The SHSAT: An Overview

The Specialized High School Admissions Test (SHSAT)

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What is the SHSAT?

The SHSAT NYC  is a multiple choice, standardized academic test for students seeking admission to New York City’s specialized high schools. The New York SHSAT  measures high school preparedness in math and English. Admission to the specialized high schools is solely based on scores achieved on the SHSAT, not on a student’s previous academic performance, records of any kind or interviews.

What is a specialized high school?

There are approximately 403 public high schools in New York City. Of these 403, nine are highly selective schools. With the exception of Laguardia High School of  Music and Art, the specialized high schools accept students based on results on the Specialized High School Admissions Test (SHSAT). Based on the math and English proficiency and AP examination scores of their graduating students, the specialized high schools are consistently ranked among the best public high schools in New York City, in New York State and in the nation.

What are the eight specialized high schools that require the SHSAT for admittance?

1. Bronx High School of Science (Bronx)

2. The Brooklyn Latin School (Brooklyn)

3. Brooklyn Technical High School (Brooklyn)

4. High School for Mathematics, Science and Engineering at the City College (Manhattan)

5. High School of American Studies at Lehman College (Bronx)

6. Queens High School for the Sciences at York College (Queens)

7. Staten Island Technical High School (Staten Island)

8. Stuyvesant High School (Manhattan)

When do most students take the SHSAT?

Late October of their 8th grade year. It is administered only once annually. However, if a student moves into New York City (five boroughs) before the schools reopen in September, the student may take a special SHSAT during the summer (usually at the end of August). Successful students start the school year in a specialized high school.

How many times can a student take the SHSAT?

Only twice. Once for 9th grade admissions (when the student is in 8th grade) and the next for 10th grade admissions (when the student is in 9th grade).

What is on the SHSAT?

The SHSAT is a 2-hour and 30-minute, multiple choice test consisting of two sections: verbal and math.

Verbal Section (3 parts)

  • Scrambled Paragraphs  (5 questions)

Students are given the first of six sentences and must then order the other five sentences to form a coherent paragraph. This is intended to measure ability to organize written information in a logical sequence. Questions in this section are worth twice as much as all others.

  • Logical Reasoning  (10 questions)

This section intends to assess the ability to reason and draw valid conclusions based on information provided.  There are different types of questions: figuring out codes, determining relative positions of things or people, and identifying correct assumptions. 

  • Reading Comprehension  (30 questions)

This section contains five passages followed by six questions that measure the ability to understand written English.  The passages, which range from 350 to 450 words, often include biographies, topics in history, science, art, or music, persuasive essays, and human interest stories.  All are nonfiction.  One of the six questions will ask the main idea. The others intend to assess the understanding of facts and the ability to make inferences.

Math Section (1 part) 

The math section includes arithmetic, algebra, probability, statistics, and geometry problems.  The ninth grade test also includes trigonometry. There are both computational and word questions.  For the most part, the exam requires application of the concepts covered in the New York State Core Curriculum.  Since there is a wide variance in the way that curriculum is used in classrooms across New York City (and State), there may be topics on the SHSAT that have not been covered in your math class. This adds an additional dimension to the test, since creatively responding to unfamiliar situations is an indication of mathematical ability.  Of course, with proper test preparation, encountering an unfamiliar concept would be a rarity.

What are the cut-off scores for the SHSAT? (minimum score required for admittance)

The cut-off scores vary each year. Here are cut-off scores for 2010, 2011 and 2012:


2011 Cut-off Score

2012 Cut-off Score

2013 Cut-off Score

Bronx Science




Brooklyn Latin




Brooklyn Technical




High School for Math, Science and Engineering at City College




High School of American Studies at Lehman College




Queens Science at York College




Staten Island Tech








How is the SHSAT scored?

The most important thing to know about SHSAT scoring is that there is no penalty for a wrong answer.  Your score is based on the number of correct answers.  Therefore, leaving a question blank only hurts your chances, since wrong answers are not counted against you.  That means if you are about to run out of time, you should answer any remaining questions, even if you have to make a random guess.

For scoring the test, the total number of questions correct is combined with the difficulty level of these questions to yield a student’s scale score in each section, math and verbal.  Together, they comprise the composite score. These composite scores are ordered from highest to lowest for all students who took the test.  Those with the highest scores are assigned to their first choice schools until a school fills all available seats.  Obviously, once seats are filled in a school, it is closed to further admission.  If a student’s first choice school is full, he or she gets the second choice school.  If that school is filled, he or she get the third choice, and so on. 


The New York City Department of Education’s “Specialized High Schools Handbook” can be found at: