How hard is the SHSAT?

How hard is the SHSAT?

If you believed everything older students told you, you’d believe some crazy stuff, right?  Let’s face it:  students a couple of years older can occasionally give you bad advice and (like any person) can tell you things about what you should expect based on experiences they have had.  But, your experiences are often very different—because you bring a whole set of unique relationships, interests, wants, and needs to each encounter in your life.
That doesn’t mean you don’t listen to your buddies—and it especially doesn’t mean you don’t listen to your parents, counselors, and teachers who are on your side and want the best for you.  What it means is that you have to be careful to follow advice that actually relates to you.
And… here’s the thing about how advice about the SHSAT exam from your older friends relates to you:  it doesn’t.  Starting in 2017, the test is completely different than earlier versions.  The basic structure (Verbal/Mathematics) is still there, but how those sections are set up and what’s inside them are radically different.  (For more info, see, “What is the New SHSAT exam?”).
Ok, so the exam is different—but is it hard?  That’s all the rage, that the test is a killer.  Is it true?  You already know the answer.  It depends on your perspective.

3 Myths about the SHSAT

Myth 1:  The SHSAT is designed for students who have the best academic record.

Why this is false: 
 The SHSAT has been redesigned to get the widest collection of diverse students admitted into specialized high schools in NYC.  If these high schools want students with the best report cards, guess how they would admit students?  By their report cards!  The SHSAT is not built to prove that the students who have had the best grades since pre-K are ready for specialization in high school.
So, what’s true?
There are some true things to say about how the SHSAT is designed.  The SHSAT is a skills-based test.  What types of skills?  Guess what?  These are not skills you already need a specialized high school diploma to achieve!  There are certain basic skills in math and English that you will need to do well on the exam.  But, you already have them!  The test writers didn’t hang out at Starbucks with irregular math texts from their universities and write your math test.  They put together a challenging test based on what all New York City middle schoolers should already know just by going to school.
The challenge of the test doesn’t come from the skills you need to know—because you already have those skills.  Instead, the challenge is in the critical thinking you’ll need to use to beat the test. Take a deep breath—you have what it takes to do well!  You just need more practice in how to approach the test, and in applying techniques to get correct answers if you’re stuck.  You’re going to get it here!

Myth 2:  The SHSAT is designed for students who already went to the best elementary and middle schools.

Why this is false:
The new SHSAT has been completely gutted, redesigned, and put back together exactly to make sure that the students who stand a great chance of getting into a specialized high school are the hardest working, creative, and imaginative students from all over New York City. The goal of the SHSAT is to get problem solvers from a huge range of backgrounds into the high school of their choice.  You already are skilled—are you a problem solver?
Well… are you here?  Then you’re already doing what you need to be ready for this test, regardless of where you went to school.
So, what’s true?
Whether students are ready for the SHSAT doesn’t come down to their grades or where they went to school.
Imagine two kids—let’s call them Hortensia and Prudencia.  Both are intelligent, talented in different ways, and have heard about NYC’s specialized high schools.  They both decide they want to go. Hortensia’s mom works three jobs, and so, Hortensia has to usually work really hard on her own to get through her homework.  Sometimes she goes to the public library for help, but she has set her sights high (even when kids at school tease her for being a nerd).  She doesn’t always get the best grades, but she always talks to her teachers about how to get better.  Prudencia goes to a private school, and there are lots of clubs, social events, and school trips.  She participates in everything, except, well, academics.  She’s not super worried about applying herself, and her parents only get on her about grades if they slip below a ‘C’, so she doesn’t stress out about it.  Prudencia is used to getting what she wants, and she knows she is going to get into the school of her choice because her parents make a lot of money and have a lot of influence.
Which of these students is better prepared for the new SHSAT, and a better applicant to NYC’s specialized high schools?  Hortensia!  Hortensia has the work ethic, the dream, and the plan to get her into school.  She knows how to do it, and isn’t distracted by the things that can take her away at succeeding at her own life.
This life is yours, too.  Make a plan here, keep it in mind, stick to it, and win at your life!

 Myth #3:  the new SHSAT is hard

 Why this is false:
The new SHSAT is only hard for students who aren’t prepared.  For students who are prepared, the SHSAT will be challenging, just like beating a video game, learning how to dunk, landing first chair in violin, finishing the 30-hour drawing project for the art studio, or getting your soda can robot to move backwards.  But, just like games, basketball, music, art, and engineering, the new SHSAT will be fun for students who are prepared.
So, what’s true?
What makes you prepared—we already saw—isn’t where you went to school or what your grades are for your whole life.  Instead, it happens when you take time every day to learn the techniques behind applying what you already know to the exam.
The new SHSAT won’t be hard for you, then.  It will be challenging.  And what do we do with challenges?  We welcome them.  Just like the things you enjoy to show you are good at doing something great, this test is a challenge, a puzzle, a game, a project.  You get better at it by applying what you already know and are now learning, to help you have fun with the SHSAT and to land a spot in the high school you want.
Are you ready?
Let’s do it.