shsat basics

This is not a bad time to put the SHSAT (specialized high school admissions test) on your radar. At least to start thinking if you want your child to take it and perhaps what might be the best way of getting them set up to do well.

Good to keep in mind - the SHSAT isn’t for everyone. While the eight test in schools are far more diverse amongst themselves than many realize, they are all remarkably rigorous and academics based. For the record LaGuardia is also a specialized school but admissions to that is audition/portfolio based. Not every kid is cut out for that level or would want that kind of work, pressure, and competition in high school. Plus, preparing for the SHSAT can be time consuming and daunting, with kids not really getting exactly what it is they’re striving for. Having said that, in this crazy system, it’s nice to have options when you get your offer letter. 

Should you decided to pursue the SHSAT route there are many options out there. Some families do test prep courses. Others one on  one tutoring. Some programs start in the spring and continue through the fall. Others are more a crash course with classes in the fall only. Some do a combo of both (both my kids did a spring/fall program and asked for extra math support before the test). Some families opt to do no formalized test prep and their kids do workbooks and practice tests on their own. Some walk in to the test cold - I don’t recommend that last one. Let me know if you want any recommendations.

The SHSAT generally is given at the end of October/beginning of November. You register for it with guidance counselors towards the beginning of 8th grade and your test time is assigned. You have no choice as to when your child takes it. There are testing sites in every borough (you stay in your borough), with 8am and 12pm seatings. 

The test is 100 questions: 50 math and 50 english. Scrambled paragraphs are no more - this coming SHSAT will have more reading comprehension multiple choice questions to take their place. Math is staying the same meaning there will still be info on there that public school kids haven’t been taught yet. 

The test is 2.5 hours long. Kids can chose to start with whichever section they prefer and can go back and forth at will. There are no penalties for wrong answers. Practice makes a HUGE difference. By the time Jack (my current Tech sophomore) walked out of the actual test it was so rote for him he wasn’t particularly phased. He just sat and did the work. And all that prep will serve them well when they get to the SATs/ACTs for college.

Ok - that’s a lot to take in. And there’s plenty more to say about the specialized schools as we go forward. But good to start putting pieces in place now.