What if there is no SHSAT

What if there’s no SHSAT?

What if there’s no SHSAT?

           For those unfamiliar with the SHSAT, it is essentially an exam that will allow a student to gain admission into one of the illustrious “specialized” high schools in New York City. The exam has traditionally tested specific concepts that will determine the student’s overall aptitude and ability to keep up with the fast-paced, demanding curriculum of schools like Stuyvesant, Brooklyn Tech., Staten Island Tech, and Bronx Science. For those that haven’t been keeping up with the news, there has been very serious discussion of removing the SHSAT requirement or at the very least making the process not solely reliant on just that particular exam.

          Change is never easy for anyone and can be overwhelming at times, but the best way to approach any kind of change is with a calm attitude. Our previous article, “The SHSAT Exam and the Proposed Changes to the Application Process for NYC Specialized High Schools” explains the details surrounding the exam itself and its proposed changes. The previous article also discusses NYC Specialized High Schools, so if you’re unfamiliar with both topics please look back to that article for more insight. The main question at hand here is, “what if…?” Since the Legislature has yet to pass Mayor De Blasio’s proposal of eliminating the exam from the application process to these Specialized High Schools, parents of middle schoolers are consumed with questions such as, “What will happen next?”

JM Learning Prep is here to answer your, “what if” questions and to predict the outcome of possibly no longer having the SHSAT exam or if the exam remains, but the process changes entirely.  


          As it stands, a student with no ability to focus long term and push themselves through a full year or years of schooling can be admitted into these illustrious schools. These type of students simply hire tutors or are simply gifted enough to do well on a single exam. But they are not able to obtain academic success due to the fact that they have not learned how to persevere over long periods of time. This, in turn, creates an environment for the students that aren’t only gifted but great students, the inability to be surrounded by people of the same caliber and working with them is paramount to success in any field. Let’s look at one of our SHSAT classes and the dynamic created.

JM’s approach to the SHSAT

          Here at JM, we strive to place students into classes of a similar level. The way we do this is by administering a diagnostic or “evaluation” exam that is an old SHSAT. This evaluation will not only tell the instructor exactly what class level to place the student, either Level 1 or Level 2, but it will also explain what strengths and weaknesses the student possesses. BUT ONE EXAM IS NOT GOOD ENOUGH OF AN EVALUATOR! We have countless students starting extraordinarily high, in the mid to high 600’s, almost ready for Brooklyn Tech standards, and yet they have trouble paying attention, staying consistent with the work, and participating in class. Being gifted does not mean a child is a good student. Doing well on one exam, one time, does not mean the student will do well in a class or even repeat those same results on the real thing. We have countless students that “underscore” or “overscore”


Students need to be treated as individuals and the advent of technology has allowed for that to happen.


          Our approach is one that produces an individual approach to education. While we administer an SHSAT, SAT, ACT, Regents, AP, SAT Subject test, or many more to help the student understand the nuances of the exam, a student cannot understand the exam without first trying it, which is one of the main reasons the PSAT is administered nationwide, we look for specific key markers to determine ability. Our uniquely programmed scantron technology with the help of Remark software, we have developed the ability to program specific questions to determine the key factors of a student’s success.

Key Factors for Evaluating students by JM

  1. Focus Markers
    1. These questions are phrased so that the answer is inherent within the question itself. They are giveaways and are designed to evaluate the student’s attention to detail and focus. If the student cannot answer these questions correctly, then they lack a very important skill that will determine academic success.
  2. Deductive Reasoning
    1. This is the process of reasoning that involves a certain premise or criteria to reach a logical certainty. An example of deductive reasoning would be if Joe went to the store empty-handed, bought something while he was there, and returned straight home without stopping anywhere along the way with a carton of milk. You can deductively conclude that Joe bought the carton of milk while he was at the store even though it wasn’t explicitly stated. Questions involving this will allow us to understand if the student can establish connections in their learning or if they need help in these areas.
  3. Inductive Reasoning
    1. This is the process of Reasoning that involves prediction or extrapolation of data. Using the same example that we used for Deductive Reasoning we can state that if Joe ate cereal with milk when he got home, then Joe used the milk that he bought from the store. This is now a prediction and cannot be readily verified as he may have used milk that he may have already had in his fridge. But, we can say with logical reasoning that it is highly likely that he used the milk he just purchased. This tells us whether the students are effectively capable of drawing connections to new unfounded concepts and whether these concepts can be used to formulate new data. The ability to deduce information through inductive reasoning is a key element in student’s success in and outside the classroom and something the JM Learning staff focuses on relentlessly to produce results.
  4. Long Problems
    1. JM Learning measures a student’s ability to work through multi-step “long problems” to see if the student can work for long periods of time without getting distracted. This is a crucial element in determining how much homework a student can effectively handle throughout the week.

