What Is the SHSAT? The Complete Guide

June 5, 2024
4 min read
Expert Reviewed


Reviewed by:

Mary Banks

Former Admissions Committee Member, Columbia University

Reviewed: 6/5/24

What is SHSAT? Who should take it? These are important questions, so let’s get into them. 

In New York City's education system, there's a crucial test known as the SHSAT. This standardized exam is responsible for determining admission to specialized high schools.

The SHSAT is open to a wide range of students, including those from public, charter, private, and parochial schools, as well as students with disabilities, limited mobility, and English Language Learners. 

Whether you’re preparing for college early, or just want to ensure you get into one of New York City’s best high schools, it’s important to keep the SHSAT in mind. Each year, nearly 29,000 students take the test, and approximately 5,000 receive offers—so it’s a big one. In this blog, we'll explore the significance of the SHSAT and take a look at what you can do to prepare. 

What Does SHSAT Stand For?

SHSAT stands for the Specialized High School Admissions Test. It is an exam taken by eighth and ninth graders in New York City for admission to specialized high schools. 

Specialized high schools in New York City offer more challenging classes than most other public high schools. They are meant for students who are really good at academics and the arts. Here are the names of these schools:

  • Bronx High School of Science
  • The Brooklyn Latin School
  • Brooklyn Technical High School
  • High School of American Studies at Lehman College (in the Bronx)
  • High School for Math, Science, and Engineering at City College (in Manhattan)
  • Queens High School for the Sciences at York College
  • Staten Island Technical High School
  • Stuyvesant High School (in Manhattan)

Now, there's one more special school called Fiorello H. LaGuardia High School of Music and Art and Performing Arts. This school doesn't look at SHSAT test scores. Instead, it decides who gets in based on auditions and school records.

What Are the Key Components of the SHSAT Exam?

The SHSAT exam consists of two main parts: English Language Arts (ELA) and Math.

English Language Arts (ELA) Section

Let's take a look at the English Language Arts (ELA) section of the SHSAT exam and its key components.


  • Number of Questions: Between nine and 19
  • Skills Assessed: The ability to recognize and correct language errors and improve overall quality of writing
  • Format: In Part A of the ELA section, each question pertains to an individual sentence or paragraph, while in Part B, all questions revolve around a single, multi-paragraph text.
  • Topics: Language skills aligned with New York State Learning Standards for grades seven and earlier.

Reading Comprehension

  • Number of Questions: Between 38 and 48
  • Skills Assessed: The ability to understand, analyze, and interpret texts from a variety of genres
  • Format: five to six texts, including informational and literary, followed by six to 10 questions each
  • Text Types: Informational texts (exposition, argument, personal essays, etc.) and Literary texts (poetry, fiction, etc.).

Math Section

  • Number of Questions: 52 multiple-choice and five grid-in questions
  • Skills Assessed: Application of mathematical skills, terms, and concepts based on New York State Learning Standards for Mathematics
  • Grade-Level Focus: For grade eight test forms, the content is derived from the New York State Learning Standards up to grade seven, while grade nine test forms incorporate material learned through grade eight.

How Hard Is the SHSAT?

The SHSAT's level of difficulty can vary from student to student, depending on their academic readiness and familiarity with the test format. So, whether your grades are sky-high, or you're still working to improve, the SHSAT can be a challenge. 

For some, it might feel challenging, especially if they haven't encountered similar questions or content before. However, with dedicated preparation, many students find it manageable.

To do well on the SHSAT, it's important to study the test content, which includes both ELA and Math sections. Practicing with sample questions and past exams can help you get used to the question types and improve your problem-solving skills.

Managing your time during the test is also crucial since there are strict time limits for each section. Good time management ensures you can complete all the questions within the allotted time.

Overall, while the SHSAT can be challenging, especially if you're not well-prepared, with the right test-taking approach and practice, it's a test that you can succeed in.

How Long Is the SHSAT?

The SHSAT is a three-hour test. During this time, you'll face questions that assess your language skills, reading comprehension, and mathematical abilities. 

In the ELA section, you'll need to correct sentences and paragraphs, as well as understand and analyze different types of texts. In the Math section, you'll solve mathematical problems and use math concepts in practical situations. 

Now that you know how long the SHSAT is, keep in mind that effective time management is your best friend. Do your best to ensure you have enough time for both sections; it's crucial to budget your time wisely. 

