Selective and comprehensive schools

School students and teacher in classroom

Most government secondary schools in Australia are comprehensive, which means that they enrol all students who live in the surrounding area and others on a first-come, first-served basis. Catholic schools have much the same policy for students of the Catholic faith. They will admit some non-Catholic students (usually limited numbers) if space permits. Independent schools are often comprehensive, admitting any students who can afford the fees.

In contrast, selective schools test applicants’ academic ability and enrol only the top performers. Some schools have a mixture of selective and non-selective entry. For example, competitive scholarships may be available to gifted students.

If you are interested in the Catholic and independent sectors, you will need to make enquiries about entry tests and policies to determine if selective entry applies.

Choosing a selective school means choosing a competitive environment for your child, and it follows that with their selected intakes, selective schools should (and usually do) perform well in exams. There is no way of telling how well the same students might have performed in a comprehensive school in the same or another sector.

New South Wales

Selective government high schools in NSW offer high-achieving students entry into Year 7 on the basis of academic merit, as demonstrated by their performance in the school curriculum and in the Selective High School Placement Test. This test is conducted once yearly and can be completed at a designated test centre across the state. Limited spaces for entry into Years 8 to 12 may also be available. Contact individual schools for more information.

There are three types of selective schools in NSW:

  • 17 fully selective government secondary schools, which admit students on the basis of academic ability
  • 25 partially selective high schools, which offer both selective and community classes
  • four agricultural high schools — selective high schools that emphasise agricultural study.

The NSW Public Schools website has a list of selective high schools in New South Wales.

Students may apply for entry to up to four selective high schools (in order of preference). Application packages are available in October when the student is in Year 5 and tests are conducted the following March. Application packages for Years 8–12 entry in the following year are available in June.

In addition, some government primary schools offer selective ‘opportunity classes’ for high-achieving Year 5 and 6 students. Entry to these classes is on the basis of the Opportunity Class Placement Test, conducted in July or August each year when the student is in Year 4. A list of schools offering opportunity classes can be found on the NSW Public Schools website.


There are a number of government schools in Queensland that admit students on the basis of academic, cultural or sporting ability, including Brisbane State High School, Kelvin Grove State College and Palm Beach Currumbin State High. These schools are partially selective, enrolling students from the local catchment area, as well as others based on academic, cultural or sporting merit. Meanwhile, the Queensland Academies consists of three fully selective high schools that admit students based on their ability in science, mathematics and technology; creative industries; or health science. See Special interest schools for more information. 


Four government secondary schools currently admit students on the basis of academic ability:

Students applying for entry to these schools complete a centralised examination in June of the year pior to admission. When applying, students may submit up to three preferences. If successful, they will be awarded a place in their first preference. For more information about applying to a selective entry school in Victoria, see Selective entry high schools.

Western Australia 

WesternAustralia has one fully selective secondary school, Perth Modern School, whichadmits students on the basis of academic ability. Students looking to gainentry to the school sit the Academic Selective Entrance Test, administered bythe Department of Education Gifted and Talented (GAT) unit.

South Australia 

There are no fully selectiveschools in the Australian Capital Territory, Northern Territory,South Australia or Tasmania. A number of schools offer specialised programs forgifted students, with admission based on academic performance. See Gifted children for moreinformation.

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