2024 Edition

High School Entrance Test Guide

By: Jessica McNally, Tests.com Contributing Writer

High school admission and placement testing is a way for admissions committees from private schools and some public specialty schools to assess potential students in a few key academic areas. Placement tests typically cover the basic subjects of reading, math and language skills, and sometimes feature a special area of focus or offer more specified subtests. Giving potential students a standardized test helps to make the admissions process fair for applicants, and simpler for the private institution. 


Private School and Catholic High School Entrance Exams


The HSPT, or High School Placement Test, is an exam created by Scholastic Testing Services Inc. for private schools that tests potential students’ verbal, quantitative reasoning, language and reading comprehension skills. The HSPT takes approximately two and a half hours to complete and consists of nearly 300 multiple choice questions.


The COOP, or Cooperative Admissions Exam, is similar to the HSPT in its multiple-choice format and it tests students on their reading, language, and mathematics skills. The COOP also takes about two and a half hours to complete.


For more information on the COOP and HSPT, check out our HSPT Test Directory and HSPT Test Guide and our Catholic High School Test Directory.





The Independent School Entrance Exam (ISEE) is used by over 1,000 private middle schools and high schools to determine student admission. Officially administered by the Educational Records Bureau (ERB), this exam is offered to students at three different levels: the Lower Level (grades 4-5), Middle Level (grades 6-7), and Upper Level (grades 8-11).


Each exam level consists of five sections:


  • Verbal Reasoning
  • Reading Comprehension
  • Mathematics Achievement
  • Quantitative Reasoning
  • Essay


For more information on the ISEE see our ISEE Test Directory and ISEE Test Guide.





The Specialized High Schools Admissions Test (SHSAT) is administered to students at the eighth and ninth grade levels who are applying to a specialized high school in New York City.


The SHSAT is a multiple-choice format test that includes sections on the following subjects:


  • Verbal questions on logical reasoning
  • Reading and scrambled paragraphs
  • A Math section that contains questions and problems in the subjects of:

-      Statistics

-      Algebra

-      Probability

-      Geometry

-      Trigonometry


Students’ SHSAT scores determine the New York City School into which they will be placed. Students rank each NYC high school by preference, and are subsequently assigned to a school based on their test scores as well as their rankings.


For more information on the SHSAT, see our SHSAT Test Directory and SHSAT Test Guide.





The SSAT, or Secondary School Admissions Test, is another exam used by private middle and high schools to determine which applying candidates should be admitted.


The SSAT has two levels; the first level is for students in grades 5-7 and the second is for students in grades 8-11. Both levels of exams consist of 150 multiple-choice questions that test a student’s verbal, quantitative, and reading comprehension skills. There is also a writing sample component to the exam; however, the essay does not affect the overall test score.


The SSAT is also used as a predictor for a student’s future SAT scores for those who take the exam at the higher level.


For more information on the SSAT, see our SSAT Test Directory and SSAT Test Guide.



Sources: New York Department of Education