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CPS Selective Enrollment and Choice Schools

The admissions process for CPS Selective Enrollment High Schools and Choice programs is complex. We'll help you make sense of it, and help your child do their best on the test!

Our Approach

At Nurturing Wisdom, we understand the high stakes nature of the CPS High School Admissions Test (HSAT), which is used for admissions to Selective Enrollment and Choice high schools. Students are vying for a limited number of available spots, so there is little room for error. Coupled with the secrecy surrounding the test, of course students and parents feel anxious and uncertain. We're here to help!

While we can't wave a magic wand, we can help students achieve great scores by addressing four core areas: test taking strategies, academic skills, test anxiety, and timing. A deficiency in any of these areas can lead to a score that doesn't reflect a student's ability. For example, a student may have mastered their math skills and strategies, but have anxiety issues which derail their performance on the test.

Sections of the Test

The digital HSAT includes two 30-minute sections: reading and math. Further details about the content of hour-long test are not released. No sweat! We work on intense skill-building so that students are prepared for whatever comes their way. A nice side effect is that all of this academic skill-building will improve their school work, too!

We also make sure that students are prepared for the digital nature of the test. Our 1:1 in-person and online tutoring includes content and strategies for both sections of the test:

  • Math: On the quantitative section, we emphasize techniques for word problems, geometry, and math translation. Since calculators are not allowed, we also practice mental math computation skills.
  • Reading: We take a hands-on approach to the reading section, teaching active strategies for comprehension, question-answering, and timing.

In recent years, the admissions test has also included an experimental, unscored section which was similar to an IQ test. We do not know if a similar section will appear on the test in future years.

Scoring and Admissions

The CPS HSAT accounts for one-half of your child's admission score. The other half comes from their seventh grade grades. Learn about the Selective Enrollment High School admissions process here, and more about International Baccalaureate program admissions here.

Our students have been admitted to their top-choice schools, including Payton, Jones, Northside, Whitney Young, and Lane Tech.

Testing Accommodations

Securing appropriate accommodations for your child can be daunting since CPS follows a very specific set of rules for accommodations approval. We can help you understand this process so that you can effectively advocate for your child. Our expert tutors are also well-versed in how to adjust strategies for students who receive accommodations.

Getting Started

All students begin by taking a diagnostic pre-test. After the pre-test is complete, we'll put together a tutoring timeline outlining how much tutoring we recommend, goal scores, and which test dates we suggest preparing for. We recommend that students begin tutoring in the summer, but we’re happy to begin working with students during the fall as well!

Sign up for one of our proctored pre-tests, a great opportunity to get a feel for the real test day. If you're unable to make a proctored test date, you can take a free practice pre-test on your own!

Why Nurturing Wisdom?

Nurturing Wisdom goes beyond just helping your child get a great CPS test score. With a strong tutor match, your child will look forward to tutoring sessions, follow through on independent work, and become a more confident learner. Your tutoring director will walk you through every step of the process. They will help you put together an optimal timeline, keep you posted on progress, remind you of important deadlines, and answer any questions you have along the way. If your child will need to take more than one type of high school entrance test, a director will help you figure out the most effective and efficient way to prep. (Learn more about high school entrance tests in general here).

Seventh Graders

While seventh grade is too early to start tutoring for the CPS HSAT itself, we do help seventh graders improve the academic and general test-taking skills they'll need to do well on the exam (and beyond)! Many students also come to us for executive functioning tutoring.


Need some help navigating the ins, outs, ups, and downs of high school entrance tests and admissions? Our tutoring directors will be happy to answer your questions and help you decide on next best steps. Contact us at 312.260.7945 x2 or one of these ways!