Overview of Catholic School Entrance Exams
Regardless of whether your children will be attending Catholic school for the first time or if they’ve been going since elementary school, before beginning the 8th grade or higher, they will be required to take and pass an entrance exam. The two major ones offered are the COOP and the HSPT. A less common entrance exam is the Test for Admission Into Catholic High Schools or TACHS. Let’s examine these, and what you can expect on each.
COOP refers to the Cooperative Admissions Examination Program. It’s simply an objective assessment of the student’s foundation of skills and knowledge. It gives the school an idea of your mastery of your analytical and verbal skills–skills that are required to do well in a Catholic school environment. The COOP is administered for admissions into schools in the Archdiocese of Newark, in the counties of Essex, Bergen, Union, Hudson, and Rockland (NY) and the Diocese of Paterson, in the counties of Passaic, Sussex and Morris.
The student can expect to spend four hours in the testing room, completing questions that are assigned a total of 2 1/2 hours (the other hour and a half are for getting settled in the room, waiting for instructions from the test supervisor, and waiting for others to finish each section). Sections on the COOP include: Sequences (20 questions), Verbal Analogies (20 questions), Quantitative Reasoning (20 questions), Verbal Reasoning – Words, (20 questions), Verbal Reasoning – Context (10 questions), Reading Comprehension / Language Arts (40 questions) and Mathematics (40 questions).
All questions on the COOP are multiple-choice. There is no penalty for a wrong answer, other than getting the question wrong, so the student should answer everything. If you don’t know – guess. More on Guessing. The first three sections test how a person thinks more than what they know. For this reason, it’s often easier to study for the last two sections, where your performance will be determined by how much students remember from what they learned in school. So if you have only a short time to prepare for the test, you’re more likely to pick up some extra points by reviewing for those last two sections. Also, keep in mind that a student may only take the COOP once.
HSPT stands for High School Placement Test and is administered by the Scholastic Testing Service. Times and locations for the test vary from year to year and region to region. Most Catholic schools, though, can advise you when and where it can next be taken.
The HSPT is also entirely multiple-choice. It’s designed to test both what the child has learned at school at what ways the child learns. The total amount of time allocated for all sections is 2 1/2 hours, and the total period that the child can expect to be in the testing room is 3 1/2 hours.
There are five required sections to the HSPT (and optional sections that a specific school might decide to also give their students). The five required sections are Verbal Skills, Quantitative Skills, Reading Skills, Mathematics Skills, and Language Expression Skills.
Quantitative Skills, Verbal Analogies, Math Skills, and Language Skills, not including Reading Comprehension, all concentrate heavily on the basic facts and formulas that the child has learned in school. The other two sections focus more on how well the student does abstract thinking and analysis. For this reason, it’s easier, in your review for the test, to concentrate on the three sections that emphasis what the child learned in school. That’s because a refresher course on absolute facts can often bring a significant improvement in the number of points he or she scores. It’s far harder in a review “crash course” to teach the child how to think in an abstract manner.
In other words, don’t waste your time reviewing in areas where it’s not likely to make a difference. Concentrate on those areas where you’re likely to see the biggest gain.