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How to Prepare for the SHSAT Exam for Admission into NYC Specialized High Schools

Updated on January 24, 2012

New York City has specialized high schools that require applicants to take the SHSAT exam. The Specialized High School Admissions Test is taken in the 8th or 9th grade for admission to schools with a special focus on math, science and other subjects.

As of August 2011, only the following NYC specialized high schools require a score on the SHSAT exam: Bronx High School of Science, High School for Math, Science, and Engineering at City College, Brooklyn Technical High School, High School for American Studies at Lehman College, Stuyvesant High School, and Queens High School for Sciences at York College. If your child is interested in attending one of these schools, get information about admissions and enrollment starting in the 7th grade. That way, your child will have time to prepare for the SHSAT exam and other tasks related to the application process.

This exam for admissions into specialized high schools is somewhat like the ACT for English (verbal) and the SAT or ACT for math. Even for the science high schools in NYC, students are still taking only a verbal and math portion for the SHSAT exam (ask individual schools about additional requirements).

For the verbal portion, doing as much reading as possible and discussing what the student reads is the best practice. Of course, absorbing everything in English textbooks is okay, but it will only get you so far on a verbal exam that includes analysis and reading comprehension. There is simply no perfect way to study for a verbal exam, but experience in critical reading (not light reading) is the key to improvement. There is no writing portion on the SHSAT Verbal exam, but doing writing exercises could enhance a student's critical reading skills.

Math is a bit different. Students can learn the bulk of what they need to know for the SHSAT math by using math textbooks. However, books used in middle school may or may not have all the material tested on the SHSAT test. High school textbooks may need to be consulted to ace this portion of the Specialized High School Admission Test. The testable subjects are algebra, arithmetic, statistics, probability, and geometry. Trigonometry is only on the 9th-grade version of the test. Notice that there is no calculus on this exam.

You may find out more about the material on the SHSAT exam and do some practice tests in the Specialized High Schools Student Handbook. See the link below.


NYC Department of Education: Specialized High School Admissions Test Info Page

Specialized High Schools Handbook (with Additional SHSAT Practice Tests and Information)


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