Saturday 29 April 2023

2023 OC preparation

This blog will take the load off the Mathemafix message board by hosting important information about 2023 OC preparation.

Reading the blog for 2022 OC Prep will also you valuable information.

We are now in the last week of OC preparation. Students are finishing off the OC trials and OC boosters to be ready for the 2023 OC test.

Some trial results


In the above OC trial results I include 4 results from 2022 students and their placement into OC classes to give ideas what it takes to get into OC. People can see that 63% on the trials would be enough to enter decent OC classes in the SW of Sydney and it's really hard to get into the top schools in the NW of Sydney.

Not all students are ready for the OC test. So, even if a student is not ready for the OC test, s/he needs to do at least some OC trial sets to know the difficulty. Do some OC boosters as well to boost the performance. After the OC test, one can go back to the normal pace and work on easier stuff to build the foundation and look toward selective test preparation for year 5.

For those students who have done enough and are ready for the OC test, it's time to finish off all the OC trial sets and revise failed questions carefully. One can do this either by using the module Super Revision or create a custom test for a series and going through the failed questions.

There are also past Cambridge papers for 2021 and 2022 and the Cambridge sample test in 2020. They can be downloaded from the SSU website or students can do the online versions already set up on Mathemafix.

We are now within the last 16 weeks of the 2023 OC test date. This is where students start doing OC trials and OC boosters.

Not all students are ready for OC trials. In order to be ready for OC trials, students should have the following:

- All year 5 school maths covered and a significant effort already put into maths problem-solving.
- Be able to score 85% plus on year 5 English comprehension and 85% on the series Mathematics Grade 5.
- Have watched the video lesson on Thinking Skills at OC level and start doing OC Thinking Skills Boosters

All students should follow the Minimum OC Work Plan 2023 to plan their tests and trials.

If parents are unsure about what to do, a training session is probably the quickest way to figure it out. Please make contact to arrange for this.

Sunday 16 April 2023

2023 Selective and Scholarship Test Preparation

This blog will take the load off the Mathemafix message board by hosting important information about 2023 Selective and Scholarship test preparation. 

15 May
Students have managed to win several scholarships. While the number is moderate this year, the scholarship process has been really difficult. Some schools interviewed students twice!

From what parents informed me, we have achieved (for 2024 entry)

1 x Santa Sabina (100%)
1 x MLC School (100%)
1 x Shore School (100%)
1 x The Scots College (100%)
1 x Cranbrook (partial scholarship)
1 x Georges River Grammar (partial scholarship)
1 x Scots All Saints College (partial scholarship)

There may be some more waiting for interview results and some parents have not told me.

04 May
Some students gave feedback on the selective test and generally, they feel it is easier than Mathemafix trials. They also feel that the TS on Mathemafix prepared them very well for the TS they saw in the 2023 selective test.

- In the English paper they did not give sentence cloze. They get students to pick the title/heading for paragraphs of text. This requires the skill to find the main idea. It's not hard. It is quite similar to 2022 when they as about summaries.
- In Thinking Skills, they still only use 3 question types for the verbal reasoning questions. So, nothing has really changed.
- The writing is about creating a character. So, it's just characterisation. However, there is a bit of email writing and it is like a persuasive task alongside a characterisation task.

24 Apr
We now are only 1 week before the 2023 selective test date. The delay of 6 weeks does not seem to help students. Most students just slow down their preparation instead of taking advantage of the delay to get more work done. However, this delay helps our top students to relax after they had a big private school scholarship campaign where they gained a number of interviews and scholarship awards. So, they cruise to the selective test in a very relaxed manner.

Here is the picture of selective trials

Students only have one more week to finish off their preparation and then relax for a couple of days to be fresh on the date of the test.

Last-minute preparation could include the following things

- Improve the exam techniques where hard questions must be skipped to save time and come back to do them later. There is a guide about this on page QUICK LINKS.
Make sure at least 4 trial sets are completed.
- Do all the Cambridge Selective samples including the last 2 past selective test papers.
- Review and close all failed questions

There are a few things to consider.


