What Is the HSPT Test and How to Prepare for It?

March 26, 2024
5 min read

The HSPT will help you get into top-tier high schools that set you up for success. This article will outline everything you need to know about the HSPT.

The HSPT test is defined as a pivotal admissions exam that enables eighth-grade students to gain entry into top-tier Catholic high schools. A striking 99.3% of students at top-tier Catholic high schools get accepted into four-year colleges at more than double the rate of public school peers. 

As a specialized test catered to Catholic institutions, strong HSPT scores grant access to your junior year of high school. While certainly challenging, understanding the exam’s structure and tailoring preparation to its advanced concepts empowers students to excel.

What Is The HSPT Test?

The HSPT is a standardized test taken by eighth-grade students seeking admission to Catholic high schools. It was developed in 1955 and measures students' abilities in verbal skills, quantitative skills, reading comprehension, mathematics, and language.

Administered by Scholastic Testing Service (STS), the HSPT provides objective insight into a student's strengths and areas needing improvement. On the HSPT are five sections:

  • Verbal Skills: Assesses reasoning abilities and depth of vocabulary through analogies, verbal classification, and sentence completion questions.
  • Quantitative Skills: Tests mathematical problem-solving talents via word problems and quantitative comparisons.
  • Reading: Measures reading comprehension, inference skills, and recall through passages and related questions.
  • Mathematics: Evaluates calculation proficiency and understanding of concepts like arithmetic, algebra, geometry, and statistics.
  • Language Skills: Examines mastery of writing conventions, including capitalization, punctuation, usage, and expression.

The HSPT is scored on a scale of 200–800 for the total sections. STS converts raw scores into percentile rankings to demonstrate performance versus other test-takers. 

Since STS does not offer official prep materials, students should use alternate study guides for effective content review, practice questions, test-taking strategies, and more. Committing months to build abilities can lead to HSPT success.

Why Should I Take the HSPT?

As you consider your options for high school, taking the HSPT opens doors to receiving a high-quality education at these selective schools. Here are the top reasons why you should take the HSPT.

1. Gain Admission to Top Private High Schools

The HSPT allows you to apply for admission at many prestigious private high schools. These schools often have rigorous admissions standards, small class sizes, innovative academic programs, and high college acceptance rates.

Even if you have good grades, many selective high schools still require HSPT scores. The exam tests critical thinking skills beyond what grades alone can show. Strong scores open up choices for your high school experience.

2. Get a Head Start on College Prep

Private high schools that use the HSPT focus heavily on college preparation. Their curriculum goes deeper, teaches you how to write a good essay, provides SAT/ACT prep classes starting freshman year, and works closely with students on the college application process.

Here is a list of some of the top private high schools that use the HSPT for admissions:

School Type HSPT
Regis High School Free Jesuit Required
Notre Dame High School Catholic Prep Required
Loyola School Jesuit Required
Fordham Preparatory School Jesuit Required
Louisville High School Catholic Required

By attending one of these high schools, you immerse yourself in an environment with the resources and support to get you college-ready by the time you graduate.

3. Smaller Classes and More Attention

HSPT high schools typically have small class sizes, averaging 15–22 students versus 30+ students in public schools. This means you get more personalized attention and support from your teachers. When teachers can give focused help to each student, it translates to well-rounded academic outcomes and preparation for higher education.

4. Innovative Academic Programs

The HSPT provides opportunities to enroll in high schools with specialized academic programs you won’t find at most public schools. For example:

  • Cutting-edge STEM programs with advanced computer science, robotics, and engineering courses
  • In-depth humanities and liberal arts curriculums
  • Immersive language programs to achieve fluency in multiple foreign languages
  • Hands-on business and entrepreneurship tracks
  • Accelerated medical, law, and finance career-focused studies

These innovative programs help you explore passions and prepare for competitive college majors.

