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Selective School Essay Topics

What does a good writing piece for the NSW selective school test look like?  It has the makings of any good writing piece – that means it’ll have:

  • Good structure
  • Lots of great ‘showing as opposed to telling’ and last but not least
  • ‘Relevancy’ to the question at hand.

That means simply, if the examiner has asked you to write a story on a rabbit – please do not write a story about a dog or anything else.  Unless that dog has a best friend that’s a rabbit (but even then the rabbit must be central to the story) – just don’t name them Rebecca Rabbit or Danny Dog as the plot would resemble something out of a Peppa Pig episode!

The sample writing test that the NSW Department of Education has released on its selective school test website is interesting.  Download it at

First, there are no faces.  Just a bunch of hands, microphones.

Look at the dress – most people have suits.

The actions?  We’ll everyone is recording something so the image is saying “There’s something really important being said that needs to be recorded”.  Think about things like “breaking news”.

So how does one write about this?  Here’s a sample essay one of the students I tutored did (you can also now get me to tutor you via video on  Her essay is excellent and I’ll go into detail why later on.  First, let’s just read her essay:

I barrel my way through the crowd of reporters, desperate for the first scoop of the scene happening.  

We were notified that a nine stack car crash had occurred leaving at least ten people seriously injured.  The reporter who would be able to secure an interview with the Officer would be praised and glorified back at the office.  The warm ashphalt did nothing to hinder the stampede happening before my very eyes. Handbags, microphones and audio recorders were being waved about in air, or dropped and abandoned on the floor. A cacophony of noises surrounded my ears, almost bursting my eardrums.  The reporters were like slick and well-dressed vultures scrambling forward and closing in on their prey.

 “Move out of my way! I said move!” I shouted helplessly, but my pleas were lost in the cries of other questions  that were aimed at the Officers protecting the crime scene.  Finally barging headfirst and securing a spot near the front of the crowd, I started firing questions of my own.  It was the only way the Officer could hear me.  This was my chance to get glory.

 “Sir, how did you break the news to the unfortunate familes of the victims while you were eating hamburgers at McDonald’s? And did you really assist the car crash with the true conspirators?” As those words left my mouth the Officer’s friendly demeanour turned sour.  With a menacing scowl upon his youthful face he growled “Just. Get. Out.”  Slowly, one by one, each journalist turned on me having the same scowls on their faces as the Officer.

I knew I had broken the one rule of journalism which was to never anger the interviewee.  In seconds my moment of glory turned into shame and in worse still, it was recorded by dozens of voice recorders and notes.  I would never be able to regain my dignity. ~ by N S.

So why is this sample essay good?

1. Originality – it’s written in the perspective of the journalist and interesting.

2. Relates back to the question – there’s no doubt that the image has been incorporated as the main event and central theme.

3. Great description – check out the words she’s using ‘moment of glory’, ‘pleas were lost’, ‘well dressed vultures’, ‘warm asphalt’, ‘cacophony’.  By adding description and choosing her words wisely, this girl was able to write a very vivid story.  It’s a great writing piece!

4. Structure – see how her writing flows well.  Read through your own writing – does it make sense to you?  Does it flow?  If it doesn’t go back and fix it up.

5. Not to long or too short.  People ask how many words do you need to write and most teachers never really give you an answer that you’re looking for (really?  why no answer).  Look, IMHO (in my honest opinion), should be looking at 250 words.  But good writing over bad any day.  Write 100 words of a very good piece of writing will trump 1000 of really bad writing.  The length of this piece is just right.

Hope you enjoyed this blog post and comment below – what would you have written your story on if that picture was your exam question for the NSW selective schools high school placement test?

Filed Under: Writing

Empower Free Resources

We will be updating our content regularly so keep checking for new free content and sample work.

Tackling the  Selective School Test – A presentation and intensive study given to year 6 students sitting for the Selective Schools Test

Sample Empower General Ability Homework – Sample Year 5 General Ability Homework

Sample Writing Test (Informative) – Sample written expression exercises that are completed in class and marked with detailed feedback

Sample Writing Test (Creative)  Sample written expression exercises that are completed in class and marked with detailed feedback

Useful links

The NSW Public Schools website have published exam papers which can be used by students as sample tests. Click on the links below to open each test, the answers are included at the end of the test paper. More information is available at the NSW Public Schools Website. 

These sample test papers have been provided to help students become more familiar with the tests. Please note that some material has been omitted for copyright reasons.

Selective School Test Past Papers

2001 – Test 1 – Reading Test

2001 – Test 2 – Maths Test

2001 – Test 3 – General Ability Test

2002 – Test 2 – Maths

2002 – Test 3 – General Ability Test
2003 – Test 2 – Maths Test

2003 – Test 3 – General Ability Test

Selective School Test Sample Papers

Reading sample test 1Maths sample test 1General Ability sample test  1

Reading sample test 2Maths sample test 2General Ability sample test  2

Reading sample test 3Maths sample test 3General Ability sample test 3

Maths sample test 4General Ability sample test  4