They introduced a new question type in the 2022 selective test where students deal with a summary of a paragraph. They did not give the question-type sentence cloze as in the 2021 selective test. This type of question is covered by all the reading skills series on Mathemafix so it's not so important. Students should train in the sentence cloze module and do the test series called English Summaries to be sure.


It looks like the maths they give in the past papers is pretty standard and close to Singapore maths style. They also add a small number of competitive maths questions of Maths Olympiad and AMC style. So, students who do enough maths tests on Mathemafix are expected to do very well. There is no concern here. However, there are weak maths students and they should at least try to do well on the OC level maths to hope for a score around 70%.

Thinking skills

Thinking skills trials on Mathemafix are harder than the real thinking skills papers. There are plenty of TS training and booster tests.  Many students find the selective TS level too hard. Students who are weak in this should at least complete all the available TS materials at the OC level.


For the last 2 years, Cambridge gave really easy writing tests. They gave a fictional recount style instead of the hard narrative style. This means the marking will be based more on grammar, spelling, choice of words and realistic ideas. It will be less on theme and techniques. However, there is nothing to stop students from writing in the narrative style. I believe that using the narrative style might give students more marks. An easy way is to introduce a conflict and complications into the work and also add a theme. This will really help to gain better marks.

- Add a conflict at the beginning of the text. For example, in the 2021 Cambridge writing prompt about the container washing up on a beach, one can mention a group of environmentalists demonstrating at the scene. In the 2022 Cambridge writing prompt about a diary entry on a future date, one can add a conflict between the house robot and the narrator.
- Once a conflict is added in, one can proceed to create a few complications and later add a resolution at the end.
- To add a theme to a work, the proper way is to repeat the thematic idea several times alongside the actions and events. However, a cheap and dirty way is to get one character to say it out loud in a dialogue. For example, if the theme is heroism, one can get a character to say it out loud, "Bob is an average hero that I look up to," said Fred. It's a dirty and cheap way but having a theme is better than nothing. There is a guide about setting up a theme on page QUICK LINKS.

On the day of the test

Here are some useful tips about the day of the test to make sure things go smoothly.

- Relax your child for the day. Stop working 2 days before the test.
- Plan to take your child to a celebration lunch after the test and let your child take the rest of the day off to have fun. Make this known to your child well in advance.
- On the day of the test, a decent breakfast is important to top up the level of energy. A cup of tea will add a little caffeine to help your child stay alert. A jacket may be needed to keep your child warm on a cold day. And some high-energy snack is good to top up during the break.
- Arrive 20 minutes early to find parking and also find the way to the school's toilets. Your child needs to know the way so s/he can rush out of the hall at the break to get there and not have to wait in a long queue (and get back late for the next test).

12 Sep
For entry to Year 7 in 2024, applications are expected to open on 18 October and close on 16 November 2022. The Selective High School Placement Test will be held on 4 May 2023. The test will be paper-based.

Primary schools will not be required to provide school assessment scores for applicants for entry in 2024.

2 Sep
ICAS results are out and also NAPLAN results are out.
I find a result from a fairly weak student who has decent vocab and spelling. I worked with him for over 4 hours on NAPLAN and I was very surprised with the writing and grammar results. They always say that NAPLAN writing is hard and I have seen lots of results over the years and it's very hard to get to the top arrow.

Attached here is the NAPLAN writing prep he did with me just before the NAPLAN test. We only worked on writing a few times before he did this narrative. I did not think the narrative was good. But it is certainly not too bad. The difference I see in it from many other students' works is a reasonable attempt to flow the ideas and making sure there is a proper start, story development and ending.


The message I get out of this is that the basics of writing skills are so important. That's what markers look for. Interesting ideas are not so important. It's so important to flow the ideas so that the story makes sense. It's important to selective teh rigth words that help the expressions be accurate. It's vital to get the structure correct.

2 Sep
By now students should have completed all year 6 maths online and start to focus on problem solving. They hopefully already start English comprehension year 6. The top performers are well into year 7 English comprehension.

Parents should consider joining the kids to the Google Advancaed Maths Class and the Google Online Writing Class.

The video lessons will help students to get to the next level.