5. Develop Critical Thinking Abilities

The HSPT evaluates skills beyond academic knowledge, testing your critical thinking abilities in many areas. Mastering these skills, along with the test-taking experience, gives you an advantage for college entrance tests. Strong critical thinking is also valuable for college studies and career success.

6. Opportunity for Scholarships

By taking the HSPT and applying for private high schools, you open up potential scholarship opportunities that can reduce your overall tuition costs. Schools award these scholarships based on HSPT scores and other admissions criteria.

Even if you don’t score highly enough for a full scholarship, strong HSPT scores make you eligible for partial scholarships, lowering the tuition burden. Given the high yearly tuition at these schools, every little bit of scholarship money helps.

7. Take Control of Your Future

At the end of the day, the HSPT provides an opportunity to take control of your academic future. The exam is a stepping stone to attending a high-performing high school that best matches your abilities and interests.

Instead of just defaulting to your local school, taking the HSPT puts you in the driver’s seat to pursue new directions for your all-important high school years.

The HSPT requires diligent preparation, but the personal growth, college-readiness foundation, and school options it provides are invaluable. For motivated students looking for extra help with the HSPT, consider enrolling with one of our tutors to ace the test with confidence!

What Is On the HSPT Test?

The HSPT format is comprised of five sections with multiple-choice questions for each. The sections on the HSPT include verbal, quantitative, reading, math, and language.

HSPT Verbal

The Verbal Skills section has 60 questions to be completed in just 16 minutes. It evaluates a student's reasoning abilities using words and language. Specific topics include:

  • Synonyms - different ways to say one word
  • Antonyms - words that have opposite meanings
  • Analogies - determining relationships between word pairs
  • Classifications - identifying the word that doesn't belong in a group
  • Logic - evaluating the truth of an argument's conclusion based on prior statements

Strong vocabulary, abstract thinking, and quick analytical skills are required to score well in this fast-paced section.

HSPT Quantitative

The Quantitative Skills section contains 52 questions over 30 minutes. It measures a student's reasoning abilities using numbers and mathematical concepts. Key topics include:

  • Number series - determining patterns and relationships
  • Geometric comparisons
  • Non-geometric comparisons
  • Number manipulations - multi-step arithmetic word problems

Students must flex their logical thinking muscles on quantitative puzzles that go beyond routine math problems.

HSPT Reading

The 25-minute Reading section has 62 total questions evaluating reading comprehension of short passages. In 25 minutes, students must grasp the main ideas, identify key details, understand vocabulary in context, and make logical inferences. Additional skills tested include:

  • Literal and interpretative comparisons
  • Drawing conclusions
  • Determining author purpose
  • Recognizing fact vs. fiction

HSPT Mathematics

The Mathematics section contains 64 questions over a 45-minute timeframe. It covers a range of fundamental math topics, including:

  • Arithmetic - addition, subtraction, multiplication, division
  • Numbers and numeration
  • Measurement concepts
  • Geometry principles
  • Basic statistics and probability

While calculators are not allowed, the math stays focused on core skills rather than advanced algebra or geometry.

HSPT Language

The last HSPT section measures Language Skills in 60 questions during a 25-minute block. It evaluates English grammar, punctuation, spelling, capitalization, and usage conventions. Specific topics include:

  • Punctuation - commas, semicolons, colons, apostrophes
  • Capitalization rules
  • Grammar - parts of speech, subject-verb agreement
  • Spelling
  • Syntax and word usage
  • Sentence structure

Understanding exactly what the HSPT covers allows students to target study efforts to boost scores.

Dates Application Steps
March 1st – December 31st The Pre-Candidate Questionnaire (PCQ) opens on March 1st. The deadline to submit your PCQ is December 31st of your senior year. This is the first step in the application process and must be completed to be considered for acceptance.
July 15th – January 31st Once you complete your PCQ, you will receive further information on your next steps.
December 1st – January 15th Summer Seminar applications open December 1st, and the deadline is January 15th. No late applications will be accepted.
January Your SAT or ACT must be taken by this time. Your test scores must be sent from either testing authority (ACT or College Board).
February – April Applications are reviewed, and offers on appointments are made during this time.
April Most applicants will find out their admissions status by this time. Results will be posted to your application portal.
June Summer Seminar begins.

