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How to Study for the SHSAT and Pass It in 2020

By Bobby-Tariq Tutoring Center | Updated on January 01, 2020
Students Preparing for Exams

This blog post serves as a guide for students to be able to get their study habits together. We are outlining the best ways that you can get it together and begin to study for the SHSAT. Or, if you have already started, the ways to best optimize your progress. If you’re wondering how to study for the SHSAT, look no further. We’ll outline strategies for reading comprehension, math concepts, editing/revising grammar rules, topics that are guaranteed to be on the SHSAT, how we can help, the best SHSAT prep books, how to study on your own, the importance of the SHSAT handbook and motivating videos, online tutoring, and practice exams. Read on to learn how you can master the SHSAT and get into the school of your dreams.

By now, you’ve probably heard of the Specialized High School Admission Test (SHSAT). The SHSAT is an exam that over 30,000 eighth graders and 3,000 ninth graders take each year in order to gain admission to the best high schools in New York City. It is no simple feat to be one of the 4,000 students or 13.33% who get into their dream school through the eighth-grade exam. Even harder is being one of the 108 ninth-graders who get into their dream school – only 3.6% of students are able to accomplish this. Training yourself to get a score high enough to get into these schools is similar to training for a marathon. It takes time, effort, practice, and motivation. Without those four things, no one will be able to get into the elite high schools or succeed once there.

How to Study for the SHSAT Reading Comprehension & Poem: Reading Shortcuts and Tips

Shortcuts and Tips

English Language Arts is a huge part of every student’s academic journey, teaching students how to express themselves through written and verbal methods and determine the meaning of an author’s words. The SHSAT aims to test every student’s understanding of these foundational concepts on the ELA section of the exam. The Reading Comprehension subsection of the SHSAT ELA section is comprised of 46 questions and about 6-8 passages. You have about 90 minutes to complete the ELA section, or more if you feel that you need it. The reading comprehension part of the exam asks students to apply the knowledge they learn in the passages to four types of questions: global, detail, inference, and function questions.
  • Global: How does this fit into the central idea of the passage?
  • Detail: What does this specific detail imply and what does it add to the passage?
  • Inference: How can you extend the information in the passage to make generalizations?
  • Function: What is the purpose of including this information or quote?
Passages range in topic from social studies to science to poetry to fiction and more. Of course, the most general tip to improve your performance in this section is to read more and to read varied material. Try reading your parent’s newspaper or a poetry book – it might help more than you think. But we also have some more specific tips for you.
  • Read and reread when it doesn’t make sense! Comprehension is crucial to your ability to answer the problems. Don’t skim all the time, only do so when you have a comprehensive grip on the content of the passage.
  • Don’t make assumptions. Only use the knowledge contained in the text. You could be misremembering certain facts and don’t want them to affect your score.
  • Create short summaries of each paragraph next to them in order to make it easier to go back to the passage when you are answering problems.
  • Read the questions for key words before you read the passage. This will help you be more active in your reading.
  • Be sure to keep track of time. If you’re nearing the end of your time and feel like you really don’t know the answer, make an educated guess. Remember, you aren’t penalized for incorrect answers.

How to Study for the SHSAT Math: Learn Math Concepts

The SAT math section makes up half of the exam, testing students not only on what they have learned in school but also on more advanced concepts that they are required to learn on their own. There is no calculator allowed on the math section, so learning shortcuts is your best bet for being as quick and efficient as you can be. There are 57 questions, 52 of which are multiple-choice and 5 of which are grid-ins. These problems are ideally finished within the 90 minutes suggested time. Formulas are not provided on the exam, diagrams are not to scale, and fractions must be reduced to the lowest terms. We’ve compiled some general tips for you to keep in mind while answering math questions on the exam.
  • Use the method that you think is most effective for each question. This isn’t school, so no one will be checking your work. If you have an unconventional method that you know is full-proof, use it.
  • Make sure you don’t skim over the problem. Word problems often contain traps to catch students who are not reading as carefully as they should be.
  • If you are running out of time, make your best educated guess. You won’t be penalized for wrong answers, but you will gain points for correct ones!
We also have some more specific tips for concepts that will show up on the exam.

