Each year more than 25,000 students take the SHSAT (Specialized High Schools Admissions Test) to vie for roughly 5,000 seats at eight of the nine specialized high schools, also called the exam schools.
The Department of Education is introducing a new version of the SHSAT beginning with the fall 2017 exam. Among the changes are the elimination of the logical reasoning and scrambled paragraphs sections and the addition of a series of questions testing editing skills. Learn more about the new SHSAT by reading the Department of Education's (DOE) FAQ on the Redesigned Test. Check the Key 2017 Dates section below for fall exam dates.
It’s important to study for the SHSAT. Here are some free and low-cost options to consider (Note programs may change from year to year):
- The DOE’s Specialized High Schools Student Handbook includes practice exam questions and test-taking tips.
- There are many prep books that you can buy at a local bookstore or online. Most cost between $10 and $20 each. These books provide many of the same kinds of tips and advice that you’d get in a prep class. Caution: Don't purchase or work from older editions (2016 or earlier) that don't take into account the redesigned SHSAT.
- For about $50 you can take an online prep course from TestPrepSHSAT.com. This organization also offers free content, one-on-one tutoring for a fee, and some scholarships to cover the cost of their fees.
- Some community organizations, such as the Hudson Guild offer free SHSAT prep to students. Check our Free Programs section for more options and also ask organizations in your neighborhood if they offer SHSAT prep.
- PASSNYC is an organization dedicated to increasing the diversity of students taking the SHSAT. It offers resources for parents and students including a free summer SHSAT prep course for a limited number of rising 8th-graders.
- Helicon Inc, a non-profit, in 2017 offered a pilot SHSAT prep program for free to Latino and Black girls. It was open to five participants from each borough.
- The DOE’s DREAM Specialized High School Institute offers two free SHSAT prep programs open to New York City public school students who meet additional eligibility requirements. There’s a 22-month-long course open to 6th-graders and the Summer/Fall Intensive, a 38-session course open to rising 8th-graders.
Frequently asked questions
Q. Do the exam-based specialized high schools look at middle school grades and state ELA and math scores too?
A. No. It's all about the SHSAT. In fact, these eight schools have no say in who is admitted. Instead, students are assigned based on an algorithm that factors in each student's SHSAT score, how each student ranks her preferences for attending the schools and the number of seats available at each school.
Q. Do I need to take the SHSAT to apply to LaGuardia High School?
A. No. There is a separate admissions process for LaGuardia, which selects students based on an audition as well as a review of middle school grades, state test scores and records of attendance.
Q. I can’t afford to pay for an SHSAT prep course, is it still worth it to take the SHSAT in the fall?
A. Yes, but study! Check out some free SHSAT prep options mentioned above. While it is true that many kids take a SHSAT prep course, it’s also true that some students get into specialized high schools by studying on their own from prep books or online resources. Don’t get discouraged if at first you struggle. When studying from a book or online source, it’s important to read the tips and mini lessons and not just answer the practice questions. After taking a practice test, read the explanations in the answer key. If you think you need to learn or re-learn a specific skill tested on the SHSAT, try a free online tutoring program like Khan Academy.
Q. How do I register to take the SHSAT?
A. You will need a ticket in order to take the SHSAT (and a separate ticket to audition for LaGuardia). At the start of the school year contact your school's guidance counselor to request a ticket. If you attend a private or parochial school, the person in charge of high school admissions should be able to help you get your ticket as well, but if you run into problems at your school, you may go to a Family Welcome Center to register. Check the Key 2017 Dates section below for the registration period.
Q. I moved to New York City after the dates for the SHSAT and LaGuardia audition. Is it too late to get into a specialized high school for the coming fall?
A. No. Incoming 9th- and 10th-graders who moved to the city after the fall exam and audition dates will be able to take the SHSAT and audition for LaGuardia in late August. You must register ahead of time for the summer SHSAT and LaGuardia audition at a Family Welcome Center.
Key 2017 dates
- Thursday, August 24, 2017: SHSAT for students new to NYC. The exam will be administered at Stuyvesant High School
- August 29, 2017: LaGuardia audition for students new to NYC. Auditions will be held at LaGuardia High School
- September 7 to October 12, 2017: Registration period for the fall 2017 SHSAT and LaGuardia audition. Make sure to request your ticket before the October 12 deadline!
- Saturday, October 21 or Sunday, October 22, 2017: SHSAT dates for 8th-graders applying to enter high school in September 2018.
- Sunday, October 29 or Saturday, November 4, 2017: SHSAT dates for all current 9th-graders, English language learners, students with Individualized Education Programs (IEPs) or 504 plans that included testing accommodations, and students granted a make-up test.