The SHSAT (Specialized H.S. Admissions Test)


The Specialized High School Admissions Test (SHSAT) is essentially the Gifted and Talented test for students entering high school. The test is taken by 8th or 9th graders who are interested in applying to any of eight of New York City's Specialized High Schools:

  • The Bronx High School of Science

  • The Brooklyn Latin School

  • Brooklyn Technical High School

  • High School for Mathematics, Science and Engineering at the City College

  • High School of American Studies at Lehman College

  • Queens High School for the Sciences at York College

  • Staten Island Technical High School

  • Stuyvesant High School

The ninth Specialized High School, Fiorello H. LaGuardia High School of Music & Art and Performing Arts, requires an audition and a review of academic records rather than the SHSAT.



SHSAT Links

> Applying to Specialized
Public High Schools

> Registering for the SHSAT
> What is on the SHSAT?
> How do I prep for the SHSAT?
> On Test Day
> Testing w/ Accommodations
> SHSAT Make-up Exams
> How is the SHSAT scored?
> When do I get SHSAT results?
> What do the results mean?
> SHSAT Practice Exams
> SHSAT Contacts/Resources

2016 SHSAT Dates


Oct 22 & 23, 2016 -- Test Days for 8th graders


Oct 30 & Nov 5, 2016 -- Test Days for all 9th graders, 8th/9th graders w/ 504s/IEPs and ELLs

These are also the Make-up Days (with documentation only)


SHSAT Date &
Location Details



Applying to Specialized Public High Schools


In order to apply to any of New York's Specialized High Schools, you must first coordinate with your school guidance counselor. He or she will be able to provide you with further information on the schools as well as your admission ticket to the SHSAT (or audition ticket, if you are applying to the LaGuardia High School of Music & Art).

Once you have your SHSAT admissions ticket, which you will get about a week before the test, you must fill in the names of the schools you intend to apply to in order of preference. These two points are critical: 1) you must fill out this list before the test date; 2) you must rank schools in order, starting with the one you would most like to attend. On the admissions ticket, you can list one school or up to all eight. You will not be considered for admission to any school you do not list on the admission ticket, but you should only list schools you are genuinely prepared to attend.

The choice of which schools to list and what preference to give them is highly personal. You should weigh the academic emphasis of each place, the size of classes, and even how you will manage the commute. Again, your school's guidance counselor can be helpful on this score.

After the test date in October, you must also submit a New York City Public High School Admissions Application to your guidance counselor (deadline is usually early December). On the application you will indicate that you will take or have taken the SHSAT. On this form, you will also have the opportunity to apply to other high schools/programs around New York City. Note: if you do not submit this form you will not receive the results of your exam.

Once applications are in, the SHSAT is the sole criterion for placement in the Specialized High Schools. All test-takers are ranked from highest to lowest. Administrators then start from the highest score, placing each student, in turn, in his/her highest prioritized school in which seats are still available. This process continues until all seats in all schools are filled. In February, you will receive final notification of your placement.




Registering for the SHSAT


In September of 8th or 9th grade, you should inform your guidance counselor of your intention to apply to one or more Specialized High Schools. The last day to register for the SHSAT is usually in early October. Prior to the testing date, your school guidance counselor will give you the SHSAT admission ticket (available for distribution about a week before). The ticket will indicate the location of the test, the date and time of the test, as well as your student ID number and school ID number. If you have a conflict with the test date/time/location, you should notify your guidance counselor immediately to arrange an alternate plan.




What is on the SHSAT?


The Specialized High Schools Admissions Test (SHSAT) is a 2-hour-and-30-minute, multiple-choice test consisting of two sections, Verbal & Math. Students are free to complete these sections in any order so long as they remain within the overall 2-hour-and-30-minute test time.


Verbal Section -- 3 parts -- 45 questions -- 75 minutes

  • Scrambled paragraphs -- 5 questions

Questions present students with the first sentence of a 6-sentence paragraph. The subsequent five sentences are then presented out of order. Students must use structural clues and logical analysis to place these sentences in proper sequence. This is intended to assess verbal reasoning skills and command of the principles of paragraph structure. Each correct paragraph in this section is worth twice as much as any other question on the test. No partial credit is given: every sentence must be in the right place or no points will be awarded.

  • Logical Reasoning -- 10 questions

This section contains 10 questions that assess your ability to reason, drawing valid conclusions from information provided. There are different types of questions: deciphering codes, determining relative positions of things or people, and drawing correct inferences from logical conditions, among others. Students must be careful to reason strictly from the information provided.

  • Reading Comprehension -- 30 questions

This section contains 5 passages, each followed by 6 questions that gauge the ability to understand written English. The passages, which range from 400 to 500 words, often include biographies, topics in history, science, art, or music, persuasive essays, and human interest stories. There are no fictional passages. One of the 6 questions will ask the main idea. The others will assess your understanding of the facts, how they contribute to the main argument of the passage, and what reasonable inferences can be drawn from them.


Math Section -- 1 part -- 50 questions -- 75 minutes


The Math section includes arithmetic, algebra, probability, statistics, and geometry problems. The 9th grade test also includes trigonometry. There are both computational and word questions. For the most part, the exam requires application of the concepts covered in the New York State Core Curriculum. Since there is a wide variance in the way that curriculum is taught in classrooms across New York City (and State), there may be topics on the SHSAT that have not been covered in your math class. For the most part, though, every concept on the test is likely to some degree to be familiar. The challenge often is identifying how to apply what you know in a new way. This adds an additional dimension to the test, since the ability to make creative use of familiar concepts demonstrates a greater degree of command. Of course, with proper test preparation, students can deepen and broaden their comfort with the core curriculum and develop their ingenuity with the fundamentals.




How do I prepare for the SHSAT?