1. Circles and Area

Circle and area problem
Tackle this problem by finding r and then using it to calculate the circumference of the circle. Since we know that the area of the entire circle is πr2 and that 1/8th of the circle is shaded, we know that the area of the shaded portion is ⅛ πr2 and that it equals 18π. We solve for r to get 12 and then plug 12 into the circumference formula to get c = 2πr or 24π. This is a multistep problem, so the most important thing is to read through all the details in order to solve the question.

2. Word Problems

Word Problems
This question requires knowledge of the foundational properties of math. First, since we know that the total number of stamps that Josef has is j and that Mai will have j – 500 stamps, we can set up an equation. The total number of stamps should be j + (j – 500), which can be simplified to 2j – 500. We can set up cross multiplication since we know Josef has 60% of the stamps. = When we cross multiply, we get 100j = 60(2j – 500). Next, using the distributive property, multiply to get 100j = 60(2j – 500). Then use the additive inverse property to subtract 120j from both sides and get -20j = -30,000. Finally, divide by -20 to get j = 1,500.

3. Distance, Rate, Time and Conversions

Distance,Rate,Time and Conversions
The first step here is to convert Kim’s jogging time into minutes. One hour and 40 minutes will make a total of 100 minutes. Next, you should convert kilometers to meters. Since kilo means thousand, 8 kilometers is 8,000 meters. All you have to do next is divide 8,000 meters by 100 minutes to get 80 meters per minute.

How to Study for the SHSAT Editing/Revising: What grammar rules do I need to know?

The editing/revising section is the shortest part of the SHSAT ELA section, but it is still quite important to your exam score. There are 11 questions, 3-5 of which will ask you to edit standalone sentences and 6-8 which will ask you to revise and edit within the context of the passage. The latter of these also tests your reading comprehension to some extent, so don’t forget to take in the meaning of what you are reading while you are editing. We have some specific tips for you to read more carefully when you are tackling the questions in this section:
  • 1. Ask yourself whether something can be said in a less confusing manner. Are there words or phrases that are making the sentence more difficult to understand?
  • Are there run-on sentences? Could things be said more concisely without changing the meaning of the sentence?
  • Does any part of the sentence seem redundant or incorrect? Take note besides sentences that you don’t think sound correct.
  • Read the passage more for syntax and less for meaning, but don’t ignore meaning. It will come in handy to answer questions about purpose.
  • Identify specific errors. Is there a problem with the word choice? Are there problems with the tense used or the grammar? Perhaps there is a run-on sentence. Be sure to select the correct sentence that needs to be addressed.
To do well in this section of the exam, you must think holistically about the overall development of sentences and what their addition contributes to the meaning of the passage. For sentence questions, consider the usage of words and always keep grammar rules in the back of your head as you are reading. Most importantly, be sure to read carefully. If you need to, re-read the sentence again with the correct change.

What topics are guaranteed to be on the SHSAT?

After years and years of experience with the SHSAT, we’ve gained a deeper understanding of the topics on the exam. The math section of the exam revolves around a very specific subset of topics, which include but are not limited to: absolute value, age problems, algebraic expressions, angles, averages, characteristics of quadrilaterals, circles, combining like terms, consecutive integers, constant rate, coordinate geometry, factoring, fractions, inequalities, interior angles of a polygon, intersecting lines, isosceles and equilateral triangles, LCM, GCF, length of an arc, linear equations, mean/average, metric system, midpoint, mixed numbers, monomials, multi-step story problems, FOIL, negative and rational exponents, parallel lines and transversals, patterns, PEMDAS, probability, proportions, radicals, rates, ratios, revolutions, scale, scientific notation, similar triangles, slope of a line, special right triangles, statistics, time-shift problems, unit conversion, volume, and of course, word problems.

The ELA section of the exam holds revision/editing questions based on passages and sentences that will test your knowledge of grammatical conventions and reading comprehension. Specific topics include inferences, purpose, word choice, quotes, understanding poetry, and English conventions.

