Specialized High School Admissions Test

Who takes this test?

Students in grades eight or nine who want to enroll in one of New York City’s specialized high schools must take the Specialized High Schools Admissions Test (SHSAT). All students in grades eight and nine who are current New York City residents are eligible.

The schools that require the SHSAT are:

  • 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 Sciences at York College
  • Staten Island Technical High School
  • Stuyvesant High School

Are ELLS given glossaries for the exam?

Yes. Test proctors will provide English language learners (ELLs) and eligible former ELLs with bilingual mathematics glossaries on the day of the SHSAT. The glossaries provide word-to-word translations of key mathematics terms. The glossaries do not provide definitions. Students are not permitted to bring their own bilingual mathematics glossaries.

Glossaries are available in Arabic, Bengali, Chinese (simplified and traditional), French, Haitian Creole, Korean, Russian, Spanish, and Urdu. View sample glossaries in the “Documents” section below. Actual glossaries will be different on test day.

When is this test given?

Please refer to the Specialized High School Admissions web page for most up-to-date information on registration and dates for the Specialized High Schools Admissions Test (SHSAT).

What should I do before the test?

Know what to Expect 

  • Become very familiar with the design of the test by reviewing the following:
    • description of the test further below on this webpage
    • the two full-length sample tests
    • each sample test’s answer key and explanations
    • extra samples for the Math grid-in questions
    • specific sample Grade 9 questions (if you plan to take the test as a 9th grader)
  • Become familiar with the sample items.
    • ELA and Math sample items are included in the practice tests linked below.
  • Become familiar with the directions for each section so that you:
    • fully understand what you have to do for each part of the test:
      • Revising/Editing Parts A & B, Reading Comprehension, Math Grid-Ins, and Math Multiple-Choice
    • can focus your time on answering the questions rather than reading the directions on test day
  • Become familiar with the answer sheet included with the practice test so that you can:
    • easily fill in your name, grade level, and birth date on test day before you start the test
    • easily, accurately, and quickly mark your answers once the testing session begins on test day 

Take the Practice Tests

  • Make a plan.
    • There are two sample tests on the Specialized High Schools webpage, and you can use them in any way you want; you are encouraged to use at least one of the tests to practice taking a full test under timed conditions.
    • You have 180 minutes to complete the test; eligible English Language Learners or students with extended time as an approved testing accommodation have 360 minutes to complete the test.
    • You may begin the test in whatever section/part you want, so decide in advance what order you will take the test in.
    • You may divide time between the ELA and Math sections however you want.
  • Print out the two sample SHSAT answer sheets
  • Keep track of your 180 minutes of test time by using a watch or clock.
  • Start answering questions in either the ELA or Math section.
    • Remember, it is up to you to decide which section you take first!
    • Work carefully, but keep moving at a comfortable pace.
    • Do not spend more than a couple minutes on any one question.
  • Bubble your answers on the answer sheet as you work through each question.
  • Answers must be completely filled in.
    • All answers must be recorded on the answer sheet BEFORE time is called. Remember: you won’t be given extra time to transfer answers to the answer document!
  • An educated guess can be the right answer.
    • Do this by eliminating the answer choice(s) that are definitely wrong, and then choose one of the remaining answers.
    • Your score is based on the number of correct answers marked on the answer sheet. Because there is no penalty for wrong answers, omitting a question will not give you an advantage.
  • Check your work if you have time remaining.
    • If you finish before time is up, go back over your work to make sure that you followed instructions, did not skip any questions, and did not make careless mistakes. Remember: there is no penalty for wrong answers, so make sure you do not leave any questions blank!
    • Note that on testing day, you must remain in the testing room for the entire duration of the test (180 minutes). 

Check your answers

After you complete the sample test, check your answers against the list of correct answers.

  • Read the explanations of the correct answers to see the kinds of mistakes you may have made.
  • Check to see whether there is a pattern to your errors.
    • ELA Example: did you miss many questions about central idea or author’s purpose?
    • Math Example: did you miss many questions because of miscalculations?
  • Seek out opportunities to do more practice in areas that challenged you! 

Sample Tests And Practice Questions

There are two Grade 8 Sample Tests on the Specialized High Schools webpage

  • If you are taking the Grade 9 test, take the Grade 8 Sample Tests and practice the Math questions in the packet that are specific to the Grade 9 SHSAT. These questions cover topics that are introduced in the Grade 8 curriculum. 
  • Additional sample grid-in questions for Grade 8 are included in the packet.

