Understanding the HSPT Format: Your Guide to Success

February 9, 2024
3 min read

What is the HSPT? This article will explore the HSPT exam's key features, including the HSPT format, sections, answers to questions such as “what is a good score on the HSPT?” and other important information you need to ace this exam.

One of the ways Catholic high schools evaluate the academic abilities of prospective students is through the High School Placement Test (HSPT). This is a graded admission test for students seeking entry into the ninth grade.

The significance of the HSPT cannot be overstated, as it plays a pivotal role in the admission process. Your HSPT score and other relevant details are used to assess your enrollment eligibility, and some Catholic schools even consider it when awarding scholarships.

Achieving success on the HSPT is every student's goal. However, many still need to learn strategies to improve their performance and effectively prepare for the test. 

Fortunately, you have come to the right place to comprehensively understand the HSPT format. This guide is a complete resource, addressing all your questions and providing valuable insights into the exam's content and requirements. Read on to discover everything you need to know about the HSPT.

What Is the HSPT?

So, what is the HSPT? The High School Placement Test (HSPT) is a standardized test designed to measure the academic abilities of eighth-grade students seeking admission into Catholic high schools. The test consists of different concepts that aim to test the student's academic level.

The HSPT can also be used for scholarship selection and course placement for outstanding students.

The HSPT is taken within a 2-hour and 30-minute time limit. It measures an applicant’s verbal skills, reading comprehension, and quantitative abilities. It’s essential to note that students can only take HSPT once, and it cannot be repeated under any circumstance. 

Like most entrance exams, the registration process for the HSPT is peculiar to each school. Hence, applicants should reach out to their prospective schools about how to register. Students applying to multiple schools should register and take the test at the school that has their highest interest. After this, they can request their grades be sent to the other schools of interest. 

HSPT Format

The HSPT format shows that the test is a 2-hour, 30-minute exam with breaks. It consists of five sections, namely:

  • Verbal skills
  • Quantitative skills
  • Reading comprehension
  • Mathematics
  • Language 

The test is written manually, which means it is a paper-based test. Frequently, the test is administered in the school where the applicants registered on specific dates around the year. 

Some schools will include extra sections, like science and religion in their exams. So, applicants should check their prospective school admission section and be familiar with the sections that will be administered. 

It is also important to note that calculators are not allowed for the test. Additionally, there are no essay questions on the HSPT and no penalty for choosing incorrect answers.

Since the HSPT is entirely a exam, it’s essential that students explore strategies for taking  tests to prepare. 

Young male student studying textbooks

HSPT Sections

As highlighted above, the HSPT is divided into five different sections. We’ll break down the each section below.

HSPT Verbal Section

The HSPT verbal section aims to measure the applicant's verbal skills, which include vocabulary and logical reasoning. The questions in this section revolve around verbal analogies and measuring the ability of the applicant to perform quantitative reasoning. Below are the most common question types in the HSPT verbal section:

  • Antonyms
  • Synonyms
  • Verbal classification
  • Logic

This section contains multiple-choice questions that span for 16 minutes only. In addition, the questions are mixed in no particular order. 

HSPT Quantitative Section

The quantitative skills section can be defined as one that measures the ability and understanding of the student in solving mathematical operations, geometric figures, and  reasoning problems that involve numbers.

While preparing for this section, applicants should draw from their mathematics and quantitative reasoning classes. This section aims to assess the applicant's understanding of mathematical and basic quantitative concepts and solve questions in the same setting.

This section of the HSPT format consists of 52 questions within a 30-minute time-frame. To further break this down, the topics involved in this section include addition, subtraction, geometry, and algebra. Conclusively, the section can be summarized into four areas listed below:

  • Number Series requires the applicant to find the next number in a series of numbers provided. 
  • Number Manipulation involves the addition of single digits to numbers of different sizes. It is also the subtraction of single digits from numbers of different sizes. 
  • For Non-geometric Comparison, applicants are given three quantities and are required to choose the answer that correctly compares the quantities.
  • Geometric Comparison is when applicants are given geometric figures and are required to choose the answer that shows an accurate comparison between the quantities and figures.

It is important to note that the questions in this section are from the curriculum taught in elementary and middle schools. When preparing for this section, students should focus on improving their time management skills for effective studying and preparation for HSPT. 