Best SHSAT Prep Course in New York City

We can’t stress it enough. The absolute best thing you can do for yourself is to join a SHSAT preparatory class. If you’re wondering which class you should join, the answer is simple and obvious. You can become a master of the SHSAT just like our resident shortcut master Mr. Tariq, just by joining us at Bobby-Tariq Tutoring Center. We are located in central Jackson Heights, which is accessible by the E, F, M, R, and 7 trains as well as a number of bus routes. Getting to us is simple, but our classes are anything but.
Mr. Tariq’s job is to push students beyond the limits of their comfort zones and turn them into the scholars that they hope to be. It is far from easy to experience such a transformation on your own. That’s why Mr. Tariq and his SHSAT class are here to guide you along the way. By attending SHSAT courses at Bobby-Tariq Tutoring Center, you will be immersed in an environment with other students who are just as devoted to getting into their dream school as you are.
At our SHSAT classes, you’ll learn master reading techniques that will teach you the most important concepts in SHSAT Reading, how to find evidence and supporting details for specific questions.
Furthermore, you’ll learn all about the patterns that the test takers have developed but only we know after years and years of experience. You will easily be able to learn how to solve main idea, inference, purpose, and word choice questions. We have a complete list of grammar and writing rules including run-ons, tenses, and more. You’ll learn how to beast the ELA section by learning the most effective techniques. Our math prep will allow you to master geometry, transversals, and conversion questions by targeting the most effective shortcut strategies. Our practice tests are the most reliable on the market and will allow you to develop a realistic view of the real test so that you’re prepared on exam day.
Our classes are four hours long and take place on the weekends. There are two sessions: 9AM to 1 PM and 1 PM to 5 PM. Our methods are ensured to get the best performance out of students and increase their SHSAT score significantly.
We believe in our results so much that we’re willing to give you a free SHSAT class. After one class with Mr. Tariq, we believe that you will be so motivated, focused, and hungry to learn more. But don’t just take it from us. We have thousands of students who are willing to vouch for us, and many of them have.
We believe in our results so much that we’re willing to give you a free SHSAT class. After one class with Mr. Tariq, we believe that you will be so motivated, focused, and hungry to learn more. But don’t just take it from us. We have thousands of students who are willing to vouch for us, and many of them have.
Students like Tasnim, Nower, and Tahmid have been with Mr. Tariq over the course of many classes and now how hard he pushes his students to succeed. He does it because he truly cares about each and every one of his students as if they are his own. The students at Bobby-Tariq Tutoring Center don’t feel as though they are simply coming to get tutored. They are part of a motivated, hardworking, and likeminded community of students who have similar goals.
Some people are just more focused in a one on one setting, and that is fine. We all have different ways of learning. One way to improve your progress on the exam is to sit with a private tutor once or twice a week in order to strengthen your skills. There are many places you can find a private tutor, but we suggest contacting us so that we can find you a private tutor who best understands your needs and serves them well.
Private tutors are a good alternative to the traditional classroom experience, especially if you are a student who might get distracted easily. Students will have the opportunity to learn more directly and target each of their own weaknesses through individualized lesson plans, homework, and classwork assignments. We at Bobby-Tariq Tutoring Center will set you up with the best resources to ensure your success.

The Best SHSAT Prep Books

After attending the best SHSAT preparatory class, the second most important thing is to use only the most trusted and well-written study materials. Using the best SHSAT prep books is a necessity if you hope to get a score worthy of any of the specialized high schools. Using a prep book can help you understand your weaknesses even further and target them by tackling problems that pinpoint those topics. We have written the best SHSAT prep books on the market, and we’re here to recommend them to you.
This book features six full length SHSAT practice tests that are realistic, worth completing, and extremely comprehensive. These exams are the result of years of experience with the SHSAT and knowledge of the thought processes of the test writers. You can buy this book on Amazon.
SHSAT Vocabulary Words
Something that students often forget about is the SHSAT vocabulary. By knowing these words in-depth, students will be able to breeze through the reading comprehension section. The book highlights 400+ important vocabulary words that are likely to show up on the exam and even has 100 quiz questions to test your knowledge. You can buy the book online here.
SHSAT ELA Grade 8 & 9
Students who have trouble with the ELA section of the SHSAT will love this book, which features more than 175 reading comprehension questions and four practice exams. The topics most widely covered by the book are reading comprehension, revising/editing, and poetry. Students often feel that ELA books on the market don’t do the SHSAT justice – that definitely isn’t the case with this book. You can find it online at Amazon.
Tariq’s Guide to SHSAT Math
This book, by the king of shortcuts himself, Mr. Tariq, emphasizes all of the rules, tips, and shortcuts needed to ace the SHSAT math section. With over 50 mathematical rules, examples and explanations, this book is the key to doing well on the SHSAT. Buy it now and you’ll be on the way to achieving your dream SHSAT score. You can find it online. Grab your copy today!

