Kaplan has an SHSAT book that is published under at least two separate names. One is Kaplan New York City Specialized High School Admissions Test and another is Kaplan SHSAT Advanced Prep. A spot check suggested that these two books are identical. The Kaplan book has two full length practice tests and is written at an appropriate level of difficulty. Unfortunately, it also has quite a few errors. In particular, many of the scrambled paragraphs are poorly constructed and donít necessarily have a single correct answer. If you use this book, I would recommend skipping the scrambled paragraphs and only using it to study for the other portions of the test.
The Petersonís/Arco book is also published under more than one cover. It is even more confusing than the Kaplan book because it sometimes seems to be published by Petersonís and other times seems to be published by Arco. Although the covers are quite different, the interior of the books appears to be identical. The title is Master the New York City Specialized High School Admissions Test and it is a clean book, with few errors. Unfortunately, it is not as challenging as it should be. Also, it doesnít have a single full-length test. It does have 10 half-length tests, which make good supplemental study materials, but I do not recommend using them as a primary study tool. (As an aside, the Petersonís/Arco book also contains practice material for the Hunter College High School admissions test. These tests are of very low quality- they do not accurately reflect the content of the Hunter test.)
The Princeton Review book, called Cracking the New York City Specialized High School Admissions Test, has only one full length test. The test is fairly good, but a student who seriously wants to raise his or her score will certainly need more materials. A large portion of this book consists of test taking tips and techniques. While the techniques themselves are solid (and in line with the techniques suggested in other publications) I find the tone unnecessarily snarky.
Of all the books available in bookstores, my favorite is the Barronís, called Barronís New York City SHSAT: Specialized High School Admissions Test. It has four mini-tests (half the length of the actual exam) and three full length tests. It is also the only book with a ninth grade mathematics supplement, which is a valuable tool for students seeking admission to the 10th grade. I like the Barronís book because it is substantial, challenging, and contains few errors.
In addition to the tests available in bookstores, there are materials available online. Petersonís has made three mini-tests available on line, but they are also included in the print book. Unless you canít get to a bookstore and are in a big hurry, buying the physical book makes much more sense.
New York Academics, a tutoring agency which I own, has SHST tests available online. As of the fall of 2009, we are offering two full length, downloadable tests, with more planned for the future. These tests have been painstakingly written and edited to make sure that they accurately reflect the actual SHSAT in content and difficulty. I may be biased, but I donít think any commercially available test surpasses the ones that New York Academics offers.
Another company that sells practice tests online is called PrepMate. They offer a package of 10 tests, which they deliver by mail. Since I am not familiar with this particular company, I was hesitant to give them my credit card information, so I sent them an email inquiring about the possibility of arranging a face-to-face purchase. Unfortunately, they did not respond. For this reason, I can not comment directly on the quality of their materials.
I hesitate to include the publication SHSAT Exam Secrets in this review, because it does not contain any practice tests. No full length tests, no half length tests, nothing! Please, donít bother with this publication.
Of course, the gold standard for SHSAT practice tests is the tests that the New York City Department of Education gives to students who have registered for the exam. Since these tests are made by the people who make the real test, they are the most accurate representation of what the test is actually like. Better yet, they are free. (As far as I know, these are the only free tests available.) All students who plan to take the SHSAT should take these practice tests.
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Article Added on Wednesday, November 25, 2009
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