Demystifying the SHSAT: NYC STEM Club’s Guide for Parents

Demystifying the SHSAT: NYC STEM Club’s Guide for Parents

The Specialized High Schools Admissions Test (SHSAT) is a crucial milestone for students aspiring to gain admission to one of seven New York City’s prestigious specialized high schools that utilize the SHSAT for admissions. These renowned institutions, including The Bronx High School of Science, The Brooklyn Latin School, High School For Mathematics, Science And Engineering At City College, High School of American Studies at Lehman College, Queens High School for the Sciences at York College, Staten Island Technical High School, and Stuyvesant High School, are widely recognized for their emphasis on science, technology, engineering, mathematics, and various academic specializations. Admissions to Laguardia High School, the eighth specialized school is through audition. 

 For many parents, guiding their child through this process can seem daunting. In this informative guide, NYC STEM Club offers a comprehensive overview of the test structure, and content of the test, and offers insight into score interpretation to empower both parents and students throughout their SHSAT journey.  

What is the SHSAT? 

The SHSAT is a competitive, high-stakes examination administered to eighth and ninth-grade students seeking admission to New York City’s specialized high schools. The test is the only criteria for admittance to a specialized high school. This test evaluates a student’s readiness for the rigorous curriculum offered in these institutions and is a significant steppingstone towards a future in STEM-based career paths.  

The Significance of the SHSAT 

Success on the SHSAT can lead to top-tier education, esteemed alumni networks, acceptance into a competitive college and increased academic opportunities. Admissions to these specialized high schools are highly selective, with thousands of students vying for relatively few coveted spots. Therefore, a robust SHSAT study plan coupled with an early start is crucial for long-term academic and career success.  

Test Structure and Content 

The SHSAT is a 3-hour test, divided into two sections: English Language Arts (ELA) and Mathematics. Each section contains 57 multiple-choice questions intended to evaluate higher-order thinking skills, analytical skills, and quantitative reasoning. In each section, there are typically around 7-10 field questions. These questions are not counted towards the score but rather used to expand the DOE test bank and identify future potential questions. Since there is no clear way to tell which questions are field test questions, we recommend students put their best foot forward for each question.  

Students are given the full three hours to complete the exam, with the freedom to tackle the sections in any order they prefer. It is generally recommended that students begin with the easier section, typically math, to ensure they have ample time to complete their work. 

English Language Arts (ELA) 

The ELA portion of the SHSAT assesses students’ ability to comprehend and analyze complex texts, revise and edit paragraphs, and demonstrate writing skills. It consists of: 

  • Reading Comprehension: Passages followed by questions that gauge students’ ability to infer, interpret, and analyze information in written material. 

  • Revision of Drafts: Students must critically evaluate and improve the content of provided drafts to make them more effective and engaging. 

  • Editing: Grammar, punctuation, and diction are scrutinized as students correct and enhance the language of given passages 



The Mathematics section measures students’ quantitative reasoning, demonstrating their understanding of factors/multiples, exponents, radicals, algebra, order of operations, simplifying algebraic expressions, absolute value, ratios and proportions, percents, statistics, geometry, probability, combinations, and patterns. The Mathematics section includes: 

  • Multiple-Choice: A wide range of math problems, from basic operations to advanced concepts, presented as multiple choice. 

  • 5 grid-in questions: These unique questions allow students to freely express their answers by filling in the correct response on their bubble sheet. 


It’s important to note that many of the topics covered in the math portion of the SHSAT are not covered in many school’s curricula. Check out NYC’s STEM Club’s blog post that outlines topics that are on the test but not covered in school! 


Scoring of the SHSAT 

Understanding the scoring system for the SHSAT is essential for setting realistic goals and interpreting results. The SHSAT is a scaled score with acceptance into specialized schools with Brooklyn Latin typically accepting a score around 500 while, Stuyvesant typically scores around 565. Each year the scale is different and schools will accept a different range and scale it slightly different, but it will always follow these guidelines according to our SHSAT expert analyst and the DOE website:  


  • Mathematics and English each account for approximately 350-360 points, contributing to a combined score of 700-720. The points change every year.  

  • A raw score point does not always lead to a scaled score point increase.  

  • In the score range extremes, a mere one-point increase in raw score can result in a substantial gain of 10-20 scaled score points. However, as the student progresses towards the middle range, the conversion rate transitions to a more moderate rate of 3-6 scaled score points per raw score point. 

  • A strategy to do well in this test is by excelling in one category and performing moderately well in the other, rather than achieving moderate scores in both categories. For example, scoring 50 correct answers in math and 30 correct answers in English yields a higher score when compared with  40 correct answers in math and 40 correct answers in English. 


SHSAT Target Scores and Interpretation 

Specialized high schools have varying target cumulative scores that fluctuate each year. However, these scores typically fall within the crowdsourced ranges for the year 2020 as outlined below. 

  • Stuyvesant High School Target Score: 566 

  • Staten Island Technical High School: 551 

  • Queens High School for Sciences at York College Target Score: 535 

  • Bronx High School of Science Target Score: 532 

  • High School For Mathematics, Science And Engineering At City College Target Score: 523 

  • High School for American Studies at Lehman College Target Score: 520 

  • Brooklyn Technical High School Target Score: 507 

  • Brooklyn Latin School: 498 


The SHSAT is Learning Journey 

The SHSAT is not just an ordinary test; it’s a journey that challenges students to expand their intellectual horizons and strive for academic excellence. As a parent, your unwavering support and guidance play a crucial role in your child’s success on the SHSAT. A parent should emphasize the invaluable learning opportunities and study skills that a student will gain during their SHSAT journey and celebrate the growth and development that come with dedicated SHSAT preparation 

One effective way to ensure success is by enrolling your student in SHSAT preparation programs, such as the ones offered at NYC STEM Club. NYC STEM Club offers comprehensive support, including personalized study plans, meticulously curated materials, abundant practice tests, and detailed test analysis reports. With the unwavering support of NYC STEM Club, alongside a network of devoted families and educators, you can navigate the SHSAT journey with clarity and purpose. 


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