What is the SHSAT?
If your child lives in New York City and excels in the arts or sciences, chances are you’ve heard of the New York Specialized High Schools. These schools take the city’s most high achieving students and expose them to advanced programs of study to build college and career readiness and create a bright future for New York. Students at the Specialized High Schools receive the best public education in New York, and one of the best anywhere in the world.
However, getting into these schools can be incredibly challenging. To help guide the admission process, the New York City Department of Education administers the SHSAT (Specialized High School Admission Test) to 8th and 9th graders to determine their eligibility. This test has just recently been revamped, and the SHSAT that rolls out in the Fall of 2017 will be far different from previous versions.
The SHSAT is administered over 180 minutes and is broken into several sections: reading comprehension, ELA editing/review, multiple choice math, and free response math.
Does my child need to study?
Admission to any of the New York City Specialized High Schools is an extremely rigorous, competitive process, and the enrollment at each school is tightly regulated. This means an incredibly large pool of applicants is competing for only a few hundred spots. One of the best ways for your child to stand out and ensure admission is to dominate the SHSAT. A high test score will demonstrate your child’s potential and can help counter-balance slightly lower classroom grades.
Now, the whole idea of “studying” for a standardized test is a little broken because there is no single set of answers that students will be expected to know. However, there are particular skills and kinds of challenges that test takers should be prepared for, which means your child will require ample preparation to thrive on SHSAT test day.
How can we prepare?
The best way your child can prepare for the SHSAT is to engage with rigorous, high-quality practice tests. This is because they have already learned all the required material during their time in middle school; the test is simply assessing their knowledge and skill level of these curriculum-based benchmarks. Practice tests are the single most useful tool because they help students understand the format and expectations of the exam, obliterating test day anxiety.
Practice tests are especially valuable for SHSAT students because so many students with great conceptual knowledge in the arts and sciences struggle with tests because they are abstract thinkers by nature. By taking a series of practice tests leading up to exam day, students can hone their skills and get themselves into a positive headspace that will help them conquer the SHSAT on test day.