NYC Specialized High Schools Admissions Process

The Specialized High Schools Admissions Test (SHSAT) is used as the single determining factor for admission to the NYC Specialized High Schools, except for Fiorello H. La Guardia High School, which is a performing arts school.

Students, who would like to attend one of the NYC Specialized High Schools, should speak to their guidance counselors as soon as possible when 8th grade starts to get an admission ticket to sit for the test. The SHSAT is typically administered toward the end of October when a student is in 8th grade. Students receive their results from the test in the spring.

NYC Specialized High Schools that Require the SHSAT

The eight NYC Specialized High Schools that require the SHSAT for admission are considered elite high schools that rank as some of the top high schools in the country. Below is a list of the eight specialized high schools. Each link gives more information about the school and the admissions process.

Ranking Schools

When students sit for the actual test, they will have to bubble in their preference of schools by ranking their top three choices.

There is a lot of confusion with this because of misinformation and bad advice. The best advice is to simply rank them in the order of schools you would like to attend.

Be aware that Stuyvesant High School consistently has the highest cut-off score, which means it is the most difficult one to get into. Because of that, it wouldn’t make sense to rank it as number two or three. If you have a score high enough to get into Stuy, you will have a score high enough to get into your top choice also. Therefore Stuy is not a good second or third option.

How Admission is Determined

After the tests are scored, all of the students are put in a list from highest score to lowest score.

The system automatically goes down the list and places students into schools based on their rankings of the schools and available seats.

For example, when it gets to a student, it will check what the students top choice is. If that school is not filled, then the student will be placed into that school. If the school is filled, it will look at the second choice, then the third. If all three schools are filled, the student will not be accepted into a specialized high school for the 9th grade.

SHSAT Scoring

The two sections on the SHSAT are scored independently. The number of correct questions are scaled to give scaled scores for each section. They are then added together to create a composite score. Students will only be notified of their composite scores, not the breakdown on the two sections.

How Scoring Works

Cut-Off Scores

SHSAT Score Calculator

How to Sign Up for the SHSAT

There are three ways to sign up for the SHSAT:

  1. Guidance Counselor: Sign up for the test through your guidance counselor in the beginning of 8th grade
  2. MySchools Website: The MySchools website is used by students to apply to high school programs, and it can also be used to register for the SHSAT.
  3. Family Welcome Center: You can visit the Family Welcome Center to sign up for the SHSAT. On Staten Island, the Family Welcome Center is located in the Petrides complex.

SHSAT Test Dates

2019 SHSAT Test Dates for 8th Grade Students

The SHSAT will be administered on Saturday, October 26, 2019 and Sunday, October 27, 2019 for current 8th grade students. Students will be assigned one of the dates, not both.

2019 SHSAT Test Dates for 9th Grade Students

All first-time 9th grade students will take the test on Sunday, October 27,2019.

Special Testing Dates

Current Grade 8 and first-time Grade 9 students who are English Language Learners or students with disabilities who have Individualized Education Programs (IEPs) or 504 Plans that include testing accommodations will take the test on Saturday, November 7, 2019 or Sunday, November 17, 2019.

Make-up tests will also be administered on Saturday, November 7, 2019 and Sunday, November 17, 2019. Students will need to get approval for a make-up test and will be assigned a date.

Preparing for the SHSAT

Many students wonder how they should prepare for the SHSAT. Well, the good news is that the SHSAT tests ELA and math skills, the same two subjects that most NYC students have been tested on since 3rd grade.

Of course, the test is more difficult than the NYS math and ELA tests. It has to be. In order to separate the top students from the rest, there has to be difficult questions. If every student was able to get high scores on the test, there would be no way to identify the strongest students.

Like with most standardized tests, students can benefit from test prep.

Regardless of what test you are preparing for, we always recommend to start with a practice test.

Taking a practice SHSAT will not only provide the student with a starting point to measure progress from, but it will also introduce the student to the test. This will make understanding strategies and lessons easier when preparing for the test.

Here is one of our blog posts with a tip for answering questions on the SHSAT.

Some students who have to prepare for the SHSAT will also have to prepare for the TACHS (Test for Admission into Catholic High Schools). There is some overlap of content on the two tests. Here is a blog post detailing how to prepare for the SHSAT and TACHS at the same time.

We have a few ways of helping students prepare for the SHSAT.

