SHSAT Information

What is the SHSAT?

The Specialized High School Admissions Test (SHSAT) is the sole admissions criterion for entry to the eight New York City specialized high schools. Students in both 8th and 9th grade are eligible to take the exam. 9th graders take a slightly different exam, but the vast majority of students take the exam in October of their 8th grade year. Scores are scaled based on the raw amount of questions answered correctly on both the ELA and math section, with a maximum of 400 points on each of the two sections. Admission is granted to the top scoring students, with varying cutoff scores for each school. Official cutoff scores are not released, but according to self-reported accounts, cutoffs from the last many years have ranged from 475(~65% correct) for Brooklyn Latin to 565(~84% correct) for Stuyvesant. Students have three hours to complete the exam, can complete questions in any order, and are not permitted use of a calculator. The standard allotted time for the exam is 180 minutes; however, extended time and accommodations are available for students with Individualized Education Plans (IEPs) and English Language Learners (ELLs). Explore the sections below to learn more about the specialized high schools, the particular types of questions found on the exam, and the most important tips to use and myths to avoid.

 

High School of American Studies at Lehman College

  • Enrolled Students: 376

  • Borough: Bronx

  • Latest Reported Cutoff: 516

  • Reported SAT Average: 1380

  • Niche.com Ranking: #12

  • US News and World Report Ranking: #1

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What are the Specialized High Schools?

Bronx High School of Science

  • Enrolled Students: 3010

  • Borough: Bronx

  • Latest Reported Cutoff: 512

  • Reported SAT Average: 1400

  • Niche.com Ranking: #3

  • US News and World Report Ranking: #9

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The Brooklyn Latin School

  • Enrolled Students: 664

  • Borough: Brooklyn

  • Latest Reported Cutoff: 479

  • Reported SAT Average: 1250

  • Niche.com Ranking: #69

  • US News and World Report Ranking: >250*

*Brooklyn Latin is penalized in scoring algorithms due to offering International Baccalaureate(IB) classes over Advanced Placement(AP) Classes. See here for information IB programs. Brooklyn Latin placed 1st overall in New York State in News and World Report as recently as 2013 before the new algorithm was implemented.

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Brooklyn Technical High School

  • Enrolled Students: 5534

  • Borough: Brooklyn

  • Latest Reported Cutoff: 486

  • Reported SAT Average: 1330

  • Niche.com Ranking: #13

  • US News and World Report Ranking: #12

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High School for Mathematics, Science, and Engineering at the City College of New York

  • Enrolled Students: 475

  • Borough: Manhattan

  • Latest Reported Cutoff: 504

  • Reported SAT Average: 1330

  • Niche.com Ranking: #9

  • US News and World Report Ranking: #3

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Queens High School for the Sciences at York College

  • Enrolled Students: 434

  • Borough: Queens

  • Latest Reported Cutoff: 507

  • Reported SAT Average: 1360

  • Niche.com Ranking: #22

  • US News and World Report Ranking: #8

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Staten Island Technical High School

  • Enrolled Students: 1279

  • Borough: Staten Island

  • Latest Reported Cutoff: 515

  • Reported SAT Average: 1380

  • Niche.com Ranking: #2

  • US News and World Report Ranking: #5

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Stuyvesant High School

  • Enrolled Students: 3327

  • Borough: Manhattan

  • Latest Reported Cutoff: 555

  • Reported SAT Average: 1460

  • Niche.com Ranking: #1

  • US News and World Report Ranking: #13

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What is on the SHSAT?

 

As of 2018, the SHSAT has 114 total questions. Of these questions, 104 are graded and 10 are used to test problems for various biases. Students will not know which questions are the graded questions, so they should treat all questions similarly. Half of the problems appear in each of the two separate exam sections: ELA and Math. The first ~10 questions of the ELA section of the exam test a student's ability to recognize both copy and content errors in sentences, paragraphs, and passages. The remaining ~47 questions test students reading comprehension. These questions more closely align with the standardized tests that students will have taken prior to the SHSAT. The math section begins with 5 questions of any problem type, which students must solve and enter full answers. The remaining questions are multiple choice and test students ability in arithmetic, algebra, geometry, statistics, and applied mathematics. The SHSAT is a no-calculator exam.

Grammar and Editing Section

The grammar and editing section will consist of six stand alone problems and 14 problems based on a 4-5 paragraph essay. Roughly six of the problems on this section will test students' mastery of grammatical norms. The remaining ~14 questions will test students' mastery of rhetorical norms. While the standalone problems will have a larger concentration of grammar-based questions, grammar and rhetorical questions will be spread throughout both standalone and essay questions. 

