What the handbook says:

The DOE handbook doesn’t offer any in-depth information on the math section. All they state is the following:

The Mathematics section consists of word and computational questions in either a multiple-choice or grid-in format. There are 5 grid-in math questions and 52 multiple-choice questions. Math questions on the Grade 8 test forms are based on material included in the New York City curriculum through Grade 7. Math questions on the Grade 9 test forms are based on material through Grade 8.
2018-2019 Specialized High Schools Student Handbook

I’ve looked at pretty much every single SHSAT practice test out there. Their statement is not accurate. The Grade 8 test includes topics from 7th grade and early 8th grade. The official practice tests released by the DOE support this.

The topics in the math section will be familiar for most students. But the problems will be harder and more complex than the ones found in school and State tests. Compared to a typical State Test question, SHSAT questions require an extra step or two to solve.

I don’t know if they are trying to be disingenuous, but consider what the purpose of the SHSAT is. You don’t have to put on a tinfoil hat but consider their intentions. And think about what 90% of the test takers are prepping with and then use that as a benchmark. That’s the main competition to get the minimum score for any of the specialized schools.

The multiple choice questions have 4 choices. The grid-in questions are followed by mini bubble-in sheets. Grid-in answers can be positive or negative, with or without a decimal point, and up to 4 digits long. The following are two examples from the handbook on how to properly bubble in an answer of 5 and 3.2.

List of topics:

The handbook does not include a list of topics. But they do provide two practice tests that other 3rd party publishers try to imitate. The following is a list of topics that the SHSAT may ask questions on.

  • absolute value
  • age problems
  • algebraic expressions
  • angles
  • averages and total
  • characteristics of quadrilaterals
  • circles- area, circumference, sectors
  • combining like terms
  • consecutive integers
  • constant rate
  • converting between fractions, decimals, and percents
  • coordinate geometry
  • factoring
  • fractions
  • functions
  • graphs and tables- bar, line, frequency, etc.
  • inequalities
  • integers/whole numbers
  • 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
  • multiplying binomials
  • negative and rational exponents
  • numerical expressions
  • parallel lines and transversals
  • patterns
  • percent
  • percent increase and decrease
  • probability
  • proportions
  • pythagorean theorem
  • radicals
  • rates
  • ratios
  • revolutions
  • scale
  • scientific notation
  • shaded area
  • similar triangles
  • slope of a line
  • solve for variables
  • special right triangles
  • statistics
  • surface area and volume of 3d objects
  • time shift problems
  • unit conversion
  • volume
  • word problems

Most questions are a mix of two or 3 topics. Knowing all of these topics is essential, but it’s not enough. You have to practice with as many questions as possible.

Message to the reader

This may all seem a bit scary, but you have to keep in mind that they still design the test to be reasonable. They still need to allow 20 percent to pass somehow.

The ability of the average test taker in NYC has not changed in decades. And despite recent changes to the exam, the difficulty is still the same. Because of this, there are many publishing companies making tests every year.

You don’t have to stress about the list of topics. Work on as many math problems as possible and keep track of which topics you’re having trouble with. Then fill in the missing pieces. And repeat.