Online SHSAT Prep

Our online SHSAT prep is an affordable, self-paced, personalized prep course. As of writing this, we have 22,807+ practice problems. For more information about our online test prep click here.

SHSAT Tutoring

We provide 1-on-1 tutoring at our office in Staten Island, NY. If you would like to set up a schedule, find out more information, or come in for a free practice test, call (917) 722-0677.

SHSAT Prep Classes

At our office we also offer in-person prep classes that are limited to 8 students per class. To view class schedules and get more information, click here.

What’s on the SHSAT?

The SHSAT is a 3-hour long test with an English section and a math section. Students are able to use the 3 hours however they like, so they can start in either sections and spend as much time as they want per section.

The English Section

The English sections tests students on their revising & editing skills and on their reading comprehension skills.

There will be about 20 revising & editing questions on the test. These types of questions present students with a sentence, a paragraph or a passage and ask students for the best revision to parts of the text. Questions could include grammar, punctuation, usage, and relevant information.

Approximately 37 questions will be devoted to reading comprehension. Reading comprehension questions resemble common-core type questions, including questions that ask students to find supporting evidence. A surprising part of reading comprehension is the inclusion of a poem. The 2019 test actually included two poems.

All of the English questions are multiple-choice questions.

The Math Section

The majority of the questions on the Math section are multiple choice. Approximately 5-7 of the questions will be grid-in questions, similar to the SAT. Students are only given credit for correct answers; partial-credit is not given. The entire test is graded automatically by a scanner.

Math on the SHSAT includes: arithmetic, algebra, geometry, data, and probability.

A big part of the 2019 test involved percentage that required a lot of work on paper. Calculators are not permitted on the test.


The SHSAT has been in the new recently because it has exposed a problem that exists in the NYC DOE. Data has existed for years that shows a gap in academic achievement among students of different races. It is a difficult problem to address, no doubt. However, it became a very clear one when the low number of black and Hispanic students and the high number of Asian students in the specialized high schools was pointed out.

This was not always the case, though. At one point, the majority of the students who attended Brooklyn Technical High School we black and Hispanic. In 1989, the school’s student body was 51 percent black and Hispanic ( A big change happened when “student tracking” done away with and advanced academic programs were no longer available in key communities.

May or Bill de Blasio has tried to eliminate the exam a few times. At one point he even offered to put gifted and talented programs in all of the middle schools if the test was scrapped, which makes the consideration of eliminating gifted and talented programs even more puzzling.

Mayor de Blasio’s first attempt at increasing the number of black and Hispanic students included an overhaul of the test. Scrambled paragraphs and logical reasoning questions were removed from the test. Revising and editing questions were added, and the number of answer choices for each question was reduced from five to four. These changes made the SHSAT more similar to the SAT.

How Intermediate Schools Would be Affected

Who Wins, and Who Loses, in the Proposed Plan for Elite Schools?

At the Christa McAuliffe School in Brooklyn, three quarters of the eighth graders were offered seats at the city’s specialized high schools this year. That number would fall to 7 percent under a new plan.

What About Gifted & Talented Programs?

The NYC Department of Education has a program to identify students who excel in school, specifically math and ELA. It’s called the gifted and talented program. It appears to be a program that actually works. The majority of students who are accepted to the NYC Specialized HSs are students from the gifted and talented programs.

In our opinion it seems that students are accepted to the Specialized high schools because they were given a better education in the G&T programs or that they were accepted because they were correctly identified in the G&T application process. Whatever the reason is, it seems like more G&T programs would help more students get better educations and give more students an opportunity to get into a NYC Specialized High School. Eliminating the G&T programs would be detrimental to students’ education. However, that is something that has been proposed.

Desegregation Plan: Eliminate All Gifted Programs in New York

A group appointed by Mayor Bill de Blasio proposed seismic changes to the nation’s largest school system.

What about the Asian Americans?

Why Asian-Americans Feel Powerless in the Battle over New York’s Élite High Schools

Yuh-Line Niou, a Democratic State Assembly member who represents a downtown Manhattan district that is more than forty per cent Asian, expressed concern about the way that the proposal was rolled out. “Historically, Asians have never been given much of a say in civic or political matters, and here the Mayor is again deliberately cutting them out of a discussion that intimately affects their lives,” she said. Moreover, the problem begins far earlier than high school. “By the time we face segregation in our high schools, it is a symptom of our system’s failings, not the cause,” she told me. “How can we expect to heal a tree of a root disease by trimming its leaves?”