          While these factors are only a few of the measurements that we use in evaluating our students, please refer to the next article that will be published in the coming month “Evaluating your student - The JM Standard,” we also place a few other factors into consideration.

          We have a few students that although they score low in every criteria, sit in class disinterested and bored. This tells us that the student either has no motivation to work hard, which usually is determined by a lack of confidence or lack of goal orientation, or the student is simply not being challenged. Some students simply need a challenge to overcome and cannot be tested immediately. They have something to prove to themselves and prefer to start at what we refer to as “the zero point.” They are the ones that improve the fastest, but they cannot start from a level one class, even though they scored low on the initial diagnostic and on every marker that we use.

           The instructors at JM Learning are trained to recognize these types of students and will remove a student from the classroom FREE OF CHARGE and speak to them almost immediately to gauge a better understanding of their skills. If the instructor deems it necessary, they will place the student into the ENVIRONMENT THAT IS RIGHT FOR THE STUDENT!

Not every student is created the same and thus they cannot be taught the same.

We will not delve into the complexities of what should and should not be incorporated in the admissions process, but we will say that NO SYSTEM IS EVER GOING TO BE PERFECT! Like every major system, there is no possible way to ensure quality all across the board and there will be, no matter how seemingly perfect the system may seem, students that are simply underrepresented because they don’t fit a certain set of criteria. But, let’s take a look at some possibilities.

Why JM Learning believes the SHSAT cannot be Eliminated

  1. If you base the admissions process on state exams, what about the private schools such as Poly Prep that do not require State exams. Are these kids not applicable to obtain entrance? This is not a small subset of the population as more and more schools are veering away from state exams.
  2. If you base the admissions process on only grades, parents will flock to what they believe are the “easiest schools” and become obsessed with grades, overwhelming students and destroying the process as we know it. This will also be completely unfair for some, as some private schools have only 5-10 people per class. Accepting the top 2 percent would virtually guarantee the valedictorian entrance, even if that said person would have an 80 average and doesn’t have the grades or extracurriculars anywhere near a student in a larger school that just got edged out by a few other students. This would create mass hysteria and the wrong type of competition, ultimately creating detriment with the students, parents, and teachers.  One stuyvesant student who shall remain anonymous in this article states, “even my teachers who should be for it can’t help but tell me how the school will be ruined without the exam.”

          Let’s be clear, eliminating the SHSAT does not mean the allure of specialized high schools will be eliminated, which is what most parents are fearing. There are many that now are switching to private schools and paying outrageous amounts of money to send their kids to the best school possible, fearing that the rigor of a specialized high school will simply be eliminated. JM Learning and its affiliates believe that if the SHSAT exam is completely eliminated, the process will have to undergo a “holistic” approach. While we do not believe that this is in any way possible, simply due to an overwhelming amount of manpower required and new tools that would tax the education system further than it already is, De Blasio would have to introduce a “college-like” process in order to create a fair system of admission.

           Having taught the exam and helped countless students achieve their dreams of obtaining admission into schools like Brooklyn Tech, Bronx Science, Stuyvesant, and Staten Island Tech, JM Learning and its affiliates believe that a High School application process would be created, allowing the students to discuss their extracurricular activities, write a personalized essay explaining their interests and providing character references, providing recommendation letters, and using their current grades in school.

          This “High School application” will resemble the College Application process in the fact that it will allow the student to express themselves individually. Acceptance into NYC Specialized High Schools will be based on State Exam grades, academic grades and said essay. There are too many students who are scoring 4’s on their state exams or who are receiving 4.0 averages. The essay portion will help High School admissions officers really get an understanding of who the student is, how the student will contribute to the school and what the student can offer other than academics.

