Each year more than 25,000 8th-graders take the Specialized High Schools Admissions Test (SHSAT) to vie for roughly 5,000 seats at eight of the nine specialized high schools, including Bronx Science, Brooklyn Latin, Brooklyn Tech, High School for Math Science and Engineering at City College, High School of American Studies at Lehman College, Queens High School of Science at York College, Staten Island Tech, and Stuyvesant.

LaGuardia High School, the 9th specialized high school, selects students based on auditions as well as a review of their middle school academic records.

Use the correct practice materials

When studying for the SHSAT, make sure to use practice materials geared for the correct version of the exam.

  • For students taking the SHSAT during the 2023-24 school year, use test prep materials designed for students entering high school in Fall 2024 including free practice tests. Scroll down to find some free and low cost SHSAT-prep options.

Diversity Initiative

To increase integration at the specialized high schools, the DOE expanded its Discovery Program, which gives some students who just missed the SHSAT cutoff score the opportunity to attend a specialized high school by completing a summer program prior to the start of 9th grade. Twenty percent of all seats at each of the eight specialized high schools that admit students based on the SHSAT are reserved for students who complete the Discovery Program.

To be eligible for the Discovery Program, a student must meet all of the following criteria:

  • Applied to at least one specialized high school by taking the SHSAT;
  • Be at least one of the following: from a low-income household, living in temporary housing or an English language learner who moved to the New York City within the past four years;
  • Scored below the cutoff score on the SHSAT, but still within a certain range set by the DOE; and
  • Attend a high poverty school, which is a school where the Economic Need Index (ENI) is at least 60%.

There is no separate application for the Discovery Program. Those who meet the above criteria will be offered a spot in the Discovery Program in the spring of 8th grade. Those who participate in and complete all of the Discovery Program's requirements will be admitted to a specialized high school.

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. You can learn more about the audition process for La Guardia on its website.

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 below. While it is true that many kids take a SHSAT prep course, it’s also true that 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). You can sign up via your MySchools account or 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 contact a Family Welcome Center to register.

Q. I moved to New York City after the dates for the SHSAT. 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 will be able to take the SHSAT and audition for LaGuardia High School during the summer. Typically the option is offered in mid-August. Students must register ahead of time through a Family Welcome Center. Summer registration typically opens some time in July and closes at the beginning of August. Check the DOE's website for dates and times.

Here are some free and low-cost options to consider:

  • The DOE's 2024 SHSAT practice test.
  • There are many prep books that you can buy at a local bookstore or online. Many cost between $10 and $20 each. These books provide a lot of the same kinds of tips and advice that you’d get in a prep class. Make sure to use books and other prep materials designed for the current version of the test.
  • For about $60 for 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.
  • Taicoon University offers a low cost, online SHSAT prep program covering math only.
  • Some community organizations 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.
  • Helicon Inc, a non-profit, offers a SHSAT prep program for free to Black and Latina girls.
  • The DOE’s DREAM Program 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 a Summer/Fall Intensive open to rising 8th-graders.
  • Be on the lookout for free practice tests. Some of the fee-based prep courses offer free practice exams with no obligation to sign up for their program.