takers are eighth graders, although some seventh graders take the test as well. For the most part, a typical middle school curriculum will have exposed students to the content assessed on the HSPT, although a basic understanding of algebra and geometry is needed for the math sections.

Unlike most other standardized tests, the HSPT does not have national administration dates. Private schools administer the HSPT as part of the application process. According to the STS website, students should not take the exam more than once. In fact, if a student takes the test more than once, the STS indicates that the lower score of the two should be considered. Registration and exam schedules are managed school by school; Parents should contact the schools to which their children are applying to find out the specific dates and deadlines. The STS does not handle test registration, this is also handled school by school.

What’s in the HSPT?

The exam, which lasts approximately 2.5 hours, assesses the following skills: verbal skills, quantitative skills, reading comprehension, mathematics, and language.

Verbal skills

The Verbal Skills section contains questions related to analogies, synonyms, antonyms, vocabulary, and verbal logic. The purpose of this section is to assess the student’s ability to understand the relationships between words and concepts.

Quantitative skills

The quantitative skills section contains questions related to number manipulation, geometric and non-geometric comparison, and patterns and sequences. Topics covered in this section include arithmetic, basic algebra, and basic geometry.

Reading comprehension

The Reading Comprehension section contains passages and questions that test the student’s understanding of core meaning, ability to obtain information from reading, and basic understanding of vocabulary.


The mathematics section contains questions that assess the student’s ability to solve problems and understanding of mathematical concepts. Topics covered in this section include arithmetic, basic algebra, and basic geometry.


The language section assesses the student’s understanding of written English. The problems are largely related to spelling, grammar, punctuation, and syntax.

Some schools also administer an optional science section, which covers general topics in astronomy, biology, chemistry, earth science, and physics.

The HSPT vs. the ISEE

The HSPT is comparable in both content and format to the ISEE Upper Level, another private school entrance exam. In terms of content, the biggest difference between the two tests is that there is no essay on the HSPT. The HSPT is used primarily by Catholic private schools; ISEE is used by a broader range of private schools. In addition, the ISEE has three levels: lower, middle and higher, which corresponds to the grade the student is going to; the HSPT is for prospective high school students only.

Preparing for the HSPT

As with any standardized test, preparation is essential for success. There are some HSPT study guides available online and in stores; If, after reviewing concepts and practicing problems, you and your student decide that more help would be beneficial, consider preparing for the professional HSPT exam. The HSPT can have a significant impact on a student’s future and should not be taken lightly. Thorough preparation is the key to making the HSPT experience as smooth and stress-free as possible.

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