Understanding Admission to Top City Specialized High Schools
by Dr. Shahid Shaikh
Admission to elite colleges and universities is an extremely arduous task for every student, including the top students. It is even rare to be noticed by admission officers of elite colleges simply by attending a high school. However, that’s not the case for students who attend one of the New York City’s specialized high schools. There are nine specialized high schools in the city, with at least one specialized high school in each borough. These elite schools strive to serve the needs of academically and artistically gifted students who are goal-oriented and highly self-motivated. These schools are ranked among the nation’s most prestigious public schools. The top four schools are: Stuyvesant High School, Bronx High School of Science, Staten Island Technical High School, and Brooklyn Technical High School.
Admission to these schools requires the acing of Specialized High School Admission Test (SHSAT), which is highly competitive as well as standardized. This test is recommended for students who have a 90-plus average in seventh grade and have scored a level four on both their sixth and seventh grade New York State English Language Arts and math exams.
Approximately 30,000 eighth graders take the specialized exam every year. Their numbers are increasing every year, owing to the fact that most people are becoming familiar with the admission process of these top schools. In 2012–2013 school year, only 6,435 students gained admission in these nine schools. Only 2,350 students gain admittance to the top three schools: Stuyvesant High School, Bronx High School of Science, and Staten Island Technical High School.
The Specialized High School Admission Test tests students’ academic knowledge, study skills, as well as higher-level critical thinking skills acquired over past several years. The biggest challenge associated with the test is that it does not just test students’ knowledge (in fact, most problems require only basic knowledge), but that it tests students’ ability to understand and interpret complex texts, think logically, look for non-standard solution methods, use spatial reasoning, answer intermediate questions on the way to a solution, and the ability to separate necessary and extraneous information. The test is usually given in the last week of October right after students enter eighth grade. It is a timed multiple-choice test with two sections — verbal and math — which must be completed in a total of two hours and 30 minutes.
Here’s the breakdown:
Verbal: three parts, 50 points.
Scrambled paragraphs: five questions, worth two points each.
Logical reasoning: 10 questions.
Reading comprehension: 30 questions.
Mathematics: 50 multiple choice questions covering various topics, such as, arithmetic, algebra, probability, statistics, and geometry.
Dr. Shaikh is the director of Leadership Academy on Staten Island. For more information, visit facebook.com/leadershipacademysi.