21 Aug

Parents should read the blog for the 2022 selective prep to get some idea about how students performed and what experience we gained from it.


Friday 21 October 2022

2022 OC preparation

This blog will take the load off the Mathemafix message board by hosting important information about 2022 OC preparation. 

29 Oct
Finally, the OC result is out. Some parents have not received email from the SSU. Parents can just log on the SSU website where they applied for the OC to see the result.

Then on the webpage, there is a link to the performance bands as well.


Generally, kids need to be in the top 10% to get a place in a top tier OC class. One of the band can be in the second band (15%) which is the top 25% to get a place in a middle level OC class.

22 Oct
The result for the 2022 OC test will come out very soon. The SSU says it will come out late Oct so it must be out by next week. We will expect a great set of result. This year, they changed the reporting format so parents will not get much details from their reports. The information they give is ranking relative to other candidates.

They do not indicate where a student lands in any range. So, when they say a student is in the 25% band, they mean the student is between 51% and 74%. And obviousl;y, there is world of difference between 51% and 74%. So, parents cannot compaer the results. Even in the 15% band, the student will be beween 76% and 89% and that is also very wide so we cannot compare.

To make it into one of the good OC class, students are expected to be in the top 10% band for all areas.

28 July
Congrats on finishing the OC test. I will update this blog as students do the survey and later when the result comes come back.

 14 July
Now is probably the time for students who have done at least 6 OC trials to do the sample Cambridge OC test provided by the SSU. This sample can be done on Mathemafix website or on paper.

The year 6 students doing teh 2022 selectiev test reported that Cambridge put more hard matsh problem solving into teh TS paper. I think this is to stop students from getting a high mark. So, students should practise hard matsh probem solving. Doing the year 4 Singapore maths past papers on the page Download will help.

13 July
We are only 2 weeks away from the OC test. It's now so important that students should complete 6 trial sets.Past experience shows that when the trial average is about 65%, there is hope at low OC classes. An average around 70% is needed to get a place in a middle ranked OC class. For the OC classes in the NW of Sydney, students would need an OC average trial score around 80%.

Here is the trial results so far.


12 July

Here is the OC for 2021 as reported by some parents. It gives an idea what your child will need to get to get a placement. The test in 2021 was a shortened version and it was done online due to covid.

Monday 1 August 2022

2022 Selective and Scholarship Test Preparation

This blog will take the load off the Mathemafix message board by hosting important information about 2022 Selective and Scholarship test preparation. 

21 Aug
The Equity Placement Model.

So, far I don't think there is a lot impact. The impact is only on the few students who are at the border line of entry into the selective schools. The impact is more on the part selective schools and those closer to poor areas of Sydney and mainly for those who want to go to their closest selective schools. It also gives a better chance to those who come from poor areas and wish to travel to the top schools like Sydney Boys, Sydney Girls and North Syd Boys/Girls ...

Some results for 2022 selective test

TS performance was the best among the four components then Maths, Eng and Writing in the order.

20 Aug

This year, they changed the format and parents are no longer allowed to know the scores. Now we only have bands and there is no way to compare students within the year. The bands are wide and there is no arrow to indicate where a student lands in each of the bands. In a sense, the report is similar to ICAS results without the high distinction band (top 1%).

They have also started the Equity Placement Model where socio-economic disadvantaged students are given up to 20% of the places. This year 8.7%of the places have been offered under this new scheme. I have read the info and it looks like they take some places out of available places at each school. Then they place the students normally. Then look at the students who make the reserve list and select the ones who are deemed to be socio-economic disadvantaged (if there is any applying to the school) and give them priority placement into the places reserved for socio-economic disadvantaged students. The mystery is that no one knows how they decide who is a socio-economic disadvantaged student.

They also change the reserve list info and now we do not know the place on the reserve list. They only mention A to F and it looks like students in A - D groups have a high chance of placement.

As they no longer provide the score and only provide the ranking in bands, I generate a score using this formula. I give a score for each area by assigning a band number between 1 and 4 from lowest to highest.

profile = (eng*0.25+math*0.25+ga*0.35+writing*0.15)/4

It is based on the weighting of the areas (ignore school marks) and the max profile will be 1.

