SHSAT ELA practice can be daunting. We know what you’re thinking. How can I possibly read and understand all these complex passages with words I’ve never seen before – under a time limit too! While the SHSAT is certainly difficult, it’s not impossible. In this guide, we’ll walk you through the best ways to practice and prepare yourself for the ELA section of SHSAT.
What ELA Topics Are on the SHSAT?
There are two categories of ELA questions on the SHSAT: Revising/Editing and Reading Comprehension.
Revising/Editing assesses students’ knowledge of syntax and grammar, and their ability to correctly edit and revise passages.
Reading Comprehension tests students’ ability to read and understand prose and poetry passages in English and correctly answer multiple choice questions that focus on comprehension and analysis.
How Many Grammar Questions on the SHSAT?
The SHSAT contains 9–11 revising/editing questions. These are divided between standalone questions and a series of questions based on a single passage. For the standalone questions, students are given a sentence or short paragraph in which they must identify a grammatical error and/or suggest how to revise it. The passage questions are less about grammar and more about how to structure writing to increase coherence and flow. Students will be asked to add, remove, or move around individual lines to make the passage more logical.
SHSAT Reading Comprehension Practice
Independent reading is the single best way to practice for the reading comprehension portion of SHSAT. When students read regularly, they become better at retaining information, acquire a greater vocabulary, and also develop the skills to read passages more quickly without missing important information. Students are encouraged to read in a wide variety of genres: novels, newspaper articles, scientific periodicals, poetry etc.. But reading anything is better than nothing!
When doing independent reading, here is an exercise that can help hone your comprehension skill for the SHSAT:
- Choose a short to medium article or story.
- Read it. Don’t try to remember everything on the first read, but do try to get a clear idea of the topic or main events of the passage. While reading, underline any words you don’t know.
- Write a few lines summarizing the main idea of the passage. For nonfiction, what’s the topic? What does the author have to say about the topic? For fiction, who are the characters or narrator in this excerpt? What happens between them/what events take place?
- For each paragraph, write a few lines summarizing the main idea/events of the paragraph.
- Look up the vocabulary you don’t know and write them with their definition in a devoted section of your notebook so that you don’t forget.
We recommend doing this several times with multiple different passages. The exercise is simple, but will train you to consistently read for comprehension with whatever text you encounter.
SHSAT Poetry Practice
It may sound overly simple, but the best way to practice for the SHSAT poetry section is to read poetry! This is easier said than done, as most students don’t read poetry outside of a school setting. To practice poetry analysis, you can visit poetryfoundation.org and look at the poem of the day. Read it once, then read it again, this time trying to take in the literal meaning of what the speaker is saying. Jot down a few lines summarizing the main ideas of the poem. Then read a third time and pay attention to how the metaphors, word choice, repetitions, and rhyme scheme deepen and contribute to these ideas. How do these figurative elements enhance or complicate the meaning of the poem? Choose a few of these divides and write down your insights. Believe it or not, you just analyzed a poem! See, that wasn’t so hard after all!
SHSAT Grammar Rules
Here are some essential grammar concepts that you should know for the SHSAT:
- Subject-Verb Agreement - Can you tell if your verbs agree with the subject in number?
- Verb Tense - Can you make sure your verbs are in the proper tense?
- Comma Usage - Can you properly use commas to separate dependent clauses, appositives, and items in a list?
- Misplaced Modifiers - This is when a phrase or clause is placed in a sentence so that it appears to modify or refer to an unintended word.
SHSAT grammar practice is important, but you should also trust your ear as a native English speaker. There’s a lot of grammar you could learn for this section, but it’s also really short, so studying each rule endlessly may not be the best use of your time. Look out for strangeness as you read. If something sounds off to you, it probably is.
SHSAT ELA Strategies
Here are some tips and strategies for making sure you maximize your chances of doing well on the ELA portion of the SHSAT:
- Always answer the question as phrased. The way the questions on the SHSAT are constructed makes the test particularly difficult for students. Not only does the test require close reading of the passages, but of the questions as well. There will be answer choices that may make accurate statements about the passage, but because they don’t answer what the question is asking, are actually traps. Students need to be careful to choose the answer choice that directly responds to the question as it is phrased, even if it is less vivid and specific.
- Find evidence for your answers. If you can’t identify textual evidence for your answer, chances are that it’s incorrect. When practicing, get in the habit of undermining the lines or words in the passage that justify your answer choice.
- Do the easier passages first. For some students, it may be beneficial to start with a passage in a genre they find easier to read (non fiction instead of fiction, for instance) in order to rack up as many correct points as possible. You can take the passages in any order, so you can try starting with the genre you like better, or experiment with both ways on practice tests. There are 6 reading comprehension passages with 6–10 questions each (3–4 of these will be information, 1–2 will be literary, and 1 will be a poem).
- Answer every question. Every question on the SHSAT is worth the same amount of points. There is no benefit to answering the harder questions over the easier ones. You should never linger too long on one question. If it’s difficult, mark it, guess and come back later. Blank answers and wrong answers are treated the same, so there is no penalty for guessing. If you don’t know the answer, you should always guess, since there’s a chance you’ll get it right. If you can eliminate 1 or 2 first, all the better.
Ivy Tutors Network has been the industry leader in SHSAT preparation for over 19 years. To see where you are in the SHSAT prep process, start by taking a diagnostic exam with us. We’ll send you a comprehensive score report to help you assess your strengths and weaknesses. We can then match you with one of our experienced SHSAT tutors, who will help you develop the best strategies for mastering the ELA portion of the SHSAT.