The SHSAT–An Introduction
SHSAT stands for Specialized High School Admission Test. It’s available to 8th and 9th grade students in New York City and used to determine admission to test-in public high schools, a list of which can be found here. Admission to these schools is based solely on SHSAT scores.
Students must register for this exam through their guidance counselor.
What’s on it?
The SHSAT has two sections:
An ELA (English Language Arts) section with grammar and reading comprehension questions
A math section
In the math section, there are five questions for which students must fill in their own answers. All other questions on the test are multiple choice.
The test is three hours long. Students can budget their time however they wish: there are no time limits per section and students can move between sections as they wish.
Can I take it at home?
Not at this time.
Are calculators allowed?
How is it scored?
The ELA and math sections each receive a separate raw score which is converted to a scaled score between 32 and 800. Minimum scores for all the specialized high schools can be found here.
There are 57 questions in each section, but only 47 are scored. 10 questions in each section are experimental and are being tested for future exams. It’s impossible to tell which questions are experimental.
How many times can someone take it?
You can take the SHSAT exam once per year.
Are past tests available?
Yes. A Google search will uncover past SHSAT exams. The most recent (as of 2021) can be found here. The first test starts on page 44.
Be aware that the SHSAT changed in 2017. The math changed a little; the ELA changed a lot. The math sections of pre-2017 tests are helpful as practice. The ELA sections are not.
When should my child start studying?
The SHSAT is challenging, and students should leave a lot of time for prep. I recommend students take a Biometric Edge SHSAT mock exam in February of 7th grade and use their results as a guide for when to begin serious prep.
The SHSAT is the fairest of the standardized tests. There’s no vocabulary, and the reading comprehension passages are hard for everybody. Students can also move back and forth between sections as much as they want.
There are between 9 and 15 grammar questions. Students must either spot errors or revise sentences. This section can be confusing to students, who mostly learn how to use grammar correctly and not how to spot grammatical errors. In addition, grammar instruction in public school is often light.
There are between 42 and 48 reading comprehension questions on the SHSAT. The passages are fiction, non-fiction and poetry. Some may contain charts, maps or graphs.
SHSAT reading comprehension is different from typical reading comprehension. Here are some examples of SHSAT reading questions:
The idea that many people did not believe the couple could rescue their relationship is illustrated in the passage mainly through which of the following?
Paragraph 4 contributes to the development of a central idea of the passage by
Which sentence best supports the idea the road trip succeeded in bringing the couple closer together?
Other reading comp focuses on understanding content. SHSAT reading comp focuses on how the passage is developed. This is intimidating to students the first time they see it. It is absolutely necessary for students to take at least two mock exams before the actual test to give them practice with this style of questioning. In addition, students should read a lot, including fiction, non-fiction, and poetry.
SHSAT math is fair but difficult. Like every standardized test, the SHSAT demands that students apply their knowledge to new types of questions. An example is below:
A beginning computer program randomly produces a number from 2-10 when a button is pushed. If the button is pushed 200 times, what is the best prediction for the number of odd numbers the computer produces?
This question isn’t that difficult if you know how to approach it, but many students don’t (the answer is D). In addition, the SHSAT has a lot of word problems and a lot of fractions.
The SHSAT is a good test, but difficult. It’s much more difficult than most schoolwork. Even if your child excels in school, start their prep early. Have them take a Biometric Edge mock exam in February of 7th grade. Use the results to see how much prep time you need.
One of the huge benefits of a Biometric Edge exam is that you can see how long a student spent on each question, and how long they spent reading each reading comprehension passage. This is always valuable, but never more so than when a student first takes a difficult exam. It’s important to know if a student tried to push through difficulty or if they gave up at the first sign of trouble. Only a Biometric Edge mock exam can tell you this information with certainty. Your child can excel on this exam, but you must know how to structure their time efficiently. Sing up for Biometric Edge mock exam here.
To your child’s success!