All about the SHSAT

The Specialized High School Admissions Test (SHSAT) is the only criterion for admissions to eight of the nine 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 Department of Education and is only available to New York City residents in the 8th grade. 9th grade students may also choose to take the 9th grade version of the SHSAT for a very limited number of seats that may become available at the Specialized High Schools.

In 2015, approximately 27,000 students took the SHSAT; less than 20% of those students were accepted to a New York City Specialized High School.

SHSAT Revision: New SHSAT in 2017

For the first time in 20+ years, the New York City DOE has announced big changes to the SHSAT test. These updates will go into effect for the October/November administrations of the 2017 exam, for admissions in the 2018-2019 school year.

  • Old SHSAT
  • New SHSAT
  • Timing
  • 2.5 hours (75 min per section suggested
  • 3 hours total (90 min per section suggested)
  • Scoring
  • Out of 800, math and verbal equally weighted
  • No change
  • Raw Score
  • Scrambled paragraph worth two points
  • All questions worth one point Unscored field test items included in both sections
  • Answer Choices
  • 5 choices
  • 4 choices
  • ELA (formerly Verbal)
  • Scrambled paragraphs, logical reasoning, reading and comprehension
  • Nonfiction reading comprehension, revising/editing passages, and stand-alone questions
  • Math
  • All multiple choice
    More focus on geometry
    Calculator not permitted
  • Addition of grid-in questions
    More focus on word problems
    Calculator not permitted

Registration Details

In order to be considered for admissions at one of 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.

2017 SHSAT Administration Dates

  • All current 8th grade students
  • Dates TBD
  • 8th and 9th grade students who are English Language Learners or students with disabilities who have Individualized Education Programs (IEPs) or 504 Plans.
  • Make-up test requests
  • Dates TBD
  • Students new to New York City
  • (Records must show that student arrived in NYC after the November make-up test.)
  • Dates TBD

For more information on registering for the SHSAT refer to the NYC Department of Education's Specialized High Schools FAQ.

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: There are a total of 114 questions on the test and all scored questions are worth one point. However, ten questions from each section will be unscored items. Therefore, the highest possible "raw score" is 94.

Scaled Score/Composite Score

The raw score is multiplied by a formula known only to the Department 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.