Essay Section of the Hunter College High School Admissions Test

On the three hour entrance exam for Hunter College High School, students must show their mastery of English Language Arts, mathematics, and essay writing. However, the essay section doesn’t simply ask students to write a generic five paragraph essay in response to a prompt: this writing section is a chance for students to show their descriptive abilities, skills with figurative language, and storytelling capabilities.

Hunter College High School Admissions Test | Why Does The Essay Matter?

The Hunter entrance exam gets graded in two stages. First, the scores from the multiple choice questions are calculated, and the top five hundred students based on these values move on to the next round. During the second stage, teachers at Hunter read through the essays and determine the top two hundred students, who receive letters of admission to Hunter for the fall of that year. Since the essay is the only criterion for moving on during the second round, students must make sure that their essays are unique, engaging, and show off strong writing abilities.

Hunter College High School Admissions Test | What Do Graders Expect on the Essay?

Most of the essay questions ask students to tell a story, write about a particular event, and use sensory details as they respond to a prompt involving New York City. Since all test-takers must live in one of the five boroughs of NYC, each student will have plenty of details to use as they respond to the prompt. The key is writing something that engages the graders, and a great way to do this is to write about familiar places and strong memories that can be described using plenty of detail. To see a sample essay topic, look at the official practice test from the Hunter website.

Hunter College High School Admissions Test | Tips for Essay Mastery

Since there is no time limit for each section on the entrance exam, only a three hour limit overall, it’s essential for students to keep track of their time during the essay. Aiming for a half-hour block of time is a good way to begin the essay, and that way students won’t look up at the clock and see that half their time gone. Starting with a quick brainstorming session about key memories, places, and important details will help test-takers get going, and then it’s smart to jot down a quick outline. No grader wants to be confused or feel unable to follow a student’s reasoning, so clear and logical transitions are important.

While there’s no required length for the response, a goal of approximately five paragraphs is a great base. There’s always room to return to the essay after finishing the multiple choice questions. Working to develop strong writing skills in school and practicing descriptive language on test day can help.

Are You Considering Test Prep for Hunter College High School Admissions Test?

Preparation for the Hunter High School Admissions test does not have to be daunting and exasperating; instead, it can represent an important opportunity along a student’s path to learning mastery. Indeed, the perspectives and abilities acquired during preparation can be transformative and last a lifetime.

Our two-track approach to mastering content and improving test-taking skills means that students will not only thoroughly understand the fundamental concepts and skills tested by the Hunter exam, but they will also excel in using essential techniques to improve attitude, endurance and focus. Our students hone their independent thinking skills while developing a resilient mindset so they can perform on test day in a powerful, resourceful, creative and calm manner. Each student in our program receives the undivided attention and expertise of a dynamic and experienced coach who provides the framework to support each student on his unique path to becoming a master learner.

All students who work with Origins Tutoring undergo a diagnostic evaluation and are provided with full-length 'sample' Hunter practice tests. You can also access for free one of our sample tests here: 

Please call 917.287.7927 now for a complimentary consultation to discuss how we can help your child achieve his or her personal best on the Hunter High School Admissions Exam.


Origins Tutoring also offers the "Hunter College High School Preparation E-Guide"  The Preparation Guide is the only test prep book on the market devoted to helping students prepare for the HCHS admissions exam. It contains three practice tests and much more. You can learn about the Guide here.