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How hard is Boston’s exam school test? Try these sample questions

Boston Latin School, one of Boston’s three exam schools. PAT GREENHOUSE/GLOBE FILE PHOTO/Globe Staff

Boston’s public school leaders said Tuesday that the department is considering replacing the controversial entrance test for students applying to the city’s top-flight exam schools in grades 7 and 9. The move follows a Harvard University study last fall suggesting that the test, used by private schools for decades, presents a major barrier for black and Latino students.

Just how hard is the Independent School Entrance Exam? Here are some practice questions for ninth-graders provided by the ERB, the organization that administers the test. Answers are listed at the bottom. (No peeking!)


In the next two questions, select the word that is most nearly the same in meaning as the word in capital letters.



A. courtesy

B distress

C. geniality

D. temperance


A. artificial

B. disorganized

C. frugal

D. voracious


In the next two questions, select the word or pair of words that most correctly completes the sentence.

1. Always (fill in word), the journalist actively questioned the relevant viewpoints on both sides of the issue.

A. enigmatic

B. ignoble

C. impartial

D. partisan

2. Because the Jackson House Inn on Martha’s Vineyard maintains (fill in word) accommodations, guests routinely contribute ( fill in word) comments on the inn’s Web site.

A. arbitrary . . . amiable

B. immaculate . . . laudatory

C. reprehensible . . . cordial

D. utilitarian . . . inconsiderate


Select the answer that best illustrates numbers and operations.

1. If a is a factor of n and b is a factor of m, which statement is true?

A. nm is a multiple of ab

B. n is a multiple of ab

C. nm is a factor of ab

D. n is a factor of ab

2. Select the answer that most clearly illustrates the concepts asked for.


If x^2 + y^2 = 40 and 2xy = 24, what is the value of (x + y)^2?

A. 8

B. 16

C. 64

D. 960

3. Select the answer that best illustrates data analysis and probability.

Mrs. Grange decides to add 4 points to each of the test scores in her class. The range of the original scores is 35. What is the range of the scores with the 4 points added?

A. 31

B. 35

C. 39

D. 43


Verbal reasoning: 1. B (distress), 2. C (frugal)

Sentence completion: 1. C (impartial), 2. B. (immaculate and laudatory)

Quantitative reasoning: 1. A. (nm is a multiple of ab), 2. C (64) 3. B (35)