SHSAT Handbook Practice Tests are Kings

The best (and only) book that is provided at no charge to students in New York City is the SHSAT handbook. The handbook provides students and parents with important information about admissions and each of the specialized high schools. While making a decision about which school you hope to attend, one of the best things you can do is read this handbook. Furthermore, the handbook has two full-length practice exams that you can make good use of. By taking these exams under testing conditions at home, you’ll be able to get a good measure of where your progress is. You can use that score as a way to create a study plan of action, and as a baseline to help you understand which topics are giving you the most trouble.
The SHSAT handbook is also useful because it provides first a general overview of the exam. For those who have not done much research, it is a great first exposure to the SHSAT. Information about the accessibility of each school is available as well as information that parents need to know for students who are applying to LaGuardia High School. After the initial breakdown describing the test, the handbook is also full of tips and strategies that will help students gain a deeper understanding of how the test works. Sample questions are paired with in-depth explanations of questions, the concepts behind the questions, and explanations of why each answer choice is correct or incorrect.
There is also a description of possible text errors in the revise/edit subsection of the ELA section, such as language misuse, missing or unnecessary supporting details, missing or inappropriate transitional words, phrases, or sentences, a missing or an unclear introductory statement or concluding statement, confusing or illogical organization, or other errors related to language and writing standards. The math section contains detailed explanations of every single question.
Be sure to take advantage of the SHSAT Handbook as it is the only resource that is endorsed by those who actually write the exam. It is a good starting point to learn about the exam and what your weaknesses are. Use it as a jump-off point!

Practice Tests are Essential

One thing you must do to be successful in your SHSAT journey is take practice exams. These exams will allow you to develop a perspective of what will show up on the actual exam and become accustomed to the content and difficulty. They are essential to your learning! You should be sure to push yourself to take at least a few practice exams per week leading up to exam day. These practice exams not only teach you about the real exam but also help you build up stamina for the real exam.
It has been proven that simulating exam conditions will help improve actual test-day performance. By taking practice exams in conditions that mimic the real test, you will be more comfortable on the day of. During the real test, students are likely to be nervous and their mind will probably be racing. To practice, sit in a room where there is absolutely no noise at all. If possible, sit at a desk with your two pencils and eraser and take the test without any breaks, even for the bathroom. It is important that you know what the real test will be like and are ready for it.
By getting yourself accustomed to these conditions ahead of time, you will be able to prevent this as much as possible. Remember, it is okay to feel nervous. Studies actually show that some level of nervousness enhances your performance. But you cannot let anxiety or nervousness overtake your ability to do well on the exam. With practice, time, and effort you should be able to take this exam in your sleep. There is no one more or less well-prepared than you on the day of the exam, so all you have to do is believe in yourself and get to work. After all, you only have 180 minutes. You’ve got this!
These are the most basic and necessary things that students can do to ensure that they score within the range needed for them to attend their dream specialized high school. If it was easy, then everyone would be attending a specialized high school. But they aren’t. This means that you must put in the necessary dedication and time to get into these elite schools. No worries – we’ve outlined the perfect plan for you here in this guide. All you have to do is put in the work now.
With over ten years of experience, we at Bobby-Tariq Tutoring Center aim to educate students to make the right choices when it comes to studying for the SHSAT. We hope that you take advantage of this guide and other ones on our website in order to help you ace the SHSAT. We are a resource to you as well, and will continue to serve our community by helping struggling students make it into these prestigious schools, where we believe they will excel. We have many tools that you can use to help yourself get there.
Whether it is through our excellent SHSAT Prep books, our comprehensive SHSAT classes led by Mr. Tariq, the king of shortcuts, or even through matching you with a private tutor, we hope to be a part of your journey towards your dream school. We have been privileged over the past ten years to be able to help students like you become beasts who can overcome all of the challenges of the SHSAT and other exams. You can learn more about what to do in our SHSAT guide.