          The sole purpose of eliminating the SHSAT exam is to give all 8th-grade students a fair chance at being accepted into these specialized High Schools. Mayor De Blasio voices how he wants these High Schools to have a more diverse student population. Many families do not have the opportunity or the luxury to send their children to receive SHSAT preparation, which gives these children a lower advantage when taking the exam. Is it fair to only accept the students who are more fortunate to receive exam preparation? Is it fair to not give the less fortunate students the opportunity to attend these specialized High School? De Blasio is simply expressing a concern that all students deserve a fair chance. So, if the exam is eliminated and this application is implemented then all students have a fair shot of getting accepted. They will know that their acceptance will rely on their grades and state exam scores. They will know that they will have to write a personalized essay to describe to the admissions officer why they should be accepted. What do you think of these changes? Do you believe that acceptance should be based on these 3 pillars?

The SHSAT will undergo serious changes

          With everything that has been happening in the city regarding this “hot topic,” no matter what way we see it, the system will change. Even if the exam remains as the deciding factor of whether an 8th grader will be accepted into a specialized High School or not, the format will have to change to incorporate more specific sets of skills, just like what JM learning uses to evaluate its students. Perhaps there will be the introduction of subsets of scores, showing specific skills that will allow the admissions committee to gain further insight into how a student performs. Most likely, however, there will be a new set of criteria.

          This exam has been changed twice in the past year. Two years ago, the exam had a section called Scrambled Paragraphs and Logical Reasoning, but last year this section was eliminated and 20 grammar questions were added instead. Now this current year, the exam has decreased the grammar questions to 11 and left the rest as reading comprehension. Our prediction is that the NY Department of Education will attempt to make the SHSAT exam similar to the SAT exam. To make it more standardized. This will help prepare younger students for what they will need to know in High School and for the SAT exam. Maybe this will benefit students in the long run; more preparation for the exam that determines which College they will attend.

One Exam is no longer enough!

          Some of you may recall your first ever interview for your first “real” job and I invite you to think about the apprehension you felt during that wait. Resume handy, prepared to answer any and all questions, 15 minutes early dressed to impress, and still, you sit there in the waiting room about to have a mild stroke! Imagine now that you were only given one chance for one interview ever and that your entire career is dependent on this one shot. Now, can you imagine putting that same pressure on a thirteen-year-old child?

          While many of you believe that the pressure of not obtaining a job is significantly more stressful than obtaining the coveted spot in one of the specialized high schools, you’re entirely wrong! For a child, they have one job, one task given to them - succeed in school. Many of the social pressures can be horrendously trying and the entire experience can be more taxing, giving the perception of failure to themselves, their peers, and you as parents. The student’s entire academic career can come spiraling out of control if the pressure becomes too high. And while many of you as parents believe that you are not pushing your child too hard, and you’re probably right, the child may feel that pressure from their peers. This is no one’s fault, but a simple reality that needs to be understood.

          What JM Learning believes would work is giving the students more than one try to the exam. Why not multiple test dates? We never truly understood why it’s so mandatory for an exam that’s administered to approximately 28,000 students and why it has to be one day. Yes, there are exceptions and some take it later, but why aren’t students allowed to take it more than once, ensuring their success? They should be allowed to take it at various dates throughout the year. And, if the issue is money, currently the SHSAT is free, then there should be some fee associated with the exam, allowing for more money to pooled into the DOE.

          Other than the introduction of new concepts and testing strategies and a multitude of tries, at JM Learning, we believe that truly incredible students not only are passionate about a few things that they know well but are extremely well rounded. We believe that the SHSAT should be a deciding factor because let’s make this clear, the specialized high schools are exam based schools. They focus on one thing and only one thing, the student’s ability to take tests! How can you get rid of the deciding factor, the SHSAT, without completely eliminating the appeal of the school? However, it is just as important to consider other factors to ensure success. We believe that the best solution is to create an admissions committee of dedicated specialized high school staff, who knows the standards set by the school better than the teacher’s so why shouldn’t they get some type of say on who belongs in the school. This will not only create a better process but utilize the resources that are already inherent within the school. This will, in turn, create a High School application that here at JM believe would be vital to the ultimate success of New York City High School students.

High School application with the SHSAT


  • SHSAT = 40% of the Admissions process


      1. Instead of the SHSAT being the ultimate deciding factor, grades, state exams scores, and extracurriculars are virtually unaccounted, why not lower the requirement to about 65%. This will force students to develop strong study skills, while still looking at other factors for admissions.


  • Grades and State Exams = 25%


      1. Grades and State Exams should be an important factor to be considered in the application process and should play their role.


