The SHSAT: What You Need to Know

If you live in NYC, and you’re a parent of an 8th or 9th grade student, the next two weeks will be a stressful time for you as the SHSAT is upon us. For those who do not know, the Specialized High Schools Admissions Test is an exam that resident middle school children can take in order to gain acceptance to one of eight of the most elite high schools in the nation. It is a pure meritocracy, one in which you are ranked according to your performance on the exam. That in turn decides which of the eight schools you ranked in order of preference you will attend. As with any exam of this magnitude, there is a lot of misinformation and resultant anxiety from trying to find the right answers to your questions. In response, I present a few quick tips culled from my years of experience in preparing students for this process so that you and your child can navigate this test most efficiently:


  • As per the SHSAT handbook, it certainly is better to score really high on one section and mediocre on one than it is to be mediocre in both sections. When you answer more questions correctly than the average, your scaled score will reflect that. However, DO NOT use this as an excuse to not work on your weaknesses, as you cannot guarantee that you will get most of the questions on one section correct. Not to mention that it makes absolutely no sense to put your eggs in one basket like that, so to speak.
  • You can start anywhere you like on the SHSAT so be sure to start with the section in which you perform the best.
  • Scrambled paragraphs are going away next year, but they will still be a part of the exam this year. To tackle them most efficiently, underline keywords on your first pass through the sentences and then put the two most obvious sentences together before piecing the rest around them, much like you would a jigsaw puzzle.
  • The 9th grade exam is much like the 8th grade exam except for some additional math topics in trigonometry and geometry. Plan accordingly.
  • The way you rank your schools DO NOT affect the likelihood of getting into any of your top choices and you only gain acceptance to ONE school. Having said that, think about where your child would excel and rank accordingly. All of these schools offer wonderful curriculums and after school programs so visit the open houses to get a good sense of what they offer. Once you take the exam, the NYCDOE will fill spots according to your performance and school rankings until there are none remaining.


Best of luck to everyone taking the exam in the next two weekends!

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