It gives a relative idea how a result can be compared even though it is not accurate and cannot differentiate students of similar performance. For example, student A gets Eng (band 4), Maths (band 2), TS (band 3), Writing (band 2) and student B Eng (band 3), Maths (band 2), TS (band 4), Writing (band 2). They have similar performance, right? No. This is because in band 2, one can be on the left 51% and the other on the right at 74%. The SSU has stopped parents from being able to compare results. Only results that have subjects mostly in band 4 are easier to compare to those without many in band 4. 

Look at the following example of 3 students of very similar performance in selective trials and all 3 applied to Fort Street. The set of result for SopR that appears as the weakest is actually the strongest who got straight in! KV1 got on the reserved list and LT1 missed out completely.

As we have over 15500 candidates and only about 4400 selective school places, less than 1/3 of the students will get an offer. So, this means those score only in band 2 (ranked between 51% - 75% of all students for most parts) are unlikely to get a placement). 

13 Aug
The selective result will come out soon. I had a look at the ranking of students on selective trials and the ones who got scholarship interviews and find that it's interesting that even the weak students may get a scholarship from low-ranked private school.

The student near the bottom with a red dot next to his nickname actually gain a scholarship at George River Grammar which is a mid tier private school with fee around 13K per year. We should expect a pretty good set of results.

02 Aug
The 2022 selective test results will come out in the middle of Aug. That's only about 2 weeks from now. I expect a good set of results with all the effort we all put in and the experience from the 2021 selective test effort.

Here are the key dates for parents to oberve.

Mid-August 2022

Placement outcomes expected to be released

August 2022 to May 2023 Parents accept or decline offers
Late-August 2022 Results enquiry due 5 working days after outcomes are released
Late-August/early September 2022 Appeals due 15 working days after placement outcomes are released
Late-August 2022 Reserve lists activated until at least May 2023
October 2022 Appeals outcomes released
14 December 2022 at 3pm Students who have kept offers are removed from reserve lists

Mid-January 2023

Authority to attend letters for entry in 2023 are sent

May 2023 Reserve lists close


24 Apr
Here are some scholarship test results that gain invitations to interviews and some were offered scholarships.

From top tier private schools

 From mid tier private schools


18 Apr
The feedback given by students differe a lot as students are of different levels and they do different contents in Mathemafix. The ones who do a lot of work and covered most of the content in Mathemafix tend to give more positive results. So, what I have here is the averaging of their ratings which does provide a fair picture.

As I go deep into the comments provided by the students, I can see that Cambridge Assessments has adjusted the selective test to be different from the 2021 selective test. This is expected as they would try to make sure it is not too easy for the kids.

I have found the following changes to the 2021 test.

In English reading, they provide a questions that contrast between 2 texts. They also change the sentence cloze to the first sentence of each paragraph and this explores the main idea rather than taking out sentences at random locations (this change is very minor and well covered by contents at Mathemafix on main ideas). I think that all this is minor changes.

In maths, they have made the test a bit harder as the one in 2021 was too easy. Generally, students think Mathemafix covers the maths very well (same as feedback from past years). However, they notice that there was a bit more of Singapore matsh style which is well covered by the hard maths problem solving series and maths challenge year 6-7. I think it's inline with what students do at Mathemafix if they do the hard series. Students will continue to do very well in maths.

The big change they had was in Thinking Skills. Surprisingly, they decide to put more maths reasoning into the paper. This favours the students who do the hard maths problem solving at Mathemafix. So, while students think the TS trials at Mathemafix does not exactly covers the TS part in the selectiev test, the overall TS content (from the boosters and the maths problem solving) covers the TS paper well.

In writing, they again give a recount bordering a simple narrative. So, it is easier than past writing prompts by ACER. Students, who attended the writing class at Mathemafix and paid for professional marking gave a thump up. They think the writing training very helpful as we have gone way beyond the required level. This makes perfect sense as we aim for excellent results in scholarship writing which is a much higher level. And this is confirmed by some of the scholarship test results showing writing was  where the winners got their highest score (even higher than maths!)

