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CPS Selective Enrollment and Choice Programs

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!

Updates for Students Applying During the 2021-2022 School Year

CPS has announced that they will no longer require minimum NWEA MAP scores to be eligible to apply to Selective Enrollment High Schools or Choice programs. Instead, any student may apply, and selection will be based equally on scores from the CPS High School Admissions Test (CPS HSAT) and seventh grade grades. To learn more about the admissions process, check out info we've gathered from CPS here. You can learn more directly from CPS here.

Our Approach

At Nurturing Wisdom, we understand the high stakes nature of the exam. 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 language strategies, but have anxiety issues which derail their performance on the test.

Sections of the Test

As you may know, details of the test's content are not released. No sweat! We work on intense skill-building in each of the four areas tested so that students are prepared for whatever comes their way. A nice side effect is that all of this academic skill-building will impact their school work, too! Here's how we approach each section:

  • Vocabulary: On this section, we teach strategies that will help students deconstruct unfamiliar vocabulary.
  • 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.
  • Language: Our tutors tackle this challenging section head-on, teaching students the picky grammar, mechanics, and sentence structure skills.

In recent years, the adissions 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. (NWEA MAP scores are no longer part of the equation.) Learn more about the Selective Enrollment High School admissions process here.

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!

Online Tutoring

If you live outside of Chicagoland, we can still help! We love working one-on-one with students online to help them achieve their goals. Contact us to learn more!

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 they'll take as eighth graders, we do help seventh graders improve the academic 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 high school entrance specialist will be happy to answer your questions and help you decide on next best steps. Give us a call to learn more!