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SHSAT (Specialized High Schools Admissions Test)

What is the Specialized High Schools Admissions Test (SHSAT)?

Administered by the Department of Education, the Specialized High Schools Admissions Test (SHSAT) is taken by 8th and 9th graders for admission into specialized high schools in New York City, and is the only acceptance factor for eight of the nine specialized schools, making test prep a crucial factor in obtaining the best score possible.

When and who takes the test?

The test is usually given in the fall, one year before entry into the 9th or 10th grade. (i.e. The test is given in the fall of 2018 for entrance in the fall of 2019). Most students who take the test are 8th graders, who will be entering their first year of high school; The 9th grade SHSAT is offered for those who are taking the test for the first time, or for those who want a second chance at applying to a specialized high school.

While the SHSAT is offered twice, we recommend that 8th graders take the test; there are an extremely limited amount of seats that open up for entry into the 10th grade, so your child’s chances of being admitted to a school are much higher for entry into 9th grade.

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Registering for the SHSAT:

Registration is done through your school’s guidance counselor who will issue you an admission ticket to take the test. Contact your school’s guidance office at your middle school or high school, to sign up.

SHSAT content and length:

The SHSAT is a timed, pencil-and-paper test and has two 57-question sections: English Language Arts (ELA) and Math. Students have 3 hours to complete the test and may use their judgment in determining how much time to spend on each section. There are 4 multiple choices per question. One raw point is given for each correct answer. No points are taken off for wrong answers.

Question TypeDescriptionNumber of QuestionsQuestion Breakdown
Revising/EditingThese Questions test your ability to recognize and correct language errors and to improve the overall quality of a piece of writing205-7 standalone questions, and 2 passages with 6- questions each.
Reading comprehensionThese questions test your ability to understand, analyze, and interpret what you have read.376 reading passages with 5-7 questions each
ExperimentalThese questions do not count towards the final score and are for research purposes. The student does not know which questions are experimental.10These are interspersed throughout revising/editing and reading comprehension sections!

The ELA revising/editing questions test your ability to recognize and correct language errors and to improve the overall quality of a piece of writing.

The ELA reading/comprehension questions test your ability to understand, analyze, and interpret what you have read.

There is no essay on the SHSAT!

Math format:

Question TypeDescriptionNumber of Questions
Grid-InThese questions require the student to “grid in” their numerical answer choice in a chart of numbers.5
Multiple ChoiceThese questions test what the student has learned in math class through the 8th or 9th grade. Each question has 4 choices.52
Experimental QuestionsThese questions are interspersed throughout the test and do not count towards the student’s final score. The student does not know which questions are experimental while taking the test!10
  • 5 grid-in questions
  • 52 multiple-choice word problems and computational questions
  • 10 experimental questions

The SHSAT Math section features word and computational problems involving addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division, including some problems that involve working with fractions, decimals and statistics.

How is the score used by the specialized high schools?

All test scores are ranked from highest to lowest composite score (see below). The students are assigned to schools in order of highest to lowest score, according to their first choice until all available seats are filled.

SHSAT scoring:

A raw score is earned based on the number of correctly answered questions.The raw score is converted into a scaled score for each section of the test. Then a composite score is compiled from both sections.The highest composite score is 800.

The SHSAT is unusual in that it rewards students for being very good at one thing. A student who gets 70% correct in both sections won’t do nearly as well as someone who gets all of one section correct and only 40% of the other correct, even though their total number of correct questions is identical. Like many other tests, the SHSAT converts your raw score into a scaled score, which is supposed to take in account, the differences between versions of the test . However, they go one step further and give students many more points as they score higher and higher in one section. Each section (ELA and math) will include 57 items: 47 items in each section will be scored, with each question worth 1 raw score point, and the remaining 10 items in each section will be field test items that are not used in determining a student’s score. 

Sample Scoring Table:

Below is a sample scoring table for a given section of the SHSAT. Note that in the lower end of a raw score, questions are worth more points than in the middle range. However, once a student gets over 38 questions correct (in this example) the questions are worth more points again. This means that if a student does really well on one section, their score will be boosted even more.

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