08 Mar
Some students have done the 2021 past paper. The raw scores were probably a bit lower than the scaled scores reported by the SSU in the results sent to students last year. So, direct comparison would not be fair.

Three students have been offered scholarship interviews. The red dots identify these students to give some idea the performance of the group.



















17 Sep

It's now the time for year 5 students to start paying attention to writing.

Writing is an area where students really struggle. I find that students tend to have a lot of problems in so many basic areas:

- Punctuation and sentence structure: Students don't know where is the end of a sentence so they have run-on sentences all over the place. This is where they have many clauses in one sentence without using conjunctions to connect them. They also don't know how to us the comma, speech marks (punctuation of dialogues).

- Correct choice of conjunctions to join sentences: Students tend to pick the wrong conjunctions and make the meaning unclear.

- Paragraph: Students often don't know that one paragraph should only contain one main idea. They tend to write their entire text or story in one or two paragraphs!

- Format of a non-fiction paragraph: Students often don't even know the basic structure of a non-fiction paragraph so they write ineffective paragraphs.

To improve basic writing skills in order to move on to write good narratives and persuasive tasks, students should access the following Mathemafix resources

1- Mathemafix's Online Writing Resources (on page QUICK LINKS). This document guides students to how to use all the e-writing resources on the website. This is the map to all important writing resources.

2- The module Punctuation in More ...

3- The essential videos: Adjectives | Adverbs | Participles as verbs and adjectives | Phrases | Adjectival and adverbial clauses | Conjunctions | Use conjunctions to make flowing sentences | Sentence improvement | Sentence construction | Common errors in writing, Text composition skills | Main Idea and Finding Main Idea. They can be found in the module "Writing Workshop".

4- Finally, the most important thing is to write and get feedback. Students should use (1) above to explore all the e-writing modules. Then use the Selective Writing module to practise writing tasks. In this module, parents can help mark the writing of students or pay for professional marking service.

14 Sep
Year 5 students are getting to the final term of year 5. Without such a long lockdown in Sydney, school marks won't be used in the selective application this year. This is good because school marks are very unreliable. The result from 2021 shows that English reading and thinking skills will be most important. Writing also helps a lot. This makes people wonder why a high maths score does not help and whether it's important to do well in maths at all. The answer is not simple.


Maths score is not very important because too many students score too well in maths. But maths takes up about 40% of the thinking skill paper! So, maths is very important and not so important at the same time! Confused? You are not alone.There is an explanation for this.

The maths they put into the maths paper is basic in nature. It is easy and school-type maths. So, most students score very well. The maths in the TS paper is a mix of general knowledge and word problems to explore how students think mathematically. This is the hard-core maths problem solving plus with making a decision based on mathematical calculations. This type of mathematical thinking is almost absent in maths learning at schools until students get to year 8-9. This is why the maths reasoning questions in the TS paper are so hard.

So, students should  do the hard maths challenge series and maths problem-solving series and learn the maths problem solving strategies provided by Mathemafix website.


English reading is so important. It looks clear that the marking favours students who are excellent in either English reading or TS over those who get decent scores across all areas. They might have applied HSC scaling style where it favours those with extremely high scores. Students are troubled by the sentence cloze question type where it's very difficult to put back sentences that have been taken out of a text. Students must be able to predict what the text is about, the structure (organisation) of the text and have the patience to review the whole text before they finally decide what is going where ... This tests the patience of the  students as well as knowledge and skills. Another challenge is poetry which is abstract and demanding in general knowledge and maturity. 

To help students, Mathemafix provides a Sentence Cloze module for students to practise this type of questions. A new series of poetry tests will help students improve comprehension of poetry.


14 Jul

The 2021 selective test results look very good. All the noise about Thinking Skills turns out to be nothing. It's of zero concern and actually TS is probably easier to learn than GA where there is really no good way but to do a lot of GA questions. At least, with TS, one can learn properly. And that's why I have created video lessons and practice tests for students. TS learning also enhances writing and reading.

