Most eighth graders will take at least one of the HSPT, SHSAT, and TACHS high school entrance exams in the fall and want a comparison of the tests. Many parents wonder which to take and prepare for in seventh grade. The goal of this post is to help you decide which are right for your student with a thorough comparison of the similarities and differences of each test. Many students in Staten Island, Brooklyn, Manhattan, and the NYC area take all three tests, and some even for the ISEE and/or SSAT. Fortunately, recent changes have resulted in material overlap across the exams. This shift makes preparation for all high school admissions exams more feasible.

It’s easy to feel overwhelmed by the process of choosing a high school. It may be wise to take all exams and choose the best school and/or the one that offers your student the largest scholarship. (Our tutoring results 2020, results 2019, results 2018, results 2017, results 2016) – Our students earned over $7 Million in scholarships to high school. A student may have their heart set on a school, but a lot can change in the time between taking the tests in October/November and receiving all results by March.

Basic Information comparing the HSPT, SHSAT, and TACHS

The Specialized High School Admission Test (SHSAT) is for admission into elite specialized high schools of NYC like Stuyvesant High School, Bronx High School of Science, Staten Island Technical High School, Brooklyn Latin School, High School for Mathematics, Science and Engineering at the City College of New York, High School of American Studies at Lehman College, and Queens High School for the Sciences at York College. More info:

The High School Placement Test (HSPT) is the entrance exam for Regis High School. It is also the scholarship test for Xavier High School (Manhattan), Xaverian High School (Brooklyn), and St. Peter’s Prep (New Jersey). Competitive schools such as St. Joseph Hill Academy and Notre Dame Academy in Staten Island offer scholarship exams with similar difficulty.

The Test for Admission to Catholic High Schools (TACHS) is the entrance and scholarship exam for most Catholic high schools in the Archdiocese of New York, such as Monsignor Farrell, St. Joseph by-the-Sea, St. Peter’s, St. Edmund Preparatory High School, St. Vincent Ferrer, La Salle Academy, Dominican Academy, and many more. A complete list, open house dates, and tuition can be found here:

Comparison of admissions, formatting, material, and dates for the SHSAT, HSPT, and TACHS

Reading comprehension is on all tests and is arguably the most important skill to master. Reading comprehension helps in math word problems and most other sections. There are no essays on any of these exams. All exams are composed of multiple choice questions with the exception of 5-7 math questions on the SHSAT. Math is the next most tested topic, although the difficulty varies by exam. Editing/Revising is the only other skill that appears on all three exams. It is most important for the TACHS and least important for the HSPT.

SHSAT Format

3 hours for the entire test. The student can answer questions in whatever order they like and go back to the previous section. This SHSAT is the only 8th grade exam that allows this. There are no breaks between sections. The SHSAT underwent many changes in 2017, including adding editing/revising questions. They also added a poetry passage and fiction passage to the reading comprehension section in 2018.

  • Editing/Revising 9-11 questions
  • Reading Comprehension: 46-48 questions, including poetry
  • Math, Fill-ins: 5-7 questions – no multiple choices given for these
  • Math, Multiple Choice: 50-52 questions

HSPT Format

Approximately 2.5 hours for the entire test. The student cannot go back to the previous section. There are small breaks after each section. Finishing each section in time is a very challenging aspect of the HSPT.

  • Verbal: 60 questions in 16 minutes
  • Quantitative: 52 questions in 30 minutes
  • Reading Comprehension/Vocabulary: 62 questions in 25 minutes
  • Math: 64 questions in 45 minutes
  • Grammar: 60 questions in 24 minutes

TACHS Format

The TACHS also underwent changes in 2017 to reflect common core standards. Approximately 2.5 hours for the entire test. The student cannot go back to the previous section. There are small breaks after each section. They keep timing and exact format more proprietary but the following is an approximate format and how most of our TACHS practice tests are proctored.

  • Reading Comprehension: 23 questions in about 20 minutes minutes
  • Written Expression (Grammar and Editing/Revising): 45 questions in about 45 minutes
  • Math: 40 questions in about 45 minutes
  • Abilities: 60 questions in about 40 minutes

Comparison of the Types of Questions on the SHSAT, HSPT, and TACHS

For the results of practice tests. we breakdown the scores for each type of question so we can focus on the areas where a student is having the most trouble.