Grammar problem types will test mastery of:

  • Comma Use

  • Verb Tense

  • Pronoun Use

  • Dangling Modifiers

Rhetorical problem types will test mastery of:

  • Thesis Statement Construction

  • Transition Words

  • Proper Paragraph Construction

  • Cogent Inductive Argumentation

  • Precision

The most difficult questions on this section will test students' ability to properly place a sentence within a paragraph. Similar to the former scrambled paragraph section, these questions require students to master many of the individual skills listed above. See below for information on precision questions and comma questions. Throughout the year, we will be providing in-depth analyses of other grammar and editing topics on our blog.

Precision

 

Example

Read this sentence.

After preparing the deal for a long time, the businessmen were able to make the firm a large profit.

What is the most precise revision for this sentence?

A. After preparing for the deal for awhile, the businessmen were able to make the first the largest profit of the quarter.

B. After preparing for the deal for three years, the businessmen were able to make the firm a massive profit.

C. After preparing for the deal for three years, the businessmen were able to make the firm a large profit.

D. After preparing for the deal for three years, the investment bankers were able to make the firm a massive profit.

Precision questions are a prevalent problem type on the new SHSAT. Precision questions may appear in either standalone form, such as the example to the left, or in the context of a passage. The two major ways by which a sentence is made more precise on the SHSAT is through categorical precision and numerical precision.

 

Categorical precision moves an element of the passage from a general category to a more specific example from that category. For example, in answer choice D, "investment banker" is more categorically precise than "businessmen." 

Numerical precision clarifies the quantity of an object or the severity of an action. For example, while answer choice A simply states that the deal was prepared "for awhile," answer choices B, C, and D specify a specific amount of time--three years.

Commas

 

Example

Read this sentence.

The wise old king, known for his eloquence in speech, was unusually quite as he saw the jester make jokes concerning members of the court. 

What edit should be made to correct this sentence?

A. Delete the comma after speech.

B. Insert a comma after wise.

C. Insert a comma after quite.

D. Delete the comma after king.

Questions that test students' mastery of comma usage are widely prevalent in the new SHSAT section. Students should have a firm grasp on rules concerning appositives, the relationship between independent and dependent clauses, the use of commas to separate multiple objects in a list, and rules concerning coordinating adjectives. In the example listed, B is the correct answer, due to "wise" and "old" being coordinating adjectives. 

Reading Comprehension Section

Students who have taken other standardized tests will likely be well acquainted with the SHSAT reading comprehension section. Like many exams, the SHSAT reading comprehension section will consist of short passages. Each passage will be followed by questions that ask the student to identify the passage's main idea, find important information from the passage, and make inferences based off of the presented information. While this section will feel familiar to most students, there are a few notable differences. Firstly, the exam will only have non-fiction articles. Secondly, most questions of this type will not direct you to a specific line. Instead, students will need to identify the critical information in the question and rapidly find the relevant material from the passage. Students will also find far fewer vocabulary related questions. See below for information on main idea questions. Throughout the year, we will be adding in-depth analyses of other elements of SHSAT reading comprehension on our blog.

Main Idea Questions

Example

Which of the following best tells what this passage is about?

A. The reasons why the industrial revolution occurred at a specific time.

B. Ways that the industrial revolution impacted the world.

 

C. The reasons for the industrial revolution and why it had such a large impact.

 

D. The history of Henry Ford. 

Main idea questions can often confuse students who are normally stellar at reading comprehension. Passages are often mere parts of a larger text, and it can be difficult to generate objective metrics for understanding the more implicit information in a passage. For that reason, the SHSAT relies on the prevalence with which an answer choice occurs in different paragraphs throughout the reading passage. Each paragraph is considered a separate critical element of the passage, and as such the answer choice which relates to the most paragraphs is considered by the test makers to be the main idea of the passage. Main idea questions will always be the first question to appear after a passage.