The scores students get for TS look very good and a couple of students got 100%! It looks like we actually over-prepared for TS. Students were advised to also do the GA as well because it's part of TS visual and mathematical reasoning but many did not. We could have got even better results for TS if all students did GA.

The scores for English looks a lot better than those from ACER time when they gave tricky English. I also see high writing scores among students who were actively working on writing with the Selective Writing module. So, overall, I can see that the number of students getting to top 10 selective schools increases over last year's.

The main point I take out of the 2021 selective test results to help kids improve in 2020 is that we now have much better TS prep for the students. The year 5 students now have access to a comprehensive TS preparation module for year 4 students doing OC test. This prep is almost enough for selective TS level. In addition, they will also use the TS prep for year 6 which is a bit too high but that will help more students to score over 90% for TS in 2022 selective test.

05 Feb
Now is the time for year 5 students to build the foundation. Mathemafix is offering two online Google class to take students to a high level of performance in mathematics and in writing.

The first class is for advanced mathematics. It is designed for students who have completed all year 6 school mathematics. The time is really flexible as students have a whole year to do this Google class from now until Feb 2022.

The second class is about narrative and persuasive writing. There is no requirement before starting this class. Students are supposed to have basic grammar and spelling at year 5 level.  Similar to the maths class, the time is really flexible as students have a whole year to do this Google class from now until Feb 2022. 

One of the most important thing about writing is that students need a marker to review and comment on their works. Mathemafix will provide on-demand marking to allow parents to pay only for each piece of work that they request marking.

03 Jan

In 2022, students will be doing an online selective test. They actually planned an online test for 2021 but they changed their mind. They may change their mind again in 2022 unless they think there will be enough computer resources to do this online.

They will replace the GA questions by thinking skills questions. If we look at the selective sample TS paper, they have about 50% of mathematical+spatial reasoning questions and 50% verbal reasoning questions. The big question in the mind of parents would be whether GA tests are still relevant. My opinion is that the GA questions are still relevant as they boost skills in maths reasoning, spatial reasoning and vocab which is useful for understanding verbal reasoning questions. This is why I think students should still do GA tests. There is nothing to worry about the 50% of mathematical+spatial reasoning as I expect students on this website have all what they need to do well.

Then the next question is "What is the TS verbal reasoning?" It's a new style of questions based on verbal arguments. It is grouped into 2 groups. One is of argument and the other one is of logical deduction (only a few questions). The argument group uses the basic skills students learn in English reading with a focus on Main Idea, Supporting Details, Conclusion and Argument. An argument can be defined as a process where the writer/speaker presents the main idea and supporting details on the way to reach a conclusion. So, one can consider "argument" as a presentation method (writing method). Students already work on these basic skills when they do the Reading Skills series from year 3-5. What Cambridge does with TS questions is that they set them at a very hard level where all the basic skills must be good enough before students can deal with Cambridge's questions.

But all this change does not really make much of a difference because students still need to prepare the foundation before they reach the level where they can deal with the exam. And this means the real test preparation only happens about 12 weeks before the exam. The only difference is that the TS questions are set at such high level that it does not make sense for kids to start doing any selective trials before the end of year 5.

01 Feb
The OC result from the delayed 2020 OC test looks much as expected from an ACER test. The only notable difference is that English scores look more stable. The GA scores actually looks high so the scaling for it is probably lower. Students will move on to 2022 where they will do the new Cambridge test. This roup is lucky because in 2021, the first group to do the Cambridge test will face a lot of uncertainty due to the change in test format and the switch from GA to Thinking Skills.

For details on the 2020 OC prep and test result, follow this link.

18 Nov
The OC test in 2020 has been delayed so much that it happens in Nov. Students are tired and they don't get a lot of break time to rest before year 5 starts. What this means is that students should be allowed to rest very well from Nov to Jan 2021. Often parents are in a hurry to get students back to studying again for the selective test. This is not a good idea.

However, for those who really rest, it's a great time to improve English by simply reading a big variety of books and big fiction series. English is always the most important area of learning as it supports GA and word problems in maths. It's very important to enrich English vocab to cope with the hard verbal tests in GA.