Two sample SHSAT answer sheets are provided in the packet on the Specialized High Schools webpage. Use one to mark your answers for Sample Test A, and use the other to mark your answers for Sample Test B. 

You are now ready to try Sample Test Form A.

  • Begin by carefully reading the Directions and filling out Side 1 of the answer sheet.
  • Use Side 2 of the answer sheet to fill in your answers for Form A.

When you are ready for Form B, use the second detachable answer sheet.

What is on the test?

English Language Arts

The English Language Arts (ELA) section consists of two parts—Revising/Editing and Reading Comprehension—as described below. The section contains 57 multiple-choice questions that assess revising/editing skills and reading comprehension. These questions are aligned to the New York State Learning Standards. 

Revising and Editing

  • Number of Questions: between 9 and 19 
  • Skills assessed: ability to recognize and correct language errors and improve overall quality of writing
  • Format:
    • Part A: each question is based on its own sentence/paragraph
      • The language skills assessed in this section are based on the Language section of the New York State Learning Standards for Grade 7, as well as skills or standards that may have been introduced in earlier grades, such as the Language Progressive Skills. Each question directs you to read a sentence, a list of sentences, or a paragraph with numbered sentences. Then you are asked to address issues related to conventions of language or punctuation. Examples include:
        • selecting the best correction for an error
        • identifying a sentence with an error
        • improving the writing by combining sentences or revising part of a sentence
    • Part B: all questions are based on a single, multi-paragraph text
      • Questions in Part B assess your ability to read a text and then make decisions that improve the overall quality of the writing. The subjects presented in these texts will include historical and current events; people, places, and technology; and phenomena in the biological sciences, physical sciences, and social sciences. Each sentence is numbered so that you can quickly locate and refer to specific parts of the passage. The text may contain errors such as
        • language misuse
        • missing or unnecessary supporting details
        • missing or inappropriate transitional words, phrases, or sentences
        • a missing or an unclear introductory statement or concluding statement
        • confusing or illogical organization
        • other errors related to language and writing standards 

Reading Comprehension

  • Number of Questions: between 38 and 48
  • Skills assessed: ability to understand, analyze, and interpret texts from a variety of genres
  • Format: 5-6 texts, including informational and literary, followed by 6–10 questions each
    • Informational texts for ELA may include any of the text types that middle school students should have experience with, such as: exposition, argument, and functional text in the form of personal essays, speeches, opinion pieces, essays about art or literature, biographies, memoirs, journalism, and historical, scientific, technical, or economic accounts written for a broad audience. Literary texts for ELA may include any of the text types that middle school students should have experience with, such as: poetry, adventure stories, historical fiction, mysteries, myths, science fiction, realistic fiction, allegories, parodies, or satire.

Find tips on taking the ELA section of the SHSAT on the Specialized High Schools webpage

Math

The Math section consists of word problems and computational questions in either a grid-in or multiple-choice format. There are five grid-in questions and 52 multiple-choice questions. The Math questions involve application of mathematical skills, mathematical terms, and general concepts from the New York State Learning Standards for Mathematics. However, as one of the purposes of this test is to identify students who will benefit from an education at a Specialized High School, the SHSAT Math items will require you to apply familiar Math skills to complex, multi-step problems.

  • Math questions on the Grade 8 test forms are based on the New York State Learning Standards through Grade 7.
  • Math questions on the Grade 9 test forms are based on material through Grade 8.

Find tips on taking the Mathsection of the SHSAT on the Specialized High Schools webpage. They include the following:

  • tips to improve your Math skills in Math topics you need more practice with
  • tips to familiarize you with expectations that are specific to the SHSAT and may therefore be different from other Math tests you take
  • tips specifically for answering multiple-choice Math questions
  • tips specifically for answering Math grid-in questions

Learn strategies to prepare for the SHSAT

Visit the How to Prepare for the SHSAT page to learn strategies to prepare for the SHSAT.

