All about the SHSAT

The Specialized High School Admissions Test (SHSAT) is the only criterion for admissions to eight of the New York City Specialized High Schools. The only exception is the Fiorello H. LaGuardia High School of Music & Art and Performing Arts, which requires an audition or portfolio for admission.

The SHSAT is administered by the New York City Board of Education and is only available to New York City residents in the 8th or 9th grade.

In 2012, approximately 27,000 students took the SHSAT; less than 20% of those students were accepted to a New York City Specialized High School.

The Anatomy of the SHSAT

The SHSAT consists of one 75-minute verbal section and one 75-minute math section.

Section Length Test Content
Verbal 75 Minutes 5 Scrambled Paragraphs
10 Logical Reasoning
30 Reading Comprehension
Math 75 Minutes Algebra, Arithmetic, Geometry, Word Problems, Probability, Statistics, 9th Grade Level Trigonometry
Total Time: 2.5 Hours

Registration Details

In order to be considered for admissions at one the eight New York City Specialized High Schools, students must file a High School Application. Students should indicate interest in any of the schools by entering the appropriate information on the application.

Students must then obtain an admission ticket from their guidance counselor. The ticket will indicate the specific date and time of the SHSAT. On Test Day, students will be asked to rank the eight specialized high schools in order of preference.

The SHSAT is typically administered in late October for 8th graders and the following Saturday for 9th graders, who took the SHSAT as 8th graders, but were not accepted to a NYC Specialized High School. Please note that in some years, the exam is not administered until the first weekend in November.

The NYC Department of Education typically posts the test date over the summer: You can also check back here in July for updated 2013 test dates.

Interpreting Scores

The SHSAT score report will include multiple sets of scores, but keep in mind that the most important score is the composite score:

Raw Score

Students earn a "raw score" based on the number of questions answered correctly: Scrambled Paragraph Questions: 2 points for every correct answer Other Questions: 1 point for every correct answer Since there are five Scrambled Paragraphs and ninety other questions on the test, the highest possible "raw score" is 100.

Scaled Score/Composite Score

The raw score is multiplied by a formula known only to the Board of Education to arrive at a scaled score. Students get a scaled score for each section and a composite score for the entire test. The highest possible composite score is 800.

Admission Based Solely on Composite Score

All SHSAT test takers are ranked from highest composite score to lowest composite score and then assigned to the school of their first preference until all available seats are filled.

For example, if Stuyvesant had exactly 500 spaces available and the top 500 scorers all picked Stuyvesant as their first choice, all 500 scorers would be admitted. If the 501st scorer listed Stuyvesant as her first choice and Bronx Science as her second choice, she would be assigned to Bronx Science. Put another way, 500 students were admitted to Stuyvesant and the 500th highest score was 560, then 560 would be the "cutoff" score for Stuyvesant.

This means that scores are relative; it only matters if a student's composite score is above or below the cutoff. There is no way of accurately knowing what the cutoff score will be each year. The only thing we know is that the score will likely be a little higher than last year's cutoff because the test becomes increasingly competitive each year.