The shift to creative and critical thinking

Updated: Feb 1, 2021

UPDATE 1st February, 2021: The NSW Department of Education has announced changes to the Opportunity Class Placement Test to reflect a similar structure to the Selective High School Placement Test. With greater emphasis on creative and critical thinking, the Department of Education has seen the need to

distinguish between natural high ability students and those who have been trained in test-taking

at an earlier stage of learning.

End update

The recent changes to the NSW Selective High School Placement Test represent an overhaul of a testing methodology that has been used for the last 32 years. The shift from the Australian Council for Education Research to Cambridge Assessments intends to fill gaps found in the selection system that came from the initial predictability and coachability of past exams. The new testing standards aims to differentiate between natural high ability and those who have been trained in test-taking. In addition, testing will go digital in 2022 which provides another barrier to segment students.

The new structure of the Selective High School Placement Test still consists of 3 components plus writing, with Mathematics and General Ability being changed to Mathematical Reasoning and Thinking Skills. While the names of Reading and Writing remain the same, there are changes to the number of questions and time as demonstrated by the graphic below.

With the main goal of the change to ensure the playing field is levelled and discover which students have the most potential to excel for the years ahead, creative and critical thinking have become a focus area, replacing 2 out of the 3 modules in the test to better assess this skill. The big questions for parents now are:

  • Where do we start?

  • How do I prepare my child for this?

  • What benefits does tutoring bring?

Like most parents, you have probably downloaded the test paper released by the NSW Department of Education, googled to find more information and/or watched some YouTube explanation videos. Whilst there is nothing wrong with doing this, the shift from logic/reasoning to creative and critical thinking is not simple, and children will require time and support in this journey. Creative and critical thinking are not skills that one can just acquire, it is a mindset which requires strong cognitive skills supported by a strong foundation of curiosity.

In a rapidly changing world, it is no longer about regurgitating facts and memorising answers and as educators, we see a positive change in direction with the new testing standards. Our programs have been designed to cater for this change and to provide children with opportunities to succeed, not only in tests, but also in life. Rather than drills and rote-learning, we aim to strengthen decision-making and problem solving skills through various strategies including encouraging thought-provoking discussions, sharing of ideas and providing practical everyday examples.

At EX Learning, we believe that we can provide children with the support that they need to become independent and flexible individuals. If you have any questions regarding these changes or would like to discuss your child’s capabilities, contact us at or 0491-738-926 to learn more.

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