If you live in New York City, you may be familiar with the SHSAT (Specialized High Schools Admissions Test). However, the familiar test is getting a makeover starting in the fall of 2017. The redesigned test will help determine admission to Specialized High Schools for the 2018-2019 school year.
This article will answer your questions about upcoming changes to the SHSAT, and we’ll also provide samples of the redesigned test items.
What is the SHSAT?
If you’re not familiar with the SHSAT, it’s used as the sole factor determining admission to NYC’s Specialized High Schools:
The exception is Fiorello H. LaGuardia High School of Music & Art and Performing Arts, which requires a portfolio or audition instead.
The SHSAT is administered to eighth grade students (and some ninth grade students) in the fall to determine admission to a Specialized High School for the following school year. Generally, about 5000-6000 of the 20,000-30,000 hopefuls earn admittance to a Specialized High School.
Why is the SHSAT Changing in 2017?
The updated version of the SHSAT is intended to more accurately reflect the material that NYC students are learning in school on a daily basis. The redesigned test is more closely aligned with the New York State Learning Standards.
Despite these changes, the SHSAT will continue to be a rigorous and challenging test designed to identify top performers.
How is the SHSAT Changing in 2017?
The SHSAT is undergoing several changes related to item number, time limit, and question types. Additionally, the Verbal section of the test will now be called the English Language Arts (ELA) section.
Item Number Changes
Previously, the SHSAT consisted of 50 Math questions and 45 Verbal questions.
The redesigned SHSAT will contain 57 items in each section. For each section, only 47 questions will be scored. The remaining 10 questions will be field test items, which are distributed at random throughout the test.
Students will not know which questions are scored items and which are field test items.
Time Limit Changes
As the number of items on the new test increases, so will the time limit. Instead of being allowed 150 minutes, students will now have 180 minutes to complete the test.
Students will continue to be allowed to move freely between the two sections, allotting time as they see fit. However, it’s recommended that students spend about 90 minutes per section.
Question Type Changes on the SHSAT 2017
The most significant changes will be to the question types on the SHSAT. We mentioned earlier that the Verbal section will now be called the English Language Arts (ELA) section. It will continue to appear before the Math section.
On the previous version of the SHSAT, Verbal questions included 5 scrambled paragraphs, 10 logical reasoning questions, and 5 informational reading comprehension passages with six questions each.
The new test will eliminate both the scrambled paragraphs and the logical reasoning questions, because these are not question types routinely encountered by students in the classroom.
Students will continue to answer reading comprehension questions, but they will also now answer 20 questions addressing revising and editing skills.
5-8 of these Revising/Editing questions will be stand-alone questions, while the others will be associated with two provided passages.
All reading passages will be nonfiction, but literary and persuasive passages may be added in following years. All questions on the English Language Arts section will be multiple choice.
The Math section will undergo fewer changes, as it will still contain multiple choice word problems and computational questions.
However, the updated version of the SHSAT will add five grid-in questions, which will require students to solve a computational question and then provide the correct numerical answer (instead of selecting from provided choices).
One final change to question types: All multiple choice questions will now contain four possible answers instead of five, as on the previous SHSAT.
What Will These New Questions Look Like?
Below, we’ll take a look at some released sample questions from the updated SHSAT, including Revising/Editing questions and Grid-In math questions.
Stand-alone Revising/Editing questions will resemble the following:
This particular question requires students to understand correct comma usage . The correct answer is C , a comma should be inserted after “inexpensive.” These are coordinating adjectives that must be broken up.
Students will also need to know vocabulary associated with correct English conventions. For example, correctly answering the following question requires students to comprehend the phrase “misplaced modifiers”:
In this case, the correct answer is B , Sentence 2. Sentences 1 and 4 don’t contain any participial or prepositional phrases as modifiers. In Sentence 3, With more than 1.3 billion citizens” correctly modifies “China.”
In Sentence 2, however, “Bordering fourteen other countries” incorrectly modifies “the main languages” when it should modify “China.”
Passage-based Revising/Editing questions will look like this:
Here’s Sentence 3:
The correct answer is C. The sentence is written in present tense, so the past tense verb “was” is out of place and must be corrected to the present tense “is.”
Here’s another passage-based sample question:
For your reference, here’s Sentence 6:
The correct answer in this case is A. The main claim in this passage is that world history education should include an overview of the five major world religions. Choice A supports this claim, while also following logically from the information in Sentence 6.
On these question types, students may also be asked to:
Grid-In Math Questions
Grid-In math questions will look like this example:
The correct answer is:
To get this answer, students should set up in an equation in which x= the age of Maria’s brother when Maria is 22 (in 6 years). Maria will be twice as old as her brother, so the appropriate equation is 2x=22. This means that x=11.
Of course, that will be her brother’s age in 6 years, so we must subtract 5 to get the current age of Maria’s brother, giving us the answer of 5.
Here’s one more example:
The correct answer is:
You can find this answer by doing the following:
The grid-in questions are very similar to the content of the multiple choice math questions. The only difference is that students are not selecting from a list of choices and must provide the correct answer themselves.
Will the Scoring of the SHSAT Change?
No. The scoring process and the process for admission to Specialized High Schools will remain the same.
Just like before, a raw score will be determined by tallying the number of correct answers given. Students are not penalized for incorrect answers, so no question should be left blank.
The raw score is then converted into a scaled score, which allows for comparisons between the various versions of the test.
Students are given a composite score, which is a combination of their scores on both the English Language Arts and the math section.
This composite score, in combination with the student’s indicated Specialized High School preferences and seat availability at these schools, will determine admission.
How to Prepare for the New SHSAT?
For the most part, test prep shouldn’t change for the new SHSAT.The main change is that students don't need to study any material related to 'scrambled paragraph' and 'logical reasoning' questions. Since these types of questions were rarely seen by students during the school year, test prep in past years meant students spent a lot of time practicing and getting used to the format of these questions. However, on the SHSAT 2017 and beyond, the pressure is off, and students can skip this area of study!
Additionally, the test content should be aligned with what students are learning throughout the school year, which simply means that paying attention in class, taking notes, and completing all assignments may be more important than ever before.
If your child struggles, particularly in English Language Arts or Math, you may want to ask the teacher for additional help, take advantage of any tutoring programs at your school, or consider hiring a tutor.
For the new Editing/Revising questions, reading a set amount of pages or minutes weekly can help sharpen your child’s grammar and word usage skills. You can also purchase Grammar or Usage workbooks to help your child prepare.
Lastly, as more sample questions are released, it’s a great idea to spend some time going over the questions and correct answers with your child.
Keep in mind that the biggest changes to the SHSAT are:
We hope that this information will help you and your child feel confident and prepared heading into the administration of the new SHSAT!