Math Section

The SHSAT math section differs from most other 7th/8th grade standardized tests in several ways. Firstly, unlike exams such as the ISEE or TACHS, the SHSAT hosts a relatively low percentage of mathematical problems with a clear computational approach. These problem types, described as "arithmetic" problems, make up a large portion of these other exams, but account for a far smaller percentage of this exam's problem type distribution. Secondly, the SHSAT boasts a large amount of word problems. These questions will often have fairly simple mathematical underpinnings, requiring students to perform a number of computations or simple proportion, but will be stated in such a manner that may confuse students. Becoming accustomed to various forms of a problem and mastering the conceptual underpinnings of the SHSAT math material is critical to improving on these questions. Besides arithmetic and word problems, the test also has algebra, geometry, statistics and data analysis. See below for information on SHSAT algebra and SHSAT proportion problems. Throughout the year we will be updating our blog with more in-depth analyses of specific SHSAT problem types. 

Example

Generally, SHSAT algebra problems can be broken down in to two categories. The first problems are similar to the problem displayed. In these problems, students will be asked to find the value of a variable. Knowledge of the associative, communicative, and distributive properties of numbers will help answer these problems. The second problem type will give a set of perimeters for a variable and then ask  students to choose an equation or value that is true based off of the initial variable's qualities. These questions test a students understanding of number concepts. Both problems can often be solved through plugging in answer choices or values that adhere to the stated perimeters.

Algebra

Proportions

Example

At the local car factory, workers were able to create 250 cars within 8 hours. At this rate, how long will it take workers to produce 7500 cars?

A. 240 hours

B. 30 hours

C. 300 hours

D. 24 hours

Seventh grade students who are not taking Algebra 1 will be well acquainted with proportion problems. These problems range widely in difficulty and appearance, and they are fairly prevalent in the math section. While the common core state test prefers the use of problems dealing with percentages in order to test proportions, the SHSAT addresses a more varied set of applied uses. Besides the standard proportion, shown in the example here, the SHSAT also uses proportions between three objects, requiring students to find common variables and multiples before going forward with the problem. 

Frequently Asked Questions

 

Should my child only focus on their stronger section? Is the scaling algorithm really such that a strong math student should only focus on math?

As with all education-related topics, the answer depends on the student’s ability in different topic areas and the knowledge that the student brings to the class. However, it is rare that a student should only focus on one subject.

The ELA and math sections of the SHSAT are graded separately on a non-linear scale. A student improving from 10 to 11 correct questions on one section will have their overall score increase by 9 points, a student improving from 30 to 31 correct questions correct will have their score improve by 4 points, and a student improving from 41 to 42 correct questions will improve their score by 6 points. Therefore, if a student begins their SHSAT preparation with 30 questions correct on one section and 41 correct on another section, then an improvement of one question on the stronger section would yield the student 50% more points.

However, because questions have different levels of difficulties and students improve on question types at different rates, it can often be easier to improve from 30 to 32 correct questions than 41 to 42 correct questions. When studying for the exam, it is best to identify the problem types on which students can most easily improve and approach these before tackling more complex problem types; Students often stumble over the easiest material due to lack of familiarity. 

The main situation where students should strive to perfect a strong section is when they are determined to attend Stuyvesant. Due to Stuyvesant's high point cutoff, the bonus points one received from getting 85%+ problems correct is often the easiest pathway to success. 

In order to ensure that you are targeting the correct problems and maximizing point yield, use representative assessments and practice wisely.

I see online practice tests and my child was sent home with a booklet containing two practice tests. Should my child practice from these?

When working with students and schools, one of the biggest obstacles to rapid success is overly liberal use of the city-generated practice tests. Many online and in-book resources suggest that you should quickly complete these exams so as to prepare from direct material. This is a mistake. 

While the city does release a Specialized High School Handbook every spring, the two exams in these books largely use material recycled from previous years. Because of this, despite there being years of official practice tests one can find online, there are actually only enough content to fill four official tests. The test makers are given millions of dollars to make the SHSAT and use fairly rigorous research to minimize the impact of bias and poor test making for the real exam and for these practice tests. As such, it is incredibly hard for any test prep company to make a truly representative practice test. In order to really know how you are performing in a test day environment with a full exam, it is critical that you have these three to four official exams to use throughout your preparation process.

 

Official practice tests are the most important resource for guiding instruction and ensuring that no gaps in your preparation are missed before the test day. After a student has completed a full practice test and received proper analysis on their results, the exam can then be used for practice; however, any use of the exam for these purposes prior to the proctored practice date will adulterate the results. 

Do you have more questions about the SHSAT, Specialized High Schools, High School admissions, or test preparation in general?

Contact us for personalized assistance, consultation, free practice tests, and preparation options. Additional information on preparing for the SHSAT with EnrichmentEdu can be found here.

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