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How to Prepare Your Kid for SHSAT Test?

Are you thinking about enrolling your teenage kid into one of the nine specialized high schools in New York City? If so, you need to prepare for the SHSAT, which is the prerequisite for admission.

Get your exclusive package on TestPrep Online to unlock all the study tips to help your child ace the SHSAT.

What is the SHSAT?

The Specialized High Schools Admissions Test (SHSAT) is an examination system for specialized high school admission in New York city. It is administrated to eighth and ninth graders in the city.

Every year, around 25,000 students take the SHSAT in the fall. Students can take the test in various test centers across the city. Results are released the following year in March.

Among them, only 30% are given an offer by one of the specialized high schools. The competition is fierce. To stay on top of the game, students need to start the preparation as early as one year in advance.

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What Are New York City’s Specialized High Schools?

Currently, there are nine specialized high schools in New York City. They are for students with outstanding academic backgrounds and artistic talent. Instead of following the regular state curriculum, these schools focus on cultivating the skills of these gifted students.

Students receive special training and lessons to enhance their understanding of different subjects. Emphasis will be placed on each individual student’s area of expertise. These specialized high schools are famous for nurturing future influential scientists, mathematicians, artists, and more.

Scores are ranked on a scale from 200 to 800. The higher the score, the better the chance to be enrolled in the applicant’s favorite school. The allocation is entirely based on the SHSAT results. Each school sets its perimeter of preferred scores and the lowest score needed.

Students can indicate their preferences and the top-scoring students will be allocated accordingly. Students have to outperform their peers in the same batch to get a seat.

The training students receive at these schools is intense. They aim to stimulate a student’s critical thinking and widen their horizon. The unique study scheme is known to enhance a student’s performance.

Therefore, parents are eager to end their over-achieving students in these specialized high schools so they can unleash their potential.

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What Is in the SHSAT?

As the only admission tool used by these high schools, the SHSAT is designed to be challenging. Students need exceptional performance to achieve satisfactory results. There are two main components, which are the English Language Arts and Mathematics respectively.

Both sections assess a student’s ability in verbal reasoning, numerical reasoning, logical thinking, data analysis, comprehension, communication strategy, mathematical principles, etc. In total, the SHSAT will last for 180 minutes.

Since both sections are of similar length, it is recommended that the student equally splits the time between them. The two components are administered together with no use of a calculator, dictionary, or foreign aid allowed.

1. English Language Arts (ELA)

There are 45 multiple-choice questions in this section. The ELA is further divided into three parts, namely reading comprehension, logical reasoning, and scrambled paragraphs.

In the first reading comprehension part, students answer questions based on the passage. A student’s summarization skill is assessed. Students have to distill down the entire passage to summarize the key points in a few sentences.

Aside from the summary, students have to deduce the characters’ relationships, status, or the story’s settings based on the conversations. Each year, the paragraph differs. It could be a fictional story, a bibliography, news, or an academic paper.

The logical reasoning part requires students to utilize their deduction skills to arrive at the correct answer. Some information may be missing and students have to piece the story together with hints. In this section, students have to eliminate the wrong answers by crossing out the logically flawed choices.

Finally, in the scrambled paragraphs, students have to rearrange a few paragraphs to link the story together. The flow has to be consistent and smooth. It should consist of a beginning, a development, a climax, and an end.

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2. Math


There are 50 multiple-choice questions with ascending difficulty. The paper covers topics like algebra, probability, geometry, data analysis, graph creation and comprehension, fraction, and math principles.

The questions become increasingly more challenging. Students will likely encounter basic principle questions at the start with no calculation required. Then, the paper proceeds to handle the math concepts and equations taught at school. Finally, there will be challenging questions with multiple concepts combined that students might not have been taught.

To pass the Math section, students need to demonstrate an excellent understanding and utilization of the math concepts covered. Since there will be questions with combined concepts and calculations, students must have a fluent command of the equations to flexibly apply them when needed.

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How to Prepare for the SHSAT?

1. Utilize TestPrep Online

You do not want to fail the only chance at providing the best study opportunity for your child’s future. As intense as the SHSAT is, there is a way to make it simple. Join TestPrep Online to read the expert comments about the SHSAT.

Get copies of the SHSAT practice tests and study strategies to get the highest score with reasonable effort. TestPrep Online is the collective fruit of like-minded educational experts and guarantees the highest accuracy rate in matching with the real SHSAT.

2. Start With Your Best Section

Since students receive the entire paper at the start of the SHSAT, they can allocate their time freely and tackle any question first. Strategically, it is more time-efficient to start with the easy questions or your best section.

Students can tackle the sections they are the most confident with quicker than others. Once the easiest part is dealt with, they still have a big chunk of time left to solve the other parts. Besides, doing the easy part first is the best way to ensure they secure all the points they can.

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3. Join Your School’s Study Group

Group of Teenage Students Practicing SHSAT Test

Schools often organize study groups, particularly for the SHSAT. According to the school’s history and performance in the SHSAT, the frequency and quality may vary. It is recommended to join all the study groups so your child can exchange ideas and tips from fellow classmates.

A joint ally is more powerful than a lone ranger. Students can communicate and train their skills better when exercising with their peers while preparing for the same test. The positive study environment is encouraging.

4. Get Help From the Teachers

Teachers that have been at the school long enough usually have insight into how the structure and format have shifted over the years. They can predict what will likely be included in this year’s SHSAT based on past trends.

Getting guidance from a mentor helps enlighten your child. A teacher will not only solve the technical side of an academic issue but will also educate a student on the right attitude to face a challenge. This is very important for your child’s mental health, especially when dealing with one of the biggest tests of their life.

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5. Spread Out the Study Plan

Cramping your revision period over a weekend will not generate satisfactory results. A human brain can only absorb so much during the same period. Spread out the schedule for your child so they can have an extended period of time to get mentally and intellectually ready for the test.

It is never too early to start preparing. The earliest you can take the SHSAT is in the eighth grade. And remember, the test is done in October or November, so the students will not have much time to prepare for this difficult exam in the summer.

You can start the preparation for your kid at the beginning of the seventh grade or even earlier. The concepts examined are gradually built up over the years. Therefore, familiarizing them with past topics builds a solid foundation and makes studying easier.

6. Get a Good Night’s Sleep the Day Before

All the preparation work should be done way before the test is due. On the last night before the test, there is nothing more crucial than getting a night of good sleep. It refreshes the brain for the upcoming challenge. The mind is the sharpest after a full rest.

Head out earlier than the suggested time to avoid unforeseen traffic. Taking a trial run so the student knows where the test center is can alleviate the nervousness on the day. After getting everything done, the only thing to do is to relax and do the test as prepared.

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You are not alone in the journey to the most exhausting test in your kid’s academic life. Follow this study guide to have an idea of how to start dealing with the SHSAT. When you are ready, get the most useful study package at TestPrep Online so your kid can get into their number-one choice of specialized high schools in NYC next year!