Preparing for the High School Placement Test

High stakes testing has become a prevalent part of a student’s school career. High school juniors and seniors take the SAT and ACT as they prepare for the college admissions process.  These tests could be taken several times to improve the score. However, the High School Placement Test (HSPT) is different. It can be taken only one time.  As young people in 8th grade approach the HSPT, the stakes are high as one’s performance can impact their high school choice. Preparing for the HSPT is important. Not only does a student want to be prepared academically, but also emotionally. There are several ways to do this.

First, recognize that like most standardized tests, you simply can’t ‘cram’ for them. Your preparation occurred years before you sat down at the testing site.  Reading is a fundamental way to prepare for testing. Read on a regular basis. Use reading strategies to analyze text and think critically. Be curious about new vocabulary you encounter. Interact with those new words – learn them, use them!  Review your mathematics skills.  Think about, apply, and make connections with those skills. Focus on fundamental math skills and practice the basics.

Second, know what the test looks like. How many test items are there? What is being tested? How much time do I have for each section? How long can I spend on one test item? How is this test graded?  Some of the answers to these questions can be found on the ADW Catholic Schools website or the HSPT link for the Scholastic Testing Service site.

Next, listen to and read directions carefully when taking the test. Be sure to answer as many questions as possible and don’t spend too much time on one test item. If time remains at the end of a section, review your responses. If you have not had practice using an answer sheet while taking a test, consider practicing doing just that before taking the HSPT. Always be careful that you mark the answer sheet correctly and that it is the correct space for that particular question.

Finally, prepare yourself physically and emotionally for this test. Get a good night’s sleep. Eat a nourishing breakfast and stay hydrated. Breathe in, breathe out. When given the opportunity to take a break between sections, move around and stretch to get the blood flowing.   Most importantly, keep yourself as calm and relaxed as possible. There is no doubt this is a stressful situation.  Practice your breathing skills, close your eyes, and think happy thoughts.  Say a prayer.  Center yourself. Breathe in, breathe out.  And know, you can do this!


Anne Dillon serves as the Director for Special Education with the Archdiocese of Washington. The majority of Anne’s career is in a large public school system as a special educator and as an assessment specialist. She believes in empowering students to think on their own, take responsibility for their decisions, and become life-long learners.