Archive for the ‘SHSAT’ Category

SHSAT Preparation and Scoring

Friday, July 31st, 2015

SHSAT test
The Specialized High School Admission Test (SHSAT) is the key component of the admissions process to eight of New York City’s specialized high schools.  With the exception of the Fiorello H. LaGuardia High School of Music & Art and Performing Arts, schools base acceptance on how 8th and first-time 9th grade students perform on the 95-question multiple choice test, which encompasses verbal and math sections designed to ascertain capacities such as logical reasoning, reading comprehension, and computational math. (more…)

The Importance of the SHSAT

Friday, July 24th, 2015

SHSAT examWith more than 400 high schools, New York City has an extensive public school system including nine specialized high schools geared specifically toward students who are considered academically and artistically gifted.  For 8th and first-time 9th grade students seeking to earn a merit-based placement, the Specialized High School Admissions Test (SHSAT) is a critical part of the application process.

In addition to being a requirement, the SHSAT is the sole criterion for admission to eight of the specialized high schools:

  • Bronx High School of Science
  • Brooklyn Latin School
  • Brooklyn Technical High School
  • High School for Math, Science and Engineering at City College
  • High School for American Studies at Lehman College
  • Queens High School for the Sciences at York College
  • Staten Island Technical High School
  • Stuyvesant High School


First Days of the Semester

Wednesday, September 10th, 2014
College girls

Students First Day

I pull up to the gate where I’ll be spending the next four years. As I turn the engine off an armada of students bearing college colors swarm the vehicle. In seconds all four doors and the boot are open and my stuff is being carried off. The thieves are smiling at me and shaking my hand as I try to gauge the situation. This is probably the most polite robbery I’ll ever experience. Then it clicks that they’re actually taking my stuff to my room and I can call off the police who are already on their way.

The first few days of college can be a lot like this. Not robbery per se, but a series of overwhelming encounters with thousands of new people, new college traditions, and, if you happen to be international like myself, a whole new culture to acquaint yourself with. Contrary to the above paragraph, moving in is generally a fairly relaxed process. People tend to lend their hands to their roommates and it’s the first time you’ll officially be meeting your new class. Settling down, however, can be a pain if you aren’t prepared.

Bringing the essentials with you is rule number one. Toiletries, laptop, writing materials and the extended director’s edition of the Lord of the Rings trilogy are obvious and you probably already brought them with you. Figuring out your class schedule and buying the right books are another issue. Take time to discover which classes appeal to you most. DO NOT buy all your textbooks before arriving! If you walk into the classroom and the professor isn’t great/the workload is ridiculous/the final exam is 60% of the grade, it may not be the class for you. Try before you buy when it comes to class selection.

Attending any and all orientation events is also really useful. Not only may there be information on numbers to call for various emergencies (such as losing a room key at four in the morning which happens more often than you’d think) to contacting the student finance office, orientation is there to help you look after yourself in the best way.

Of course the main purpose of the first few days is to get you as acquainted as possible with how your college does things. But this is also the time when friendships are formed for life. Try not to tempt yourself into taking an extra few hours to sleep in and instead get out there and meet some incredibly diverse people. Sign up to a bunch of extracurricular activities you’ve never tried before and see if they’re for you. Measure the success of your first few days by how many people you’ve met and how cluttered your inbox is with bizarre extracurriculars.

The point is to really make the best use of your time over the first few weeks. They are the foundations on which your entire college career will be built. Meet people and try new things. You can’t go wrong.

Middle School Students and the SHSAT

Sunday, April 7th, 2013

NYC Middle School Student and SHSAT

Raising a NYC Middle School Student? Stay in the know about the SHSAT!

Raising kids in NYC is no easy task, and as all New Yorkers know, where your student goes to school makes all the difference. Thankfully, New York City has some of the country’s top public high schools, however it’s no easy game to get your student into one of them. These high schools are the city’s Specialized High Schools, and they have their own standardized test to rank students for admission: the SHSAT.

What is the SHSAT?

