Succeeding on the High School Placement Test

Eighth-grade students applying to Notre Dame Preparatory School, or any other Catholic high school for that matter, will need to take a placement exam.  Here in the Baltimore area, the High School Placement Test (HSPT) is the exam of choice. It contains five sections that measure verbal ability, quantitative ability, reading comprehension, mathematics, and components of written language and is used by high schools for admissions, scholarship selection, and course placement.test`

We see test prep—in whatever form works best for the individual student—as important because it familiarizes students with what to expect on test day. Whether or not you have had HSPT prep at your current school, here are some tips from NDP faculty that will help prepare you for HSPT Day!

General Tips for the HSPT:

  1. Familiarize yourself with the test. Like any standardized test, the HSPT has certain questions characteristic to it. Some examples of specific questions are given below, but the best way to familiarize yourself is to use an HSPT prep book or online prep site such as, which offers free practice tests.
  2. Forget about cramming. Don’t try to cram the night before for the HSPT. It is designed to test your existing knowledge and reasoning skills, not class content. Getting a good night’s sleep, having a healthy breakfast, and tackling the test with a positive attitude is the best way to prepare for test day.
  3. Realize the HSPT is a part of the whole. When schools look at your admissions application, they review the whole picture—grades, extra-curricular activities, volunteer work, standardized test scores, among other criteria. No one thing defines a person, and that is true of the HSPT.
  4. Don’t stress! It is only one test and one day (see tip #3). Remember that the HSPT is designed to evaluate what you have learned during your elementary and middle school years.

Tips from Erin McNamara, Notre Dame Prep English teacher:

  1. Practice vocabulary. Buy a vocabulary book or go to a free test site like which has free practice tests.books
  2. Develop a comfort level with analogies. You may not be actively studying analogies in your Language Arts class, but knowing what an analogy is (drawing a comparison between two seemingly different things, e.g.  Just as a caterpillar comes out of its cocoon, so we must come out of our comfort zone) will help you on the test.
  3. Read, read, read. Any reading you do—for school, for fun; books, novels, magazines, newspapers—can help with reading comprehension.
  4. But, read carefully! Take your time when you read. If you own the book, underline or annotate it with the themes or connections you see. When taking the test, read the questions carefully.

Tips from Kristin Krebbel, Notre Dame Prep math teacher:

  1. Practice general math WITHOUT a calculator. Get used to adding, subtracting, multiplying, and dividing on your own and on paper. Remember to use the test booklet to write down your calculations. Don’t rely on mental math!
  2. Familiarize yourself with comparison questions. You will be given problems to solve and then you must compare the options given to determine the correct answer. The best way to tackle comparisons is to practice them in either a test prep book or on a test prep site.
  3. Review the basics. Review decimals, fractions, percentages, long division. Again, a site like offers practice tests which go over these topics.
  4. Know some common math formulae. Basic geometry formulas, like the area of a square and rectangle, as well as the properties of angles, are key to answering many of the math questions presented on the HSPT.

Remember the HSPT is only offered on two Saturdays in the Baltimore area—December 1 and December 8. Sign-up and pre-register for one of the test dates by clicking here.

Happy studying!

One thought on “Succeeding on the High School Placement Test

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.