How to prepare for the SHSAT on your own?

There are many ways that you can to prepare for the SHSAT on your own in addition to classes and SHSAT prep books. Firstly, you should be sure to create a formal schedule in order to help guide you. In case planning isn’t your strong suit, we made one for you below:
  • Monday: 2 Reading Passages: Complete the associated questions for two reading passages. Since it’s the beginning of the week, it is best to ease your way in.
  • Tuesday: 20 Math Questions: Twenty math questions shouldn’t take more than 20 minutes, in theory. Spend some time going over the concepts behind these problems to sharpen your skills afterward!
  • Wednesday: 11 Revising/Editing Questions: Since it’s the middle of the week, strengthen your editing skills – these problems also shouldn’t take too long! Squeeze in some reading if you can.
  • Thursday: 2 Reading Passages: Complete the questions for two more passages. If possible, make sure one of them is a poem.
  • Friday: 35 Math Questions: Be sure to complete these questions and then review your mistakes. If you didn’t make any, still be sure to review the crucial concepts!
  • Saturday: One Full Practice Test: After a week of practice, nothing is better than an exam to measure your progress.
  • Sunday: Rest. You deserve one day off after that exam!
Something else you can do to help improve your performance even further is to create flashcards. You should know all of the vocabulary listed in your prep books, but one way to be sure of that is to create flashcards and test yourself. Furthermore, flashcards will help you remember all of the concepts more quickly. Flashcards are excellent for remembering the relationships between different types of information. One way you can take advantage of flashcards for the math section of the SHSAT is to list mathematical rules on the cards. For example, two parallel lines cut by a transversal create …?
Flashcards work so well because they engage our brain’s active recall, utilize our cognitive abilities, and create within us a sense of confidence. Flashcards are also good because you can control your own pace. When you know that a specific concept is especially troubling, you can make sure to come back to it more than a concept that is inherently easier for you. Flashcards are interactive and can bring a boring lesson of repetition into a more fun realm.
Another valuable thing that you can do to prepare for the SHSAT is to join a study group. Joining a study group is useful because it will create a community of test-takers who can support one another. While an SHSAT class is preferable to a study group because it has the supervision of an instructor, a study group is still a very good resource. By talking to other students about the exam, you can gain suggestions or tips from students who have older siblings who have already taken the exam as well as explanations about how to answer certain questions that you had trouble with. There are many resources at schools like open houses and where you can get to know the schools that you are interested in attending. By going to these events with your study group, you will be able to form a more complete picture of what it means to attend these schools.
Your brain works like a muscle. When you practice and study more, your muscle gets stronger. This is why reading more will also help you build up your reading stamina for the SHSAT. Passages on the SHSAT are designed to bore you. The test writers do not want you to enjoy the passages on the exam; they want you to suffer through the exam and perhaps rush through reading each passage. There is no better way to overcome the test writers’ trap than to read. Reading for even thirty minutes a day will help you. Instead of taking thirty minutes each night to play games or post on Instagram, take thirty minutes to read and grow your brain.
This last one might seem very obvious, but for some, it isn’t so easy. Paying attention in school is one of the best ways to prepare for the SHSAT. Although there are advanced concepts on the exam that don’t show up in school, your lessons at school are building your foundational knowledge in order to build you towards answering those advanced questions. By paying special attention during your ELA and Math classes, you will be doing yourself a huge favor. These classes will help you do your very best on the actual exam. Again, remember that the brain is like a muscle and the best thing we can do to succeed is to train it.

