Is the SHSAT Really Hard?

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If searching Google or Bing for “passing the SHSATs” has brought you here, young student or parent of a student, then it must be destiny!

But honestly, if you are here, then you must be curious over the SHSAT. You must be thinking, “is the SHSAT hard? Is it actually hard?” “What would I (or “my child” if you are a parent to a budding student) have to do to pass it?”

Sit tight as we give you a comprehensive look at all of the ongoings with the SHSAT, as well as how to most likely complete the test with flying colors and land a spot at a lovely New York City high school!

What is the SHSAT Test and Why Does it Matter?What is the SHSAT Test and Why Does it Matter?

Not to be confused with the SATs, the Specialized High School Admissions Test (Test) is New York City’s special and unique admissions test for students in order to get into the city’s specialized high schools, including:

  • The Bronx High School of Science,
  • The Brooklyn Latin School,
  • The High School for Math, Science, and Engineering at City College,
  • The Queens High School for Science at York College,
  • And the Staten Island Technical High School.

The SHSAT is primarily designed to test English and Mathematics grammar and ability for New York City students who are finishing or just finished middle school (in other words, students within the eighth and ninth grades). These tests will be the most involved a student gets into Math and English since their post-procrastination panic the day right before a big exam.

The English SHSAT Test

The English portion of the SHSAT is split between measuring the student’s revising and editing skills (your ability to point out and correct language errors and improve the writing quality) and reading comprehension (your ability to understand, analyze, and interpret texts in different literature).

The Revising and Editing portion of the English SHSAT varies between nine and 19 questions. In the first part of the section, each question is based on its sentence or paragraph. In the second part, all questions are based on a single, multi-paragraph text. Generally, a student’s task on this portion is to identify and correct errors found in the test, including identifying a sentence with a mistake, such as language misuse, missing details, confusing organization, and other errors.

The Reading Comprehension portion of the English SHSAT is much more involved, ranging between 38 and 48 individual questions (though this format is split amongst the individual prompts given, so you have ten or so questions for every given prompt. Despite being much more extensive, this portion is comparatively simpler: you only have to understand concepts like exposition and arguments in a variety of different fields and genres, like poetry, adventure, science fiction, and satire.

The Math SHSAT Test

The Math portion of the SHSAT is comparatively more straightforward than the English portion. The Math portion consists of five grid-in questions (i.e., the test does not provide you a set of questions, and you have to make them yourself) and 52 multiple-choice questions. The material is based around mathematics based on your previous grade (i.e., the eighth grade test forms are based on material up to the seventh grade, and the ninth grade test forms are based on material up to the eighth grade).

The Math section tests you with a series of word and computational quests, such as pre-algebra, algebra, calculating averages, means, and percentages, and volumes, length, and width. Nothing too extreme for a middle schooler or first-year high school student, but certainly daunting if you are not prepared!

Understanding the difficulty of the SHSATs may require comparing them to different forms of specialized testing. So, how does it compare to exams such as the SATs?

Is the SHSAT Harder than the SAT?

Is the SHSAT Harder than the SAT?

The SAT is a series of tests that gauge the readiness of up-and-coming seniors and graduating high school students for college. The SHSAT Test judges students coming out of middle school, those who learn that high school does not in fact have recess during lunch anymore. They are not the same.

This question is simple: the SHSAT is not more challenging than the SAT… generally, at the very least. However, it may actually be more difficult by comparison if we consider what the test expects of the student!

Consider this: high school students who take the SATs have been going through at least freshman and sophomore year before they decided to take the exams. At worst, a high school student may be somewhat out of practice in the SATs’ subjects. But the SATs are primarily based on gauging a student’s readiness based on what they have already done.

The SHSATs are a new breeding ground for any young student. Going from middle school to high school, let alone a particularly prestigious and thus more demanding high school, than going from high school to college or some other secondary education. The student will have to handle a lot of new concepts in a short amount of time.

Ultimately, however, comparing them is irrelevant. You are not taking the SATs; you are taking the SHSAT Test! So how hard is the SHSAT Test?

How Hard is the SHSAT Test?

How Hard is the SHSAT Test?

On average, only 30,000 students take the SHSAT every year. In 2008, 29,000 students came in, took the test, and only 6,000 students achieved a passing grade and were given admission to New York City’s specialized schools.