  • Extracurricular Activities = 25%


      1. If the student is involved in countless activities, why wouldn’t this play an important role in the admissions process? Don’t we want students to give back to their communities and learn through real life activities, not just academics? Ultra involved kids may often find it difficult to get the same grades and study as hard for the SHSAT because they simply don’t have enough time in the day. You can’t ask a student to stop programming or drawing because they need to spend more time studying. They should be given a fair chance.


  • The High School Essay, Demographics, and the student’s story =10%


    1. This all started when the numbers of who was attending the specialized High Schools were released. We believe that everyone wants a more inclusive environment in the specialized high schools and everyone was appalled at the lack of variety in the school. There should be within the application a portion that allows the students to express themselves by what demographic and cultural background they fit into. This would single-handedly solve the problem of inclusion and this would allow students that experienced hardship to tell their story and win over the admissions committee.

          To be clear, JM Learning and its affiliates are not part of the DOE and we do not speak on behalf of any of the specialized high schools, such as Brooklyn Tech, Stuyvesant, Staten Island Tech, Bronx Science, or any of the other schools that require the SHSAT for admissions. However, in this article, we have outlined the many possibilities that can happen and in turn, we hope we have alleviated anxieties in regards to what will happen next, while discussions are kept hidden from the public eye. Remember we are here to help. Our dedicated staff, we will be here for you no matter the outcome and stand by our motto...

For every level of difficulty, we offer a level of mastery!

This article was written by Jonathan Milman and the affiliates of JM Learning Prep all rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any form or by any means, including photocopying, recording, or other electronic or mechanical methods, without the prior written permission of JM Learning Prep except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical reviews and certain other noncommercial uses permitted by copyright law.

For permission requests, write to the publisher, addressed “Attention: Permissions Coordinator,” at the address below.

JM Learning

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Brooklyn, NY 11235

outsmarting high school

Outsmarting High School

Outsmarting High School

Picking the right classes, the right teachers and making a schedule so that you can still have a social life…


As students are frantically trying to pick out the coolest binder or the trendiest pencil case or the backpack that will catch their friends attention; they are forgetting about the choices that will affect their future more than cool back to school gear: classes, teachers, and a schedule. Back to school season is just around the corner, but with proper planning the fun of summer doesn’t have to end. Planning is essential for success. Create a list of classes that you want to take, a list of compatible teachers that will motivate you to learn and some options for class schedules so you can still have a social life after school. All of this centers around the fact that balance is essential to a fulfilling life, especially for a growing teenager. Academics and fun should compliment each other; study now, have fun later. With this strategy, you won’t view education as a burden or a hassle, rather as an “effort” in order to receive a “reward”.


Knowing which classes to choose is never easy, (unless you’re a counselor or academic advisor) primarily for incoming High Schoolers or even current High Schoolers.

“Have a Plan!”

1. First and foremost, your classes have to meet the high school requirements, otherwise you won’t be able to graduate. Some advisors will be able to put you on a clear path, others will have to “play it by year,” and determine your classes based on your overall performance. In either case, know that there are certain classes you have to take, no matter whether the class is AP, Honors, or Regents, and plan as best you can so you can manage your time effectively.

“...just have an idea of your likes and dislikes and focus on the subjects you like most!”

2. Secondly, take some time to research and figure out which colleges you’d be interested in attending because once you have an idea of the career path you’d want to take, you can cater your High School classes to the programs of these potential colleges. To be clear, picking a career path for an incoming freshman in High School may seem a bit ridiculous, but the idea here is not to “know” what you’re going to do for the rest of your life. Just understand that, today it’s common for many people to change career paths several times throughout their academic and professional years. Instead, just have an idea of your likes and dislikes and focus on the subjects you like the most.

3. Inquire with your High School about all the college-prep courses offered and sign up for a balanced schedule of them...
*A balanced schedule of classes consists of early classes that first fulfill a school requirement then work on your strong or weak points in certain subjects and lastly focus on your interests.
Ending the school day on a positive note.*

Compile a class list that includes Advanced Placement classes, International Baccalaureate classes, Regents classes and classes that will accommodate your interests. If you’re interested in theater, art, music, fashion, etc., then make sure your school offers such courses so you can further explore these interests. Admissions officers enjoy seeing a student’s positive pattern; they enjoy getting to know the student through paper before accepting them to their university or college. You don’t have to be a straight A student, but you have to show that you are dedicated to your academic progression and personal progression. People are interested in seeing what kind of individual you’re growing into, so make sure to participate in extracurricular activities or clubs. Seek a challenge, while you’re at it. According to International College Counselors,“Colleges like to see a high level (or an improving degree) of rigor and success throughout a student’s high school years. This includes the senior year. Have you heard this famous question: ‘Is it better to take a course where I know I can get an ‘A’ or should I take a harder course and risk getting a lower grade?’ The answer is: ‘It’s best to get an ‘A’ in a harder course.’” Don’t be afraid to try something new. Success is never really success without some failure.

