New SHSAT vs Old SHSAT, and what’s new?

By Bobby-Tariq Tutoring Center | Updated on January 16, 2020

The Specialized High School Admission Test (SHSAT) has changed quite a bit as of the fall of 2017. Between removing certain questions and adding more time, these changes have been confusing and contested. That’s why we’re giving you the run down – if you took the SHSAT before and are wondering what’s different, you’re in the right place. If you are new to the SHSAT and don’t know what to expect, read on to learn more. One thing is for certain, though: you can’t quite reuse your older siblings’ SHSAT books anymore.


Overall Sections

The old SHSAT examination had two sections: the verbal section and the math section. Now, the new SHSAT features a more well-rounded English Language Arts (ELA) section and a math section. This might not seem so different, but we will delve into the changes in the overall sections even further below. Why does this even matter? You might be thinking that since the old SHSAT is a thing of the past, changes to overall sections, or the test in general, don’t matter anymore. However, that’s where you might be wrong. Knowing what the test used to ask for may help you further understand what has changed and what is more important to the test writers, and to the schools, now. Read on below to learn more about individual changes to overall sections, timing, and other specific nuances.


Something that you might see as a blessing is a change in the timing of the test. Whereas students had less time before, or 150 minutes, they now have 180 minutes. Something that hasn’t changed is that students are allowed to spend time between the sections as they please. So if you’re quick at math and slow at reading passages, you know where to spend more time. While more time sounds good, there are also more questions on the examination. In the old exam, you had 150 minutes to answer 100 questions, or about 1.5 minutes to answer each question. On the new exam, you now have 180 minutes, but you are answering 18 additional questions. So while you do have more time, you’re answering 18 extra questions in those 30 extra minutes. The timing per question, however, does not change by much – you still have about 1.5 minutes per question. It’s up to you to prioritize your time well.

ELA Section

The verbal section, now the English Language Arts (ELA) Section, has arguably changed the most. Gone is the relic known as the scrambled paragraph, a picture of which I have attached below.
The old exam used to feature five of these scrambled paragraphs, asking students to put their inference skills to the test by reconstructing these deconstructed ideas.

Another type of question asked by the old examination on the ELA section was logical reasoning questions.
Questions like these tested students’ knowledge and ability to apply logic to novel problems quickly. The exam featured 10 of these logical reasoning questions, and then five reading comprehension passages with 30 accompanying questions.

These questions are gone now, and the ELA section has changed very drastically. There are now 57 questions instead of 45, and the new breakdown is as follows: 9-11 revising/editing questions and 6 reading comprehension passages. 3-4 of these passages are information-based, 1-2 are literary, and 1 is a poem.

Math Section

The math section of the exam hasn’t changed too drastically, although its layout has. While there used to be a total of 50 questions on the math section, which were a mix of computational and word problems, there are now 57. These questions are made up of 5 grid-in problems, and a mix of 52 multiple-choice word and computational problems. The mathematics section of the exam is all about shortcuts, and although the exam has changed, that hasn’t. The best way to study for this part of the exam is to focus on learning and applying all of the shortcuts. Need a quick introduction to these shortcuts? Watch Mr. Tariq, the President of Bobby-Tariq Tutoring Center and the SHSAT master, discuss 5 simple tricks you need to ace the SHSAT

Multiple Choice

The likelihood that you will get a problem correct has increased! While there used to be five answer choices per question, there are now four. That means where you used to have a 20% chance of getting each question correct, you now have a 25% chance. This may seem like nothing, or a negligible difference. But you should look at this change in the multiple choice questions as a blessing. 5% goes a long way if you know how to harness it. By attending classes at Bobby-Tariq, you’ll be able to unleash the power of that 5%.


The scoring of the exam has not changed, although something important has. Each answer correct is still one raw point. But, now we know that there are 10 experimental questions in each section. Why does this matter? Why should we care so much if we know that 10 of these questions won’t even count? Well, you will not be able to tell which of these questions is experimental. So, you should give it your all.

Here at Bobby-Tariq Tutoring Center, we’ve been experts about the SHSAT for over ten years. We know how the test writers think and what they want students to do. That’s why we have thousands of success stories, and we want you to become part of those success stories! Watch the video below to learn about Chloe’s success getting accepted into Brooklyn Technical High School.
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