How Many Questions Are on the SHSAT?

The SHSAT is divided into two sections: English Language Arts (ELA) and Math. Each of these sections contains 57 questions, making it a total of 114 questions for the entire test. Having a clear strategy and time allocation for each section will be crucial to maximize your chances of success. 

On the day of the test, you'll have a three-hour window (180 minutes) to complete both sections, and you can decide which section to start with based on your choice. Now that you know how many questions are on the SHSAT, you can plan your time management effectively during the test. 

SHSAT Registration Dates

SHSAT registration is a crucial step for students looking to secure their spot in New York City's Specialized High Schools. Here's a breakdown of the registration process and important dates to keep in mind:

Fall 2024 Admissions Timeline

For those applying for admission in the 2024-2025 school year, here are the key dates to remember:

  • Tuesday, October 3, 2023: High School Application & SHSAT Registration Opens
  • Friday, October 27, 2023: SHSAT Registration Closes
  • Monday, November 6, 2023: Test Tickets released for SHSAT School Day Testers
  • Wednesday, November 8, 2023: SHSAT School Day Testing
  • Week of November 13, 2023: Test Tickets released for Weekend Testers
  • Saturday, November 18, 2023: SHSAT Weekend Testing (Day 1)
  • Sunday, November 19, 2023: SHSAT Weekend Testing (Day 2)
  • Week of November 27, 2023: Test Tickets released for Late and Make-up Registrants
  • Friday, December 1, 2023: High School Application Closes; Deadline to submit LaGuardia Application; deadline to submit all additional materials in MySchools, including virtual auditions.
  • Sunday, December 3, 2023: SHSAT Weekend Testing (Day 3)
  • Saturday, December 9, 2023: SHSAT Weekend Testing (Day 4)
  • Thursday, March 7, 2024: Offer Release (HS Application, SHSAT, LaGuardia)

These dates are crucial for students and parents alike to ensure a smooth SHSAT registration process and keep track of important deadlines for admission to Specialized High Schools.

How to Register for the SHSAT

Start by visiting the Dashboard page and click on "begin registration for the Specialized High Schools." Then, follow the step-by-step instructions to complete your SHSAT registration. During this process, you'll have the opportunity to specify your school preferences and indicate if you cannot test on a Saturday or Sunday.

Getting Your Test Ticket

  • Test tickets become available approximately two weeks after the registration deadline. These tickets contain essential information such as your testing date, time, location, and any testing accommodations, if applicable.
  • Parents and guardians can either print the test ticket from MySchools or obtain a printed copy from their school counselor.
  • It's crucial for students to adhere to the date and location indicated on their test ticket. If any conflicts arise, promptly inform your child's school counselor.
  • On the day of the test, students must bring their printed test ticket with them.


What is SHSAT? What does SHSAT stand for? Keep reading for answers to commonly asked questions like these. 

1. Is the SHSAT Required for All New York City Students?

No, the SHSAT is not required for all New York City students. It is specifically required for eighth-grade and first-time ninth-grade students who wish to attend Specialized High Schools in the city, with the exception of LaGuardia High School.

Regular public high schools in New York City do not require the SHSAT for admission. Students have various options for high school, including their zoned neighborhood high school, various other specialized programs, and vocational schools, and these typically do not require the SHSAT.

So, while the SHSAT is mandatory for those aiming for Specialized High Schools, it is not a requirement for all New York City students.

2. How Can Students Prepare for the SHSAT?

Preparing for the SHSAT in 2024? Here's a concise guide:

1. Know the Format: Understand the test structure.

2. Practice Tests: Use practice exams to get familiar.

3. Create a Schedule: Organize study time effectively.

4. Address Weaknesses: Focus on areas where you need improvement.

5. Test Strategies: Learn time management and test-taking tactics.

6. Read Complex Material: Enhance reading comprehension.

7. Mental Math: Practice quick math skills.

Following these steps can boost your SHSAT readiness.

3. Who Administers the SHSAT?

The SHSAT is administered by the New York City Department of Education.

Final Thoughts

The SHSAT exam plays an important role in New York City's education system. It is the key to getting into specialized high schools. 

In this blog, we've covered everything you need to know about the SHSAT, from what it stands for to how to prepare for it and when to register. With this information, students and parents can confidently navigate the path to specialized education in New York City.

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