SHSAT Online Tutoring and Other Free Resources

It doesn’t necessarily have to be expensive to do well on the SHSAT. New York City does have quite a few resources available to students at no cost. Firstly, there is a Discovery Program. If you’re wondering what that is, you’ve come to the right place. The Discovery Program is a summer program available to rising ninth-graders who scored close to the cutoff score for their desired specialized high school. Not everyone can join the Discovery Program, though. There are some specific requirements:
  1. Students have to score within a specific range below the cutoff score for the school.
  2. Students must be (one or more of the following):
  3. a. Living in a low-income household
  4. b. Living in temporary housing
  5. c. An English Language Learner who hasn’t lived in New York City for less than four years
  6. d. Attending a high-poverty high school
If you are eligible for the Discovery Program, you will be notified along with your SHSAT results in March. Once you complete the Discovery Program, you will be able to attend your dream specialized high school from that school year on. As of this upcoming summer, about 20% of seats at specialized high schools will be held reserved for Discovery Program students.
There is also something called the DREAM Program, which is another initiative by the city and state government to help promote diversity, inclusion, and equity within the specialized high schools, which have come under fire in recent years for not being diverse enough. What does DREAM stand for?
  • Determination
  • Resilience
  • Enthusiasm
  • Ambition, and
  • Motivation
The DREAM program aims to prepare students who are in seventh grade to take the SHSAT in the following year. The program is available to students who attend New York City public middle schools. Students who are eligible for the DREAM program are able to attend free SHSAT preparatory classes at local high schools. However, not everyone can participate in this program. Those who are eligible for the program are notified by mail that they can apply for the program and then are given a final decision. The eligibility criteria for students are as follows. Students must:
  • Be a current New York City Resident
  • Be enrolled at a public or charter middle school
  • Score a 3.2 on the sixth grade ELA state exam and a 4.0 on the sixth grade Math state exam
Beyond these free resources, there are also online tutoring resources. Bobby-Tariq Tutoring Center’s very own Mr. Tariq has reviewed the entire SHSAT Handbook’s math section online for free. A good practice strategy is to complete the handbook questions and then use Mr. Tariq’s videos to gain a deeper understanding of the topics that you find most difficult.
Watch Mr. Tariq answer all 57 problems on the SHSAT Handbook math section here. Start at lesson 1 and be sure to take notes on what confuses you. This will come in handy later!
In this video, Mr. Tariq reviews five of the most important shortcuts for the SHSAT Math section. They are as follows:
  1. Finding the average of consecutive integers
  2. Finding the area of a square
  3. Divisibility rule for 3
  4. Multiplying fractions using cross simplification
  5. Finding the LCM (least common multiple)
Using these shortcuts will allow you to cut down the amount of time it takes to solve each problem and free some time up for you to focus on more difficult problems or on the ELA section.

Watch Motivating Videos

Something you can do to pump yourself up when you’re feeling down is to watch the success stories of others. Why do you think so many vloggers make it on YouTube by talking about their weight loss journeys or their battles with skincare? People love to be inspired by the success of others. Something you can do to help you get motivated to take on the SHSAT is watching videos of others who have successfully taken on the exam. Lucky for you, we have a few to get you started:
Mahdi is just one of our successful SHSAT students. He gained admission to Stuyvesant High School with a 608 on the exam. As Mahdi notes, he saw Mr. Tariq as a tutor but also as a mentor who was able to teach him the most advanced concepts in mathematics to make the math on the SHSAT seem easy. Mr. Tariq also spends time in class to motivate students, something that is incredibly necessary for young minds to feel as though they are capable of achieving their goals!
These ninth graders were able to overcome their past obstacles and make it to their dream specialized high schools after not making it the first time around. As Mr. Tariq says, they are warriors, not people who give up! These students felt down after taking the SHSAT in the eighth grade, but this time around they made it to amazing schools like Brooklyn Tech, Brooklyn Latin, and more. Just remember, even if you can’t make it in the eighth grade, there is always a chance to redeem yourself and make it in the ninth grade! Never lose hope.
Our students Syed and Adib were able to get into Bronx Science after their long journey with the SHSAT, only after being guided by Mr. Tariq. After coming to Bobby-Tariq, Syed and Adib were able to get the individualized attention that they needed to target their problem areas. Being in the SHSAT class motivated them due to the friendly spirit of competition, which made them more driven. Mr. Tariq is sure to stay after class to make sure that all students who need help receive it.
Even if you are struggling, there is no need to feel discouraged! Almost all of our students came to us because they were losing hope. If these students can do it, there is no doubt that you can as well!
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