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SHSAT Test Prep

Among those (few) things that all New Yorkers can agree on, the excellence of the city’s Specialized High Schools surely occupies a special place of distinction. Publicly funded and administered, these nine high schools provide a world-class education that is the envy of many an independent school.

What Is On The SHSAT?

The SHSAT, administered by the New York City Department of Education, is the admissions test for all but one of the city’s Specialized High Schools (LaGuardia Arts High School requires a portfolio or audition). Students in all 5 boroughs are eligible to take the test.

The SHSAT is a multiple-choice test comprised of two sections, Verbal and Math, and it contains two and a half hours of material.

The scoring of the SHSAT test is a bit complicated. That’s because by itself, the score tells you little to nothing; it all depends on how many other students are taking the test and how well you do in comparison to them.

It goes like this: on the day of the test, students will be asked to choose which of the eight schools they will be applying to, and to rank them in order of preference. On the test students receive one point for every correct answer and zero points for incorrect or blank answers. These points are then added up to form a raw score. There are 100 possible points on the exam, and thus the highest possible raw score would be 100. The raw score is then converted into a scaled score, using a formula that the Department of Education will not release to the public. The scaled score will be somewhere between 200-800.

Schools will then establish “cut-off scores.” The cut-off score is the lowest possible score that a student can get and still be accepted into a certain school. Schools determine their cut-off scores every year based on the number of students interested in admission and the number of spots available. For example: if Bronx Science is looking to accept 500 students this year, then the top 500 scorers who listed Bronx Science as their number one choice will be accepted. If the 500th student received a score, say, of 540, then 540 will be the cut-off score for Bronx Science, and anyone below that will not be admitted.

To give you some context, in recent years, the cut-off score for Stuyvesant has hovered around 560; Bronx Science has been near 520; and Brooklyn Technical, 480.

SHSAT Content:


  • Length: 75 min.
  • Item Types: Verbal reasoning and reading comprehension

This section contains 5 reading passages, with questions asking students to analyze and interpret material. There will be 10 logical reasoning questions, and 5 scrambled paragraphs. The scrambled paragraph questions, which are each worth 2 points, ask students to reorder sentences to form a coherent paragraph.


  • Length: 75 min.
  • Item Types: Math problems

This section includes arithmetic, pre-algebra, algebra, basic coordinate graphing, and logic problems. On the 9th grade test, there will also be geometry and basic trigonometry.

CATES offers private and group tutoring for SHSAT test prep in NYC

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