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What is the SHSAT?

The Specialized High Schools (group of schools that require the SHSAT exam to admit students) are a group of 9 schools in the NYC DOE public school system that provide a high quality of education to their students. Students from these schools tend to have higher admissions rates to top colleges and better scores on their standardized exams.

These schools are a part of the NYC DOE, meaning they do not charge parents money for their students to attend. However, the admission process for these schools are not exactly the same as any other high school in the system. These schools require students to take the Specialized High School Admissions Test (SHSAT). The SHSAT is a big ‘ol question mark in many people’s minds. Some have heard of it from friends and family, some through the school system, and some just flat out have no idea what it is. 

The 9 Specialized High Schools are:

  1. Stuyvesant High School
  2. Bronx High School of Science
  3. Brooklyn Technical High School
  4. The Brooklyn Latin School
  5. The High School for Math, Science & Engineering
  6. High School for American Studies
  7. Queens High Schools for the Sciences
  8. Staten Island Technical High School
  9. Fiorello H. LaGuardia High School of Music & Art and Performing Arts

Out of these 9 schools, 8 of them require students to take the SHSAT exam. Fiorella LaGuardia requires students to attend auditions for their arts programs instead of the exam. None of these schools take into consideration the applying students’ middle school GPA or attendance records during the admissions process.

The Breakdown Of The Test

The structure of the SHSAT is a little unorthodox, but it is based on the Common Core Standards taught in school. This test only happens once a year (usually around mid to late October). It is scored out of 800 maximum points and students get a total of 3 hours to complete the exam. Students are tested on their Language Comprehension (broken into 2 subsections, Revising & Editing and Reading Comprehension) skills, and Mathematical Comprehension skills. 

The Language Section and Mathematical section each have 57 questions, for a total of 114 questions. Out of the 57 questions in the Language Section, 9-19 questions are allocated to the Revising & Editing subsection, and 38-48 questions allocated to the Reading Comprehension subsection.

In the Revising & Editing subsection, there are two sets of questions. The first set is called “Standalone” questions. These “Standalone” questions provide test takers with sentences/paragraphs for them to edit and provide the correct grammatical structure. The second set is made up of several paragraphs with multiple questions for each paragraph asking the test taker to edit and fix the structure of the paragraph.

There are 5-6 passages in the Reading Comprehension subsection. Each passage gets anywhere between 6-10 questions.

In the Mathematical Comprehension section, there are 57 questions. Out of the 57, 5 of them are short-answer questions, and 52 multiple questions. The Mathematics section covers topics related to Algebra and Geometry. This helps students in the long run to be prepared for the regents exams that they will eventually have to take.

The Benefits of Going to a Specialized High School

Besides being completely free, students that attend the Specialized High School score consistently higher on their Regents Exams, SATs, ACTs, and other standardized tests. They also offer a decently high number of Advanced Placement (AP) courses to their students. AP courses can be used in students’ college applications to show academic rigor and to claim college credits for their courses.

Some of the Specialized High Schools even have specific programs built into their curriculum to help prepare students for college. Students can even take advantage of some of these advanced curriculum classes to get credit towards their college transcript.

If students are able to keep up with their academics, student life in these schools can be especially great. There’s extracurricular activities for anything a student can think of. If a certain club/group doesn’t exist, it is easy for students to organize and get that program started.

The SHSAT exam is very difficult for a student who has no experience preparing for it, especially with the time crunch and rigorous material. It’s often recommended that students and their families seek help preparing for the exam along with doing practice work from a slew of Prep books with guidance from education experts.

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