HSPT Reading

The HSPT reading section measures the ability of the applicant to interpret ideas and their vocabulary. It consists of 62  questions that the applicant is allowed to complete in 25 minutes. 

The reading section is generally divided into comprehension and vocabulary. Comprehension consists of 40 passage questions.

This section also assesses a student’s understanding of ideas, themes, and tone. In addition, it also tests your ability to interpret information and summarize key concepts within a body of text. 

The second component of the reading section is vocabulary, containing 22 questions. Most vocabulary questions are formatted as short sentences with a keyword. Students will have to choose the correct definition of the keyword to earn points. 

HSPT Mathematics

This section assesses students’ foundational math skills. For the mathematics section of the HSPT, test-takers will be required to understand basic algebra and geometry. Students must be familiar with the measurements and operations relevant to these topics.

The HSPT Mathematics section has 64 questions and is allotted 45 minutes to complete. 

HSPT Language 

The language section is the last in the HSPT format. It is made up of 60 questions, which are to be completed by the students in 25 minutes. 

It assesses the spelling, punctuation, and capitalization abilities of the students. Also, it tests other English concepts and has questions related to verbal reasoning. Below are the three types of questions in this section:


For this part, students are given three sentences in which one may have errors related to punctuation, spelling, or usage. After checking the question well, students must choose the sentence with an error out of the three. For sentences with no error, the student must select "no mistake."


Various composition questions can show up under this part. What is important is that the student should be able to recognize the most clearly written sentence. 


In this aspect, students are given three sentences in which one may have an error in spelling. Hence, students must choose a sentence that does not contain mistakes out of three. Like the grammar aspect, if there is no sentence with an error, the student will select the option that says "no mistake."

How is the HSPT Scored? 

According to the HSPT format, the test is scored based on its categories. Below is a breakdown of the scores used in HSPT:

  • The raw score is the total number of correct answers a student chooses in each section.
  • The standard score converts the raw score in each section to a range of 200 to 800.
  • Percentile ranking converts the raw scores in each section to a percentage ranging from 1-99.
  • The composite score combines each section's standard score and percentile ranking.

The categories of scores above are used to measure the student’s academic ability and determine whether they will be admitted or not. 

What Is a Good Score on the HSPT?

According to the HSPT format, the scores are reported as percentile. The percentile score, as explained above, ranges from 1-99. The 76th-99th percentiles are considered high scores; the 24th-75th percentiles are considered average scores, and the 1st-23rd percentiles are considered low scores. 

Hence, a good HSPT score is a score of about 75, and the 50th percentile is generally considered the average. It is important to note that there is no passing or failing score according to the HSPT format. Each prospective school will determine whether the score is good or not. This further answers the question, What is a good score on HSPT? 


Now that we’ve covered the essentials of the HSPT, we’ll answer from frequently asked questions you may still have. 

1. What Is the Purpose of the HSPT? 

HSPT aims to assess the academic ability of eighth graders seeking admission into the ninth grade of specific Catholic High Schools. It is also used for scholarship awards and course specifications. 

2. Is the HSPT Hard?

Like most standard tests, HSPT can look hard and challenging. However, if you prepare well enough, passing is easy.

3. What Does the HSPT Consist Of? 

The HSPT consists of different sections: verbal, quantitative, reading, mathematics, and language. 

4. Why Should I Take the HSPT? 

The HSPT is essential if you’re seeking admission to a Catholic High School. From HSPT scores, schools can make admission decisions, place applicants, and determine eligibility for scholarship awards.

5. Who Created the HSPT?

The HSPT was created by Scholastic Testing Service (STS), Inc., headquartered in Bensenville, Illinois. The HSPT was created to help high schools admit students, placing them in the correct classes, and awarding them scholarships.

6. How Do I Register?

Registration for HSPT depends on the school a student is applying to. Students should reach out to their prospective schools to register.

Final Thoughts

The HSPT might seem like a challenging feat. However, proper preparation can make passing the test easy. 

With the rigors of test prep, it’s essential to understand the benefits of having a good score to keep you focused and motivated. Developing effective study habits early on will also help students on the path to their chosen school.

Hence, students should take advantage of the available resources and stay updated with the latest information about HSPT to get admitted into the school of their choice. With proper information and preparation, students can confidently sit for their HSPT and pass with flying colors.

Good luck!

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