SHSAT Study Guide

Recommended books: Barron’s SHSAT, Kaplan SHSAT, possibly a pre-algebra/algebra textbook

I usually have my students work in both the Kaplan and Barron’s SHSAT handbooks. Barron’s has a good, straightforward section on the verbal part of the test, and I think it has better practice tests than Kaplan. Kaplan has a more useful math section. The geometry section in Kaplan is particularly good. If you can get hold of the big Kaplan book from their courses, that has lots of practice on particular problem types. I use it for further practice when I see that a student is having trouble with specific problem types, even after we’ve gone through the strategy.

Barron’s and Kaplan SHSAT on Amazon:

Barron’s New York City SHSAT, 3rd Edition: Specialized High Schools Admissions Test (Barron’s Shsat)

New York City SHSAT 2017 (Kaplan Test Prep)

The best practice tests are probably the ones released by the Department of Ed in the yearly SHSAT handbooks. You can get all the practice tests from SHSAT handbooks here.

Studying for the English section

Going through the Barron’s verbal section is a good way to start. It has pretty solid strategies for most of the verbal problem types. Once you have a basic idea of the strategy, you need to practice it until it becomes second nature! You can do practice tests or go to the Kaplan handbook or the big Kaplan lesson book for more problems. Just make sure you are using all the strategies you’ve learned on every problem and learning from your mistakes!

Some tips:

Scrambled Paragraphs

Scrambled paragraphs are unique to the SHSAT’s, and they can be very difficult if you don’t know what to look for. Fortunately Barron’s strategy for scrambled paragraphs is pretty good, and understanding their strategy can give you a quick score boost. What most people miss is that you need to focus on using clue phrases to connect sentences, like pronouns, time clues or connecting clues.  Barron’s has a good explanation for this. The strategy for these problems is probably 60% finding and connecting clue words and 40% understanding each sentence and connecting them based on content.

Logical Reasoning

Some of the logical reasoning is also difficult to understand if you haven’t seen the question types before. Again, Barron’s has a pretty helpful section on the logical reasoning. There are a couple problem types where I find a lot of students need more than what Barron’s has.  The if/then problems are some of the hardest logical reasoning; Barron’s has a decent amount about them but I plan to write something up that gets a little deeper. Also, the edition of Barron’s that I have does not cover All/ Some/ None questions.  Kaplan does have a section on them which might be helpful, and Kaplan is also good for extra practice on the more difficult problem types.

Reading comprehension

These questions are a little more familiar to most students. Barron’s has a decent section on it, but I think the best way to improve on these is just to practice. The key to reading comprehension is to go back into the passage and find evidence for your answer. Usually there is something in the passage that points strongly to one answer or lets you eliminate other answers. You just have to practice finding the clues. The most common problem students have here is that they don’t make the effort to go back and find clear evidence. You can improve this with practice, but make sure that when you get a practice problem wrong, you look at the answer and understand where you could have found the evidence in the passage.

Studying for the Math section

Making progress on the math section can be a little harder because there is so much material that could show up. The single biggest factor in how students do on this test, in my experience, is what level of math class they are in. It’s a big help to be comfortable with algebra on this test, although I have had kids get into Stuyvesant without having taken a full algebra class.

The Barron’s and Kaplan math sections are helpful and worth doing, but it is impossible to cover all the material you might see on the test in a reasonably sized book. I think the Kaplan math stuff is better, and the geometry section is particularly good preparation for the geometry material on the real test.

If you have any fundamental areas that you’re weak in, something like PEMDAS, or fractions, or basic algebra equations, you’re going to want to review that until you’re comfortable with it. This list has most of the topics you can expect to see on the test. If you have a decent math textbook from school, you can use that. Other good resources are Khan AcademyRegents Prep (especially the algebra page), and IXL for practice. There’s a list of other good math lesson websites here.

Beyond that, practice tests are good preparation, but you have to use them the right way. Each missed problem is an opportunity to learn something new or get better at something that you’re not fully comfortable with. Look at the solutions. If you find you don’t fully understand each step of a solution, go to a textbook or one of the websites above and study the problem area until you’d be comfortable facing a similar problem in the future. The best practice tests are the ones from past SHSAT handbooks, which you can find here. After those, I think the Barron’s practice tests are pretty good. Kaplan has some weird questions on their tests, which is not necessarily a bad thing as it prepares you for curveball questions on the real test.

Doing the Barron’s and Kaplan math sections and practice tests will also help you get familiar with common question types on the SHSAT, like problems with inscribed shapes, or GCF and LCM problems. This blog will cover some of the trickier or more advanced math areas on the SHSATs. If you have any questions or thoughts, please feel free to comment!

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