SHSAT Practice Test
Getting the Most from an SHSAT Practice Test:
New York City’s Specialized High Schools Admissions Test (SHSAT), is an examination given to students in eighth or ninth grade. It determines the applicant’s viability for admission to one of NYC’s Specialized High Schools. These schools, such as the Bronx High School of Science and Stuyvesant High School, are run by the New York City Dept. of Education to provide an academic “leg up” to artistically or intellectually gifted students. Getting in to one of these prestigious schools can put students on an academic fast track to success, yet on average, only about 10-15% of the students who take the test end up scoring high enough to be admitted. Therefore, thorough knowledge of at least one SHSAT practice test, tutoring and other methods of preparation have become crucial to success.
While the SHSAT is not too different from any other standardized test, many students who feel they can simply “coast” through the exam are often extremely disappointed when the scores arrive. This is because it’s often not enough to simply be “gifted” in any one area. The test does not treat artists and scientists differently – it tests them both equally in logic, English and mathematics. A student with a natural flair for logical reasoning is not necessarily good at algebra, nor is a student with excellent reading skills (right brained) going to have an easy time with factoring, substitution or logic (left brain).
The only way for a student to properly prepare for the SHSAT is to train their mind for the type of questions that will be asked. While it’s impossible to predict exactly which questions will be on the test – i.e. cheat – a student can review the specific content areas and help nurture the skills essential to passing each section. This is most commonly accomplished through taking practice tests. But a practice test can have uses beyond mere repetition of logical, mathematical and verbal examples.
A practice exam for a test like the SHSAT is ultimatley nothing more than the practice test designer’s personal take on the types of questions that he or she feels will be on the actual SHSAT. This means that each practice test designer essentially ends up creating their own “version” of the actual exam. Some of them will be closer than others, and provide students an excellent window into the test, while others will be miles off target, proving a poor preparation for the test but still providing the student a chance to hone the skills necessary to pass it.
Therefore, the only way to get the most out of SHSAT practice exams is to take as many as possible, as often as possible. If a parent purchases an SHSAT study guide – some of which cost over $100 – for their child in order to help them prepare, they are only covering one person’s interpretation of the test. When they purchase several, they allow the child to see the trends in how the test is interpreted. In a way, a student who sees a variety of possible directions for the test will better understand how the actual test will be structured and end up far better off than their peers.
It’s like spending a year studying how an instrument is made before attempting to play it. A student will understand the construction behind each type of question and ultimately learn what part of their mind the question is meant to test. Understanding what the goal of a question is, not just responding to it through conditioning – is much more valuable to a test taker. By exploring how others interpret the test, they will naturally approach it from a “purpose” standpoint rather than a “memory” standpoint.
Ultimately, if a student wants to truly prepare their mind for a test like the SHSAT, it’s important to consider not just one SHSAT practice test, but as many as they can get their hands on. Instruct your child to read the test questions repeatedly without answering them. Tell them to focus on each question’s purpose, meaning and applicability in real life. Afterwards, have them do the same with as many other practice tests as possible, looking for patterns in the language, structure and setup of the exams. In approaching the test this way, students will be far more in tune with the purpose of the test, and far more prepared to approach it correctly.