SHSAT and SAT Tips, Strategies, and Equipment

This post is based off of what I suggest to my own students. It’s a bit more comprehensive as it covers different types of test takers so use what works for you and ignore the rest. You can find out the exact start date of the SHSAT exam on this website –

This post will recieve regular updates as I think of new tips and strategies. It’s also rather informal and largely unedited.

Testing order:

The SHSAT scoring curve rewards students who are proficient
The SHSAT scoring curve rewards students who are proficient

You can take the exam (only for the SHSAT) in any order you wish. You can start with the grammar, then the math, and then go back to the reading. As you take your practice tests, experiment with different combinations until you find something that works best for you and then stick with it.

The following are some examples:

Grammar > Reading Comprehension > Math:

This is the actual order of the exam and it might be easier to just stick to the default order. As you work on the reading comprehension you can sometimes find examples of correct grammar and go back to the grammar section to change one of your answers. If grammar is your weakest section and you don’t have much time to improve, this could be a worthwhile strategy. Some students might also find the transition from the passage based grammar questions into the reading comprehension to be more intuitive.

Grammar > Math > Reading Comprehension:

The first two “sections” require you to use similar problem solving skills. The questions are shorter than the reading questions and you don’t have to spend much time reading. Even the passage based grammar questions are bite-sized and don’t require much re-reading.

When students take an exam, they typically go a bit slow for the first few questions and then ramp up over time. Towards the end of the exam they usually start slowing down. It might be easier to work on the reading questions towards the end when they have less energy.

Math> Grammar > Reading Comprehension:

This order is similar to the previous one in that the first two “sections” use similar problem solving skills. SHSAT grammar is quite formulaic so for some students it feels very much like math questions where they have to remember rules and conventions.

Strongest “sections” > Weakest “sections”

The SHSAT scoring curve rewards students who are proficient in one section over those who are average in both sections assuming the same overall number of correct answers. It might be best for some students who perform better in the beginning of their tests than in the end. If your best section is the Math then it might be best to start with that section as it may offer you more time to work on your weaker section when you’re working at a slower pace.

Alternate between math and english questions:

Some students simply get bored during their tests and the best way for them to preserve their focus is to switch things up as they take their test. This might be inefficient as you’d have to constantly use “different parts of your brain” but it’s better than falling asleep during the test. You can work on a couple passages, switch to 4 pages of math, and go back and forth. This requires the most experimentation, but is worth trying if boredom is an issue.

The key to finding out the best order for you is to experiment and take as many practice tests as possible.


  1. Read sentences in your head voice. If a sentence sounds awkward there is probably something wrong with it. Trust your intuition, especially if English is your first language.
  2. For sentence based questions, try to come up with an answer before looking at the answer choices. If your solution exists as a choice, you can assume it’s right. This counts as checking your work.
  3. For passage based questions: read the passage and stop whenever you come across an underlined section. Do not read the entire passage before looking at the questions.


  1. You can use scrap paper on the test, but I recommend against it. Use the space provided by the questions as a guide for how much work is required by a question. Questions usually require a bit over a minute to solve.
  2. Geometry questions: always use the diagram. Even if you have no idea how to answer the question, always mark up the diagram. If you think the question isn’t providing enough information, mark up the diagram. You will often find that your marked up diagrams give you the missing piece of information needed to solve the question.
  3. Diagrams: Mark congruent sides and angles with tick marks. Assign values to sides and angles whenever possible even if you don’t think that it’s going to help with the question.
  4. If you don’t know how to solve a question, you have to break it down. List out all facts, derive any new ones, and then look at the question again with the new information that you have.
  5. Keep your work and the diagrams neat. Show your work in a linear fashion or in a line. This is for you so that you can follow your own reasoning when/if you’re reviewing your work.
  6. Memorize the 30:60:90 and 45:45:90 triangles and how to derive them from an equilateral triangle.
  7. Skip questions. Look at a question and if you think it’s going to take more than a 1min 15 seconds to solve, just skip it. You’re likely to get inspired by other questions and see a new strategy or have a different perspective to a skipped question. When is the shsat, this question worries every student who is preparing for this exam.
  8. “Checking” your work: Treat every question as a grid-in question whenever you can. Whenever possible, try to solve problems without looking at the choices. When you find a matching choice, let that serve as your check. The only time you should look at the choices is when they use a phrase similar to “which of the following choices”.
  9. Feel free to skip 1 question per page and come back to them later.

Reading Comprehension:

  1. Underline the evidence when you answer a question. This should serve as your check. Highlighting grounds your focus.
  2. As you underline your evidence, write which question it’s supporting next to it.
  3. Answering strategy 1: Work on detail based questions first, then inferences, and then the broad author’s intent questions — this forces you to look through the passage for almost a second time before you think about the broader questions. This is the most thorough strategy- use this only if you’re a quick reader.
  4. Strategy 2: Answer the questions in order. The first question is usually a broad question. If you’re able to read the passage closely the first time around you might be able to answer the first question without having to go through the passage again. This is the most efficient strategy, but also the most difficult approach.
  5. The answers to broad questions can be found in the introductions and conclusions and sometimes in the first and last sentences of each paragraph.

Overall tips:

The SHSAT scoring curve rewards students who are proficient
The SHSAT scoring curve rewards students who are proficient
  1. Mark difficult questions that you want to recheck if and when you have extra time. You can circle the question number.
  2. Mark questions that you had to skip and then write out the question number at the top of the page in big handwriting so that you can quickly skim your booklet.
  3. As you’re circling answers, write out the letter if you’re confident in your answer. When/if you’re checking your answers you can tell which ones you were confident in and skip looking them over.

Bubbling strategies:

  1. Math and grammar questions: Answer all questions in front of you and then bubble them in before turning the page.
  2. Reading questions: Bubble your answers before every set of passage and questions.

Equipment recommendations:

The SHSAT scoring curve rewards students who are proficient
The SHSAT scoring curve rewards students who are proficient
  1. Earplugs
  2. Water bottle: Get used to drinking water throughout your test, but not too much. Get something double insulated if you like cold drinks so that you don’t have to worry about condensation messing up your work.
  3. Get mints of your choice, but be consistent on your practice days
  4. Practice with a watch at all times. Digital, silent, large face, and no alarms. Use either the clock or the stop watch feature, but stay consistent.
  5. Wear a sweater or hoodie. Test rooms are often chilly so try to practice in similar conditions. Practice with a hoodie or baseball cap as testing rooms sometimes have harsh lights overhead.
  6. Once your timing becomes consistent, write out an outline or plan of where you expect to be on your test at certain times. This helps you stay aware of whether you’re going too slow or if you’re going ahead of schedule. This prevents unnecessary worry over whether or not you have enough time.

How to Convert SHSAT Raw Scores to Scaled Scores

You can skip to the end of this post for a chart that lets you easily convert a raw score to a scaled score. It doesn’t account for some of the more nuanced assumptions that I’ll cover below, but it is still handy.

What is a raw score?

The SHSAT has two main sections- the reading and the math. They each have 57 questions for a total of 114 questions. Of the 57 questions in each section, 10 of them are field questions that aren’t scored. They don’t specify which questions are field questions, however.

Of the 47 questions that are counted in each section…