Amount of each type of question on the SHSAT, HSPT, and TACHS

SHSAT vs HSPT Comparison

If your student is hoping to be admitted to the best high schools in New York, they will likely take the HSPT and/or SHSAT. The SHSAT is most likely the toughest exam your student will have seen in their academic career to date. It compares in difficulty to the SAT (college entrance exam). The math and reading comprehension sections are the toughest on any test, but students are given ample time per question.

One main difference from the HSPT is that it has almost 3 times as many questions as the SHSAT in less time. So success is much more dependent upon speed. For example, the first section on the HSPT gives 16 minutes to complete 60 questions. Most students do not finish their first HSPT practice test in time. Fortunately, the HSPT math is less multi-step and slightly easier than the SHSAT material; however, it is still difficult for an 8th grader.

The HSPT has vocabulary but the SHSAT has none without context. The HSPT has many more English Language Arts questions than the SHSAT. For students prepared for the SHSAT, the toughest parts of the HSPT are the grammar and vocabulary questions. This and the time are the main differences between the SHSAT and HSPT.

Groups of students preparing for both the HSPT and SHSAT are common since the difficulty of the material overlaps considerably. Students who are prepared for these tests are generally prepared for anything. For students who also want to take the TACHS, Abilities is the only section that needs additional studying.

Students will take multiple SHSAT, HSPT, and TACHS practice tests over the course of 10 months. Register here. New group and private tutoring sessions are forming.

TACHS vs HSPT Comparison

All students hoping to be admitted to a Catholic high school in the Archdiocese of New York must take the TACHS. The TACHS covers similar material to the HSPT, but it is generally more straightforward. It gives more time per question than the HSPT. The HSPT has stand alone vocabulary, logic, analogies, synonym/antonyms, and spelling questions. The main difference from the HSPT is that TACHS doesn’t have these, but it has a unique abilities section that tests spatial skills.

In the HSPT grammar section, the student is looking for all mistakes (punctuation, capitalization, and usage) at the same time, which makes it significantly tougher. On the other hand, the TACHS has fewer types of sentence errors what are possible mistakes. A similarity with the HSPT is that all the grammar necessary for the TACHS is also for the HSPT.

Compared with the TACHS, the sentences are longer on the HSPT. The HSPT reading comprehension has longer sections than the TACHS and has 22 vocabulary questions directly after it in the same section. These are the main differences between these admissions tests.

Another common combination of group tutoring is HSPT and TACHS for students that have decided they want to go to a Catholic high school. For this, we primarily teach for HSPT and the unique TACHS abilities. Most of the sections are similar on the TACHS and HSPT. Students will take multiple HSPT and TACHS practice tests over the course of 10 months.

TACHS vs SHSAT Comparison

Students who are applying to high schools who use the TACHS for admissions/scholarships and who also want to prepare for the SHSAT will likely get the best results if they focus on the SHSAT as it is a much tougher exam than the TACHS. Students who are trained for the SHSAT grammar, reading comprehension, and math will only need to study the unique TACHS abilities and minimal additional grammar. The difficulty of the questions on the SHSAT compared to the TACHS is the biggest difference. They both give ample time per question. The TACHS and SHSAT are the least similar exams. Nonetheless, tutoring group sessions run every year for students preparing for both of these exams and often all three.

Prepare for one or all of the High School Admissions Exams

All students learning with us take an initial practice exam in order to identify the best course of action, establish a baseline to compare to future exams, and potentially schedule similar students with similar goals in groups. The first practice test to begin for the fall exams is usually offered in December or January of 7th grade. Some ambitious students opt to start in 5th or 6th grade. Starting over the school year will reinforce the material to better incorporate it into their long term thinking and increase their grades, which are also important for high school entrance prep.

Whichever tests you decide, group or individual education is designed around what each student needs in order to maximize their results, learn as much as possible, and hopefully have fun. Tutors can help teach your student for any combination of exams, including the SSAT and ISEEContact me for more info or to sign up for a practice exam offered at any of the dates on that page.

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