Important Policies About Testing Day

What to Bring to Your Testing Session

You MUST bring the following to the testing session: 

  • your SHSAT test ticket signed by you and your parent/guardian 
  • sharpened Number 2 pencils (you cannot use a pen)
  • Eraser
  • Assistive Technology (if indicated on your IEP and test ticket) 

You CAN, but are not required to bring: 

  • slant board 
  • pencil grip
  • FM unit
  • Highlighter
  • a watch that is silent and NOT a calculator
  • a quiet, unwrapped snack (Students can have their snack before the beginning of the test administration; snacks are NOT allowed during testing time.)
  • water (in a soft or plastic container that doesn’t make noise if tipped) 

You are not permitted to bring:

  • cameras
  • Calculators
  • smart watches
  • MP3 Player/iPod
  • tablet/iPad, ebook reader
  • smart phones, other cell phones, any other electronic device
  • outside written materials
  • soda, juice, or any other drinks beyond water; water is the only beverage allowed in the testing site 

You will be given by the testing site:

  • test booklet 
  • answer sheet
  • scrap paper, which is attached to the booklet and can be used to take notes for Math calculations and will be collected at the end of the test
  • ELLs ONLY will receive a math bilingual glossary in one of the nine DOE languages: Arabic, Bangla-Bengali, Chinese, French, Haitian Creole, Korean, Russian, Spanish and Urdu. 

Cell Phones

Cell phones are permitted in test site, but:

  1. they must be turned off 
  2. you may not have them with you during the test—this means they may not be in your pocket, hand, or desk. 

The test site will instruct you on what to do with your cell phone before the test starts. You will be instructed to turn off and store cell phones, cameras, and other electronic devices according to the regulations set by the test site. 

Test Day Expectations

  • Be sure to arrive at the test site at the time that is on your SHSAT test ticket. Please note that this is the arrival time, not the time that the test will start. The test will begin as soon as possible after the time on your ticket. In some cases, the test may begin an hour or more after the arrival time noted on the test ticket. Your testing site can provide you with estimated times when the test will end and students will be released.
  • Before the test begins, our site staff will take a photograph or video of the students in each testing room. These images will be used for test security purposes only.
  • If you do not feel well, you should inform the test proctor immediately; you should not begin the test or sign the statement. Once you break the security seal and begin the test, you may not be able to request a make-up test due to illness.
  • All students taking the SHSAT must stay in testing rooms for the entire standard test administration time (180 minutes), with the exception of using the bathroom.
  • Once the standard test administration time (180 minutes) is over, students with an accommodation of extended time may leave if they have finished working on the exam. Students who decide to leave after the first 180 minutes of the standard test administration time must sign out to indicate they understood they gave up their remaining available time on the SHSAT. Students with this accommodation will have a break at the conclusion of the 180 minutes, and then again after another 90 minutes have passed. 

Filling in the Answer sheet

Before taking the test, you will fill out important information on Side 1 of your answer sheet. First, you will be asked to read and sign a statement on your answer sheet stating that you are well enough to take the test, a resident of New York City, and are taking the test for the correct grade level.

  • If you do not feel well, you should inform the test proctor immediately; you should not begin the test or sign the statement. Once you break the security seal and begin the test, you may not be able to request a make-up test due to illness.
  • Be sure you are taking the test for the correct grade level. 

When you are told to begin the test, mark your answers on the answer sheet by completely filling in the appropriate circle.

  • Make sure your marks are heavy and dark.
  • Be careful not to make any stray marks on the answer sheet.
  • If you change an answer, completely erase your first answer.
  • There is only one correct answer to each question. If your answer sheet shows more than one mark in response to a question, that question will be scored as incorrect. 

You may write in your test booklet or on the scrap paper provided to work through ELA or Math questions, but your answers must be recorded on the answer sheet in order to be counted. It will not be possible to go back and mark your answers on the answer sheet after time is up. Information in the test booklet or on scrap paper will not be counted. 

Scoring

SHSAT scores are based on the number of correct answers marked on scored questions, which is called a raw score.

  • When the number correct is counted, every question counts the same—one raw score point.
  • It doesn’t matter which particular questions you get right or wrong within each section (ELA and Math). You should not spend too much time on any one question because a question that you find ‘harder’ won’t get you more raw score points than one that you find ‘easier.’
  • There is no penalty for wrong answers. 

Student Misconduct

Test security is critical for the SHSAT. As such, the following rules are strictly enforced to ensure all students have a fair testing experience. 