The first thing you should do is get a copy of the Specialized High Schools Student Handbook, often available from your guidance counselor. If not, you can get it online at the Publications Page of the High School Section of the Department of Education website.

The handbook contains two full practice tests and a supplementary math section for 9th-grade test-takers. We advise that you take these practice tests under conditions that closely resemble those you will see on test day: do the test in one sitting; minimize distractions; if possible do the test alongside other students who might also be preparing for the SHSAT. If you are not where you would like to be, develop a plan for getting there.

You can prepare by yourself by using practice tests and SHSAT prep books available at most bookstores and online. If that doesn't produce the results you're looking for, or if you know that you're just not going to be able to do it that way, Partners with Parents works with the best SHSAT tutors, who are able to design a program and help you meet your goals by the time the October test date rolls around.




On Test Day


The first and most basic thing to remember on test day is to bring your admission ticket. Make sure that you are well-rested, and eat a good breakfast beforehand. You won't have a break during the test, so come ready to keep energized and focused for the full two-and-a-half-hour testing.

Bring several well-sharpened number 2 pencils with good erasers. Also, we highly recommend that you bring a watch to monitor your pace through the exam. Note, though, that calculators are not allowed, so any watch that includes a calculating function will be barred. Likewise, of course, all phones, iPods, pagers, and other electronic devices, computational aids or photo-capable technologies are strictly forbidden. Don't even bring them.




SHSAT Testing With Accommodations


Alternate test dates and locations are available to students with documented learning differences or other disabilities. Generally, this is limited to students with approved 504 Plans or Individualized Education Plans (IEPs). Your current school is responsible for submitting this documentation when the counselor puts in your request for an admission ticket. Please be certain that this is part of your initial conversation with your counselor. If you qualify for accommodation, make sure to double-check that your admission ticket reflects the correct test date (generally in November, after the main test date).

Note: Since the test is administered to many students at once, accommodations will not include having someone read passages aloud. Likewise, given the nature of the computational skills being tested, no accommodation will allow the use of a calculator on the math section.




SHSAT Make-Up Exams


If the regular test date that you are assigned conflicts with religious observance, please inform your counselor as soon as you receive your admission ticket, so that test administrators will be able to make arrangements for a Make-Up Test Date (in November). Similarly, If you have a health emergency and cannot take the test, you must contact your counselor immediately and provide medical documentation. If the documentation is accepted, you will be given a new admission ticket for an alternate date.

There is a single exam date at the end of the summer, almost always in late August, for students who have moved to NYC after the Fall exam dates. This is NOT a make-up exam! You must show proof of having relocated to to New York after the November make-up exam to take this test.




How is the SHSAT scored?


The most important thing to know about SHSAT scoring is that there is no penalty for a wrong answer. Your score is based on the number of correct answers. Therefore, leaving a question blank only hurts your chances, since wrong answers are not counted against you. That means if you are about to run out of time, you should answer all remaining questions, even if you have to make random guesses.

The total number of correct answers (two points for each correct Scrambled Paragraph; one point for all other questions) from each section results in your Raw Score. The SHSAT test-makers then use a secret formula to convert this Raw Score into a Scaled Score, which is the only score that matters for admission. These two scores are not proportional. For Raw Scores in the middle of the range of scores on a given section, say, 30 out of 50 points on a Math section, each additional Raw point might result in 3 or 4 Scaled points. Whereas, at the top of the range, say, around 45 out of 50, one additional Raw point might result in 10-20 Scaled points.

The consequence is that the test rewards excellence. Not all 70 point overall Raw Scores, for instance, will result in the same Scaled Score. An overall 70 points made up of 50 points on Math and 20 points on Verbal will, in fact, scale considerably higher than one that breaks down as 40 points on Math and 30 points on Verbal.

For test takers, therefore, if you have a pronounced preference for one section, make sure to optimize that score. You should not neglect the other section, but you should make sure that you get as much as you can out of your talents.




When do I get the SHSAT results?


In February (at least for the last few years), your school is notified as to whether or not you received an offer to a Specialized High School. If your test score qualifies you for an offer, then your placement will be based on how you ranked the schools. You will be offered a seat at your highest ranked school that still has openings available.




What do the SHSAT results mean?


The SHSAT is unlike virtually any other standardized test, so it's explanatory value is limited. It is a test you only get to take once (twice, if you reapply for 10th grade), without benefit of retakes. As such, its results can be even less a reflection of genuine ability than other standardized tests, where through retakes and greater familiarity with test-taking conditions and the conventions of the test, students can bring themselves more in line with their underlying abilities.

For those who do qualify for the school of their choice, remember that after you have prioritized schools on the back of your admission ticket, the decision about which Specialized High School you will enter is largely out of your hands. Once you've been placed, you are committed to staying in that school for one year. You can retest during your Freshman year for Sophomore admission to another Specialized High School, but for at least the first year, you will need to stay in the program you prioritized in October. As such, make sure you put in the time considering the" fit" of the school and its academic mission with your preferences and goals.




SHSAT Practice Exams


Far and away the best practice exams are those in the SHSAT handbook. Often, third-party prep books are written by people with only a passing familiarity with the test. The handbook's questions represent the best simulation of the question and answer design you will see on the exam itself. That makes your handbook (and, if possible, past handbooks you can find online) an indispensable resource.

Still, the question types (Scrambled Paragraphs and Logical Reasoning, especially) on the SHSAT are unique and the more practice you have with them the better. As such, prep books can be useful back-up. A range of them are available in local New York bookstores and online.




SHSAT Contact Info/Resource


The official publication on the SHSAT is available online here along with other information about high school admissions. For further questions about the SHSAT in particular, or high school enrollment in general, call 718-935-2399, or email HS_Enrollment@schools.nyc.gov.





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