This post is an introduction to the general format of the exam.

The DOE tries to be transparent about the test. Every year, they release a handbook that explains what is on the test and some details on the scoring process. They also include two 8th-grade practice tests and one for ninth graders.

DOE Description

Page 21 of the handbook, attached below, is a decent summary of the exam’s content.


  • 3 hours long, no scheduled breaks

  • 57 ELA questions,

    • 9 – 11 revising/editing questions (grammar)
    • 46-48 reading comprehension
    • all multiple choice
  • 57 math questions

    • 52 multiple choice, 5 grid-ins
  • 10 field questions in each section, for a total of 20

  • field questions are worth 0 points, everything else is worth 1 raw point

  • raw points get scaled into scaled scores based on a secret formula

  • incorrect answers do not result in a subtraction of a point

  • no calculators

The 9th-grade SHSAT

Sometimes admitted 9th graders don’t like their specialized schools and opt for another school. There is a 9th-grade exam in order to fill the vacant seats. Of which, there are few as very few leave the schools once they get in.

The 9th-grade exam has the same format, but higher level topics and questions. There are fewer practice tests released by the DOE and third-party publishers, which means there are significantly fewer resources for practice. The test is harder, and prepping for it is harder as well.

In the past, I have recommended some people not to take the 9th-grade test at all. Even if a person passes the 9th-grade test, they will be at a disadvantage when they join a specialized school. These schools move fast, and it’s challenging to match their pace after missing their freshman years.

Nevertheless, you can always decide after you get the results back.