  • During the test, you may not attempt to communicate with other students in any way. This includes, but is not limited to:
    • speaking, writing and passing notes
    • sharing test booklets or answer sheets
    • looking at other students’ answers
    • recording test questions
    • possession of a cell phone, camera or other electronic device (even if it is powered off)
  • At the end of the test, you will be told to stop and put your pencil down and will be given directions about your testing materials. Once your test administrator tells you to put your pencil down, you may not continue writing on any of your testing materials, which includes, but is not limited to:
    • darkening bubbles
    • circling bubbles
    • erasing responses
  • Test questions and answers may not be shared with any individuals outside of the testing site. Students found to be engaging in any of these activities will have their tests invalidated.
    • Grade 8 students will not be allowed to take the test again until the following school year.
    • Grade 9 students will not have any additional opportunities to take the test after Grade 9. 

Any student who refuses to put away or turn in a prohibited device will not be allowed to take the test. Possession of prohibited items at any time during the test administration, even if powered off, will result in the test being invalidated. Students will not be provided with an opportunity to make up the exam on a subsequent day. 

How is the test scored?

Most Important Things to Know About How Your Test is Scored

  • Do not spend too much time on any single question.
    • It does not matter which particular questions you get right or wrong within each section.
    • A question that you find harder will not get you more raw score points than one that you find easier.
  • Fill in an answer for every question.
    • There is no penalty for wrong answers.
    • Your "best guess" is better than not answering at all.
  • If you have extra time remaining during test time, you should focus on the section you are strongest in.
    • The more questions you get right in each section (ELA and Math), the more your scaled score goes up for that section.
    • It is likely that you will get more answers right in the section you generally perform better in at school. 

SHSAT Scoring and Test Results

There are three types of scores that result from the SHSAT scoring process. The ELA and Math sections of the SHSAT are treated separately in the scoring process until the end when the ELA and Math scores are added together for the final score, called the composite score.

  • Raw Score: SHSAT scores are based on the number of correct answers marked on scored questions, which is called a raw score.
    • When the number correct is counted, every question counts the same—one raw score point.
    • It doesn’t matter which particular questions you get right or wrong within each section (ELA and Math). You should not spend too much time on any one question because a question that you find ‘harder’ won’t get you more raw score points than one that you find ‘easier.’
    • There is no penalty for wrong answers.
  • Scaled Score: Because there are several forms of the SHSAT, raw scores from different test forms cannot be compared directly. The test forms are developed to be as similar as possible, but they are not identical. To make valid score comparisons, a raw score must be converted into another type of score that takes into account the differences between test forms. The conversion from raw score to scaled score is done separately for each section (ELA and Math). Two conversions are used to convert the ELA and Math raw scores into scaled scores. Those conversions are:
    • Calibration: Calibration takes into account any small differences between different test forms.
    • Normalization: Normalization adjusts scores to fit a normal (Gaussian) distribution. Both calibration and normalization are non-linear. As a result, the raw scores and scaled scores are not proportional. That means that an increase in one raw score point does not always lead to the same increase in scaled score points. For example, in the middle of the range of scores, an increase of one raw score point may correspond to an increase of three or four scaled score points. At the top or bottom of the range of scores, an increase of one raw score point may correspond to 10–20 scaled score points. The closer you are to getting every question in a section right (or every question wrong), the more your scaled score goes up (or down) for that section. Consequently, you should use any extra time for your stronger section.
  • Composite Score: The composite score is the sum of the ELA and Math scaled scores. The composite score is used to determine admission to a Specialized High School.

The scoring process (calibration and normalization) for the SHSAT is redone every year specifically for that year’s test. This ensures that a student’s score is calculated and compared only with the other students who took the SHSAT in the same year. Because of this, SHSAT scores cannot be directly compared between years and there is no set minimum or maximum score. The maximum score on each section is usually around 350 and the maximum composite score is usually around 700; however, the actual maximum and minimum scores change from year to year.

How are the results used?

Students are ranked according to their score on the test and assigned to a school depending on their rank, the priority in which they placed schools on their application, and the seats available at each school.

How are the results reported?

The results are reported as scale scores. Scale scores are based on the number of questions that the student answered correctly. Students receive scale scores for the ELA and mathematics sections of the test, which are added together to make their composite score.

After scores are released to the schools in the spring, students and their parents may review the results of their examinations by requesting an appointment with a Department of Education assessment specialist.

Can I request an appointment to review a copy of my child's answer sheet?

You and your child may review a copy of your child's answer sheet by requesting an appointment with a representative from the Office of Assessment.

The test view is solely an opportunity to view your child’s test and see the answers that she/he selected during the test administration. This is not an appeals process.

A link to request an appointment to view your child’s Specialized High School Admissions test (SHSAT) will be provided following the release of scores. You will have one month following the score release to request an appointment.

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