The SHSAT or Specialized High School Admissions Test is the test administered to eighth and ninth grade students in NYC to determine admission into 8 of the 9 city’s Specialized High Schools. Admission into the Fiorello H. LaGuardia High School of Music & Art and Performing Arts is determined by an audition. The SHSAT is created and scored by the American Guidance Service. It is currently (legally) the ONLY determinant for admission into the Specialized High Schools. (more…)

Scoring on The Specialized High Schools Admissions Test

Friday, August 24th, 2012

Many people, particularly the parents of New York City 8th graders, have questions about the Specialized High Schools Admissions Test, or SHSAT. There are a lot of questions out there about the SHSAT: what’s on it? How is it scored? What is a “good” score? What else matters when you apply to these schools? What’s the best way



to prepare for it? Some parents and students may not have even heard of the Specialized High Schools Admissions Test when they begin looking into the possibility of attending a Specialized High School, but even if they haven’t heard of the SHSAT, they have certainly heard of at least some of the schools which rely on the SHSAT in determining which students to admit:

  • Bronx High School of Science
  • Brooklyn Latin School
  • Brooklyn Technical High School
  • High School for Math, Science and Engineering at City College
  • High School for American Studies at Lehman College
  • Queens High School for the Sciences at York College
  • Staten Island Technical High School
  • Stuyvesant High School

Today, we’ll take a look at some of the most common questions about the SHSAT, which relate to scoring: How is it scored, what is considered a “good” score, and how important is your SHSAT score? In order to explain the scoring, we’ll have to take a look at the format of the test, so here we go!

The test, in total, is two-and-a-half hours long, and is broken up into two sections, Verbal and Math. It is recommended that students spend half the time (75 minutes) on each section, but unlike the SAT or ACT tests, no one in the room will be timing the sections and letting students know when it’s time to move on. If you think that sounds like a lot of pressure and responsibility for an eighth grader, you are correct.

The Verbal Section of the SHSAT contains 45 questions and is worth 50 points. It’s broken down as follows:

  • Five “Scrambled Paragraphs,” which the student has to unscramble (2 points each)
  • Ten “Logical Reasoning” questions, which are multiple-choice, and ask the student to solve questions that are somewhat like puzzles or brain teasers (1 point each)
  • Thirty “Reading” questions, which require students to read passages and answer multiple-choice questions about what them (1 point each)
  • The Math Section of the SHSAT contains:

  • Fifty multiple-choice math questions (1 point each)
  • There is no penalty for a wrong answer on the Standardized High Schools Admissions Test—a student won’t get the points for the question, but no points will be subtracted for getting it wrong. That means that guessing is better than leaving things blank—and with five choices for each multiple-choice question, that’s a twenty percent chance of getting it right!

    The students points will be totaled, giving a raw score out of the 100 possible points on the test. The New York City Department of Education, which administers the test, then takes that score and converts it to a “scaled score” between 200 and 800. Every year, each school can admit only a certain number of applicants—say it’s 400—so starting with the perfect scores and working their way down, they admit the 400 students with the highest scores who put that particular school first on their list. The lowest score that qualifies—that 400th student’s score—becomes the “cut-off score” for that year. Students who scored higher are accepted, and students who scored lower are not, though they could get into their second- or third-choice school, if they put more than one school on their list. Unlike college admissions, where test scores are one factor in many, the SHSAT is the ONLY criteria for admission at these specialized high schools.

    Given that the SHSAT is the sole factor in acceptance into one of the specialized high schools, it’s understandable that students (and their parents) want to know how well they’ll need to do to get into the schools of their choice. This is easier said than done, unfortunately. While it’s possible to get a general idea of where each school’s cut-off scores usually are by looking at past years’ acceptances, the Department of Ed does not release the algorithm with which they convert raw scores to scaled scores, so there’s no good way to tell what any particular raw score will convert to once it’s scaled, and no good way to determine what qualifies as a “good” raw score. You can find out, for instance, that Stuyvesant’s cut-off is usually around 560, but there’s no way to know what the raw score is that correlates to a 560.

    This is somewhat frustrating. All it really means for SHSAT test prep, however, is that students can only focus on getting as many questions right as possible. Since this is exactly what they’d be doing even if they did know what raw score they’d need to get into the school of their choice, the Department of Ed’s cloak-and-dagger attitude towards SHSAT scoring is not worth getting too hot and bothered about.

    CATES offers individual and group tutoring for SHSAT test prep, so give us a call, and get started today!