Applerouth’s NYC High School Admissions Testing Guide

Matthew Kiesner
August 14, 2020
min read
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Last updated: April 2023

If you live in New York City and your child is applying to high schools, you probably have a lot of questions about the process. Whether your student is applying to specialized high schools, independent, or parochial schools, Applerouth Education and NYC Admissions Solutions have put together this quick guide for you to determine which test(s) your child needs to take and to provide you with information about each test.

Specialized High Schools Admissions Test (SHSAT)

The SHSAT is taken by 8th and 9th graders for admission to 8 specialized public high schools in New York City.¹ The SHSAT score is the only factor in admissions to these schools and students can only take the SHSAT once. When registering online for the test, students rank the schools in order of preference. The SHSAT is typically offered in the late fall each year.

Test Format

Students are given a single block of time (180 minutes) to complete the full test, so time management is key to success. Here is a breakdown of what is on the test

  • ELA section (57 questions total)
  • 9-11 revising/editing questions
  • 6 reading passages or poems with 5-7 questions each. Several passages will include charts, tables, or figures.
  • All questions are multiple choice
  • Math section (57 questions total)
  • 5 grid-in questions
  • 52 multiple choice word problems and computational questions
  • Math topics include linear algebra, geometry, and statistics

The SHSAT only provides scaled scores. Very little is known publicly about how the scale is determined and the scale’s range varies each year. Students should focus on doing their best and not worry about how their scores were calculated.

State ELA/Math Tests

The state ELA/Math tests are usually taken by New York public school students in grades 3-8 throughout the spring.

  • No private registration
  • Multiple choice, short-response, and extended-response format
  • Typically administered during the spring

If you attend an independent school or your school doesn’t typically offer the state tests, you can schedule a CTP5 or ISEE instead.

Comprehensive Testing Program (CTP5)

The Comprehensive Testing Program is typically given by independent schools to assess their students.

  • No private registration
  • Series of tests measuring Verbal, Math, Writing, & Vocabulary skills
  • Administered by the school during the 7th grade

Secondary School Admission Test (SSAT)

The SSAT Upper Level is taken by any student seeking admission to a participating independent high school. Students receive a scaled score and a percentile rank. Schools use this rank to make admissions decisions. This test may be preferred by certain boarding schools.

  • 6 Sections: Verbal, Quantitative (2), Reading, Writing Sample (unscored), Experimental (unscored)
  • The SSAT is the only high school admissions test with a guessing penalty, so strategic answering is key.
  • Students taking the Middle and Upper Level SSAT will have four testing options:
  • 1. At-home testing using a secure online platform (up to 5 per year)
  • 2. Computer-based testing at a Prometric test center (up to 2 per year)
  • Paper-based Flex testing (2 per year, one before Thanksgiving and one after)
  • Paper-based standard date testing (offered monthly from October to April)

Students who are not avid readers may struggle with the difficult vocabulary and passages of the SSAT’s verbal section.

Independent School Entrance Exam (ISEE)

The ISEE Upper Level is taken by any student seeking admission to a participating independent school. A student may test only when making a formal application to a participating school. This test may be preferred by certain day schools.

  • The ISEE provides scaled scores, percentiles, and Stanine scaled scores (1 to 9)
  • Sections: Verbal, Quantitative, Reading, Math, & Essay
  • ISEE Testing Seasons: Fall (Aug-Nov), Winter (Dec-Mar), Spring/Summer (Apr-July)

The ISEE’s tougher math section tests students’ exposure to advanced concepts, including trigonometry and factoring.

Unlike many other standardized tests, the ISEE does not have national test dates. Students may take the test once during each testing season, as listed above, for up to three times per year, but the Spring/Summer season may come too late for some application deadlines.

Test for Admission into Catholic High Schools (TACHS)

The TACHS is taken by 8th-grade students seeking admission to participating Catholic high schools in-and-around New York City. Test scores are submitted to schools along with middle school transcripts.

Students taking the TACHS have a chance to use the scores to apply to up to 3 schools.

  • TACHS is now administered online.
  • Sections: Reading, Language, Math, Ability (abstract reasoning)
  • TACHS provides scaled scores and percentiles

High School Placement Test (HSPT)

The HSPT is taken by 8th-grade students seeking admission and/or merit scholarship to participating Catholic high schools in and around New York City. Typically, the HSPT is administered by the Catholic school you are applying to, and the school is in charge of scoring and releasing the results.

  • Register for the exam at participating schools
  • The HSPT provides percentiles for cognitive skills, basic skills, and a composite of both
  • Sections: Reading, Language, Math, Verbal, and Quantitative
  • Typically administered each year in November

¹ Participating schools: Bronx High School of Science; Brooklyn Latin School; Brooklyn Technical High School; Stuyvesant High School; Staten Island Technical High School; High School for Math, Science, and Engineering at City College; High School of American Studies at Lehman College; Queens High School for the Sciences at York College. Note: The SHSAT is not used to determine admissions to LaGuardia High School. Admission to LaGuardia High School is based on audition.

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