Competitive by design.
An average of 30,000 NYC eighth graders take the SHSAT every October. This 3-hour test is the only criterion for gaining entry into one New York City’s nine specialized public schools. These schools combined only accept approximately 6,000 students each year, which means that 82% of those students who apply are rejected.
The specialized high schools of New York City, constituted by Stuyvesant, Bronx Science, Staten Island Tech, Queens Science at York College, High School of American Studies at Lehman College, High School for Math, Science and Engineering at City College of New York, Brooklyn Tech, Brooklyn Latin and LaGuardia High School, are known for their academic rigor, top teachers, driven students, great course offerings and exciting extra-curricular opportunities. The alumni of these fantastic high schools tout amazing accolades; Bronx High School of Science alumni, for example, hold 8 Nobel Prizes.
Here are the basic facts.
- The test is 180 minutes and you can only take it once. There is a make-up date in case of emergencies and a November date for 9th graders and students with special needs. The SHSAT is probably the longest test your student will have ever taken — if you can believe it, it’s the same length as the SAT.
- You MUST get a ticket to the SHSAT roughly 2 weeks before the test. You can do this through the guidance counselor at your NYC middle school (public or private) or by visiting a Family Welcome Center. You must get your ticket by October 11, 2018 (in 2018, the test will be given on October 20th).
What's on the test?
- As of 2018, there are 57 ELA (English) questions and 57 Math questions.
- Of the ELA questions, roughly 9 to 11 questions now test grammar and the remainder test reading comprehension through questions which ask students to interpret what they have read in 6 text passages provided during the exam.
- Of the math questions, there are 52 multiple choice questions and 5 grid-in questions, where students have to fill in the correct numerical solution without being given answer options to choose from. SHSAT math questions are both word problems and equations.
There are questions that pertain to:
- Rates per Unit
- Order of Operations
- Discount Interest
- Exponents & Radicals
- Absolute Value
- Scientific Notation
- Counting Principle
- Imaginary Operations
- LCD & GCF
- 8th grade Algebra
- Solving for X
- Number Lines
- Probability, Combinations, Mean/Median/Mode
Prepare for a challenge.
The test is meant to be very hard. But the good news is that you don’t have to get an A (or 90%+ of the questions correct).
We estimate that kids whose scores qualify them for a specialized high school only need get 70% to 80% of the questions right (depending on the school you are aiming for). The test is heavily curved based on the performance of all the students who take the test that year as compared to the number of spots available. The curve is done separately for the Math Section and for the English Section.
Because students are asked which school is their #1 – #8 choice, the curve is also affected by this ranking. A score that is good enough to get into Stuyvesant but prioritizes Bronx Science over Stuyvesant, the student will likely go to Bronx Science and leave an extra spot for someone who may otherwise have had a score that’s on the cusp of getting into Stuyvesant or Bronx Science.
- The cut off score for acceptance (out of 800 / 400 Math + 400 ELA) for the specialized high schools of NYC are listed below with their corresponding 2018 numbers. The 9th Specialized High School in New York is LaGuardia High School, which requires an audition rather than the SHSAT test.
- Stuyvesant: 559
- Bronx Science: 518
- Staten Island Tech: 519
- Queens Science at York College: 545
- High School of American Studies at Lehman College: 516
- High School for Math, Science and Engineering at City College of New York: 516
- Brooklyn Tech: 493
- Brooklyn Latin: 483
The SHSAT rewards people who are much stronger in one subject over the other.
If you are a math genius and get every math question right, you only need to get approximately 10 out of 57 question right on the English to get a spot in one of the specialized high schools of NYC. Same goes for “left brain” geniuses: if you get a top score on the grammar and reading comprehension sections (57 questions altogether), you don’t have to get very many math questions right to get into the school of your choice. We estimate that if you get all the ELA (or math) questions right, you need to get fewer than half of the questions right on the 2nd section to earn a spot at Stuyvesant.
- Want more good news? You can choose which section to do first, the math or English … or you can even skip around. You are free to do the 114 questions in any order you like.
The SHSAT is introducing some changes to the test this year, so do not purchase test materials that are dated 2017 or earlier! The DOE says that it is making changes to more closely align the SHSAT exam with Common Core curricula. As a result, they’ve changed the English section to include less grammar and more reading composition, including analysis of poetry. Several years ago, the dreaded “Scrambled Paragraphs” were removed, so if you have study materials that includes those, skip ‘em! Here’s a link to the table from the DOE handbook which explains the changes.
Some tips to get you started.
- Start with a practice test to see where you stand today — you can do one with us … or time yourself at home;
- Answer all the questions, even if you run out of time and you take a complete guess — the SHSAT does not penalize you for wrong answers — your score is just based on how many questions you get right;
- If you are much better at Math than English or the other way around, work on getting as many questions as possible right in that section, then tackle the easiest question types in the other section — don’t spend too much time focusing on the hard questions in the section that is hardest for you;
- Eat a big breakfast and maybe another energy bar and drink right before going into the test. There are no breaks and no food allowed and you wouldn’t want hunger pangs or low energy due to hunger to cost you this test; and
- … our tutors have many more of these strategies.
Things we haven’t covered in this article:
- SHSAT for 9th graders
- What are the other great Public NYC High Schools and how do I apply? (article coming soon)
- The Discovery Program – i.e. free test prep for the SHSAT for those who qualify based on income level, minority status and other factors.