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How to Improve Your SHSAT ELA Section Score

Student's notebook and pencil.

ELA, English Language Arts is a fundamental skill that students develop through their education journey. About 50% of the SHSAT tests students on this fundamental skill that they have been developing through their education careers. For those who are new to the world of the SHSAT exam, the SHSAT is an entrance exam about 30,000 students in the New York City school system take for a chance to get an offer from one of 9 specialized high schools. 

Click here to learn more about the SHAST.

The SHSAT comprises a Language Arts and Math section. The questions in these sections push students to learn and hone their skills in more advanced topics to achieve the scores they need. Students are given a total of 3 hours to complete the full exam to the best of their ability. It is recommended to divide the time in half and allocate each half to a different section of the exam (i.e. 90 minutes for ELA).

What is the ELA section?

The ELA section tests students on their skills in Reading Comprehension and other English Conventions. This section has 57 questions, divided into 3 sections: Revising/Editing Sentences, Revising/Editing Passages, Reading Comprehension. There are 3-5 questions for Revising/Editing sentences, 6-8 for Revising/Editing passages, and the rest of the questions for Reading Comprehension.

Revising/Editing Sentences

In this section, be very aware of any and all grammatical errors as you read the sentences. It is always a good idea to identify the problem before reading. Look for anything that may be out of place or a mistake in word choice. When choosing your answer, select the correct choice that won’t alter the meaning of the sentence.

If you want to read more about tips and tricks for this section, click here.

Revising/Editing Passages

The key tip in this section is to think holistically. Think about the sentence that you are having to edit in context of the passage that it is placed in. Identify exactly what the issue is: structure could be off, or ideas can be underdeveloped. Note the errors that you see while reading because they may come in handy. This is why annotating as you read is an important skill to develop. Remove any answers that don’t make sense. After eliminating the “useless” answer choices, choose the answer that makes the most sense, doesn;t change the meaning of the sentence, has no grammatical errors, and is as concise as possible. 

If you want to read more about tips and tricks for this section, click here.

Reading Comprehension

I’ve set this before. The only real way to improve your reading comprehension skills is to just read. Read everything. Any medium you can get your hands on. Read them. In this section of the test, you will have to read and analyze different types of text. Types of passages on the exam include social studies, humanities, poetry, fiction, and non-fiction. Test makers will purposefully make the passages boring/unfascinating to test your stamina. Building up your reading stamina will help you conquer this easily; and the only way to build your reading stamina is… say it with me, to read.

There are 4 types of questions that appear on the Reading Comprehension section:

  • Global: these questions will ask about the central ideas present in the passage
  • Detail: these questions will ask about specific details, quotes, or figures in the text.
  • Inference: these questions will ask you to extend the knowledge you’ve gained through the passage to make inferences.
  • Function: these questions will ask you to make a judgement about the purpose of a certain decision the author has made.

If you want to read more about tips and tricks for this section, click here.

Now, these are just tips and tricks to help you during test day, or when you are doing practice exams. You should be actively practicing, whether with a tutor or through practice books that are available. If you want to know some tips on how to maximize your studying for the ELA section of the SHSAT, click here to read our article on tips to prepare for the SHSAT.

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