How to Prepare for the HSPT

Doing well on the HSPT involves identifying your learning style and tailoring your study sessions to the exam's subject matter. Use these key tips to master critical knowledge and skills tested on the HSPT:

1. Work on Verbal and Reading Skills

  • Strengthen vocabulary by studying Latin and Greek roots, prefixes, and suffixes. 
  • Improve information retention through daily reading practice
  • Analyze passages to identify main ideas, themes, tone, and author’s purpose. 
  • Review analogies, classifications, antonyms, and synonyms. 
  • Learn speed-reading techniques to finish the reading section.

2. Practice Quantitative Concepts

  • Master essential math concepts like ratios, percentages, fractions, integers, sequence prediction, and basic geometry. 
  • Become adept at translating word problems into mathematical equations and critically reviewing quantitative information. 
  • Take timed practice tests to improve speed and accuracy.

3. Review Grammar and Writing Rules

  • Study the rules for proper grammar, punctuation, capitalization, and spelling.
  • Learn how to identify errors, correct sentences, and improve clarity in writing. 
  • Practice editing paragraphs to apply these concepts.

4. Take Simulated Tests

  • Take full-length practice exams under strict time limits to build endurance and replicate test conditions. 
  • Review incorrectly answered questions by re-studying those skills and topics. 
  • Have someone time you as you take practice sections to get comfortable with pacing yourself.

5. Use Test Strategies

  • Answer questions strategically based on your strengths. For example, save time-intensive critical reading questions for the end. 
  • Use elimination strategies for difficult questions with obviously wrong answers. 
  • Allow time to review and correct errors at the end of each test section.

6. Manage Test Anxiety

  • Get plenty of rest and nutrition leading up to the test date. 
  • Arrive early so you are on time and relaxed. 
  • Use positive self-talk if you grow anxious or frustrated during difficult sections. 
  • Stay calm and maintain focus on the questions rather than dwelling on past mistakes.

7. Simulate Test Conditions

  • Take the HSPT in an environment mimicking actual test-day conditions. 
  • Strictly time yourself and take the full test without breaks. 
  • Sit at a quiet desk without distractions. 
  • Request complete silence from family members for the duration of the test. This builds mental endurance and accuracy under pressure.


If you’re still unsure about the HSPT, check out the most commonly asked questions about this topic.

1. What Is a Good or Average Score for the HSPT?

A good HSPT score is within the 76th–99th percentile. The average score on the HSPT falls within the 50th percentile. Anything below the 24th percentile is a low score for the HSPT.

2. When Is the Best Time to Prepare for the HSPT?

Students should begin studying eight to 12 months before taking the HSPT in eighth grade. Starting prep early in 7th grade equips students to develop abilities versus last-minute cramming.

3. How Long Should I Prepare for the HSPT Test?

You should prepare 100–150 hours total over eight to 12 months leading up to test day. Budgeting one to two hours daily or five to 10 hours weekly provides enough time to master concepts and strategies.

4. Can I Retake the HSPT to Improve My Score?

Yes, it is allowed and fairly common to take the HSPT more than once. Many students retest to try to improve their scores after additional preparation. Schools generally consider a student's top section scores across test attempts during admissions decisions.

Final Thoughts

The HSPT is defined as a pivotal stepping stone in a student’s academic journey. Excelling on this specialized exam opens doors to attending top-tier private high schools boasting elite college prep programs, innovative academic opportunities, small class sizes, and merit scholarships.

While requiring diligent preparation, strong HSPT scores empower students to take charge of their futures. Success promises access to individualized instruction and cutting-edge courses tailored to ambitions. Mastering the HSPT not only accelerates college readiness but cultivates lifelong talents to analyze, reason, and solve problems.

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