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Here’s How to Prepare for the SHSAT



What do the students at the majority of NYC specialized schools have in common? They all tirelessly studied and prepared for the grueling SHSAT and achieved a high score. The SHSAT is the key to admission to NYC’s famous specialized schools for exceptionally gifted youth, and it’s nothing to take lightly. Without rigorous preparation, your chances of getting a high score on the examination are low.


Luckily, you can use several preparation strategies to best equip yourself to take this daunting test:


Start Early

It takes a long time to prepare for a test this big and important, so make sure to get started ahead of time. The test is for eighth- and ninth-grade students, but you can get a head start by beginning preparations in sixth grade or even earlier.

Familiarize Yourself with the Test

Every test is different, so it’s important to know exactly what kind of test the SHSAT is. Do your research before you start studying so you can optimize your study techniques and make the most of your preparation time. Additionally, knowing exactly what to expect on test day will reduce your anxiety, and being familiar with the structure of the test will save you time.

Study a Lot

Studying once a week isn’t enough. You should integrate SHSAT preparation into your daily routine. Put aside an hour a day for the SHSAT, or do it after your regular homework. Just find what works for you.

Work with a Tutor

Your teachers may not cover the SHSAT test topics adequately in class, so hiring a specialized SHSAT tutor can be highly beneficial. Since your tutor will have in-depth knowledge of the material, he or she can expertly prepare you for this grueling exam.

Take Practice Tests

The Department of Education offers an official SHSAT handbook, so take advantage of this valuable resource, which provides a full-length practice exam along with guidelines for taking the test. To achieve a high score, you need to master not only the test material but also the test structure, so make sure to simulate the real test environment to the best of your ability. This means setting a three-hour timer and sitting down at a table in a quiet room to write the entire test in one sitting, with no breaks.

After Taking a Mock Test, Give Yourself a Grade and Review Your Responses

The practice tests come with answer keys, so thoroughly compare your answers to the official ones. Checking your answers will help you zero in on the types of errors you’re making, and you can focus your study sessions on correcting them. This can also help train you to avoid making careless mistakes in the math section or not interpreting the reading passages deeply enough. Essentially, identify your strengths and weaknesses, and determine a realistic score to aim for.


Prioritize Your Weak Subjects

The only way to get better is to practice, practice, practice! If you’re strong in reading comprehension and weak in geometry, don’t spend equal time practicing both. Favor geometry until your skills improve. Allocate time to each subject according to your skills, spending more time on your weaker topics.


Read as Much as You Can!

It goes without saying that you should specifically practice reading comprehension for the test, but you should also work reading into your life outside of test prep as much as possible. Since the texts in the SHSAT are informative nonfiction passages, focus on reading nonfiction articles, such as those from the New York Times or Scientific American. This way, you can enhance your vocabulary and cultivate your overall reading skills, which are useful not only for the SHSAT but also for life. To motivate yourself, read about topics you’re interested in, and try jotting down the gist of the articles to ensure you’ve grasped the material.


There’s no one right way to prepare for the SHSAT, so if you start early, you can experiment with preparation methods until you find what works for you. The exam may be daunting, but it’s far from impossible, and if you follow the advice in this post, and if you receive professional support from a specialized SHSAT tutor, you’ll be well on your way to SHSAT success.

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