Those are starkly low odds, all things considered (6,000 out of 29,000 students is around a 20 percent success rate!). However, statistics are not the only measure of difficulty. Do not be scared off by the small numbers or intimidating symbols. The only accurate way to gauge your success is if you actually pass. You have to take the initiative and do it yourself.

Students have three hours to complete the SHSAT Test and its dozens of questions. You can only take the SHSAT Test up to two times. This only applies for students who took and failed the test in the eighth grade: you can retake the SHSAT Test in the ninth grade if you failed the test in the eighth grade, but if you failed the test in the ninth grade, then there are no second chances.

Please remember that this is an admission test for some of the most prestigious schools of New York City, a city that can afford lavish schools and difficult tests. Failing the SHSAT is not an indictment of your ability to get through high school. It is not the end of the world if you do not pass these tests. But you are here for a reason: you want to pass the SHSAT and get into one of those special high schools. And for that, you would need to prepare.

How to Prepare for the SHSAT Test?

How to Prepare for the SHSAT Test?

How do you pass the SHSAT test? Much like with any test, it requires an intense amount of study. If you are taking this test, you are already on the warpath to a future in secondary education. Commonly, this means that you may be finishing or are fresh out of high school. If so, you will have a comfortable time studying since you have already done so for the past four years. If this is your first in a long while that you have even touched the subject of math (and I don’t blame you!), then studying is especially important for you. You will need to understand how to take a test all over again.

Thankfully, we have just a few crucial tips to help you get right back into the studying mood, as well as how to study again:

Create a Study Schedule

What is as important as reading and studying the material is forming a coherent schedule that will allow you to understand and use it. Cramming is an ineffectual way to study, and cramming mere days before the test is a recipe for a disaster cake decorated with half-remembered details and panic attacks.

You need to know how to manage your time, whether you have it or not, in such a way that studying is both feasible and productive. It would be of the most benefit for you to choose a period to study and what material you will focus on in that time. However, you should also remember to take breaks and space your study time out evenly.

We recommend studying for two hours every day, including weekends, with ten-minute breaks to break up the studying flow.

Take the SHSAT Practice Tests

There are many different SHSAT Test preps and practice tests available on the internet, designed to give you a better idea of what the ultimate test would be like. Understanding the fundamental material is very important, but applying that knowledge where it matters is even more critical. It is the difference between knowing how to drive and putting yourself into the driver’s seat.

We recommend making taking practice tests a regular exercise and trying out the questions and examples on those tests in your free time. It is unlikely that the same questions would appear on the final test, so don’t treat practice tests as if you found some hidden cheat code. Completing the actual SHSAT Test would have to take you all of your knowledge, effort, and attention.

Start Reading Material

Studying for the SHSAT Test requires collecting all sorts of reading and study materials, including notebooks, pencils, pens, scratch paper, and of course, textbooks. Additionally, you should check the mountainous stash of old homework and test results to see what you have already done.

The biggest hurdle in a test is often trying to figure out what the test question is asking of you in the first place. Recognize keywords and instructions to go into a particular question knowing what it is you have to do before you do it.

However, do not just memorize details and instructions, but truly understand why certain equations work the way they do and what exactly goes into answering a question.

Additionally, there are specific study guides for the SHSAT Test. They provide specific details on the test and develop a study regiment, including sample questions and their accompanying answers. The best SHSAT prep books are found online, much like the test itself.

Wrapping Things Up: Is the SHSAT Really Hard?

Is the SHSAT really hard? Passing this test will not in any measure be an easy task. Still, do not let that scare you. The SHSAT is the only thing standing between you and a child’s future in a lucrative high school. Like many things in school, the task is only as difficult as you let it. If you apply and dedicate yourself to your studies and seek any and all opportunities to improve, the SHSATs will be a piece of cake!

Professor Conquer
Professor Conquer

Professor Conquer started Conquer Your Exam in 2018 to help students feel more confident and better prepared for their tough tests. Prof excelled in high school, graduating top of his class and receiving admissions into several Ivy League and top 15 schools. He has helped many students through the years tutoring and mentoring K-12, consulting seniors through the college admissions process, and writing extensive how-to guides for school.

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