“I just took the hardest classes I could because I wanted the challenge. I didn’t get straight A’s, but I learned more about myself by taking these classes,” says M. Danil*** a former JM Learning student currently graduating Dartmouth in 2020.


Before scheduling your classes, you should first observe the interactions that teachers have with their students. Figure out which teachers seem friendly and which ones you think that you will get along with. The smartest person doesn’t necessarily make the best teacher- teaching is a skill. Take a tour of the high school on a school day and take note of the overall atmosphere. Be mindful to which teachers can motivate their students; this kind of motivation will help you excel in your classes. Seeing motivation isn’t always easy, so simply pay attention to the students who are excited to be in that particular class. Making learning fun is key, which teacher can do that?

To be clear, choosing teachers is not a simple process. Not all schools allow students to pick, choose and exchange the teachers assigned to their desired classes. School administrators will rarely take a teacher out of a class and switch him or her with another teacher, unless the majority of the class files a request to do so. However, if you feel as though you’re the only student in the class that will be affected negatively by a certain teacher then you do have an option of requesting to be placed into a different class with a different teacher. Don’t take this for granted though, only exercise this option when you truly believe that your assigned teacher will not help you excel. *Speaking to the parents, it is best for you not to choose your teenager’s teachers. Your teenagers are the ones who will be interacting with their teachers on a daily basis; a compatible, positive relationship needs to be established between them. Truth is, not all students get along with their teachers. But this conclusion needs to be made by the student, not the parent of the student. Take everything with ease. Less stress equals better results.

Between all the test preparation, late night projects, and never ending homework, people lose sight of the fact that these High School students are still just teenagers. Not children anymore, but not yet adults. You are just now starting to learn who you are, so apart from academics, some self-reflection and simple fun is needed. Having a social life outside of school allows you to unwind, relax, and rejuvenate for the upcoming school week. This plays back into the concept of balance discussed earlier. When building a class schedule, try to start classes early so you can get out of school early. Leaving school early gives you the opportunity to participate in sports or enjoy your social life and still have time to finish your homework. Health should always come first, so if you’re overworked with academics, your body will start to shut down and in turn, your grades will go down. No one wants that. Aside from health concerns, college admissions officers would rather accept students who did more than just study. They prefer students who participated in different clubs, activities and events; this participation shows how involved you will be on their college campus. So create a schedule that gives you enough time to study and simply have fun. Remember, you’re only young once.


Do you feel as though you can outsmart your High School now? Are you confident in which classes to take? Which teachers best suit you? How to create your class schedule?






Work Cited


  1. “9 Tips for Choosing the Right High School Classes.” International College Counselors, internationalcollegecounselors.com/9-tips-for-choosing-the-right-high-school-classes/.



Pencil on multiple choice paper

Took the June 2018 SAT and Not Happy with Your Score? Find out your next steps here…

Posted by Izanna Levintova on July 31st 2018

As the June 1018 SAT scores rolled in on July 11th, countless students sat there staring at the computer screen, frantically scrolling through the details of their score reports and wondering what went wrong. It is well known that this standardized exam is graded on, what the college board refers to as, an “equating” scale or more universally known as a “curve.” For those unfamiliar with what a “curve” or “equating scale” is, let’s take a look at a particular scenario.

Picture yourself inside a classroom with the teacher in the front of the class slowly and methodically walking around the room, handing back the exam grades from a test you took last week. When she finally comes around to you, she says with a smile on her face, “Good job!” and hands you an exam grade of a 45! At first you think that this is somehow a cruel and manipulative joke by this unseemly instructor and you have a piece of mind to tell her exactly what you think of her class! But, before common sense strikes, you begin to look around the room, and like our instincts dictate, begin to compare. It seems as though everyone did significantly worse than even you did. After the remainder of the exams have been handed out, the teacher stands in front of the room, and admits to the class that there were numerous questions on the exam that she deemed as unfair and were too difficult. Thus, she has established a curve to help with the adjustment. Anything above a 40 become an A, a 30-39 is a B, and 20-29 is a C, and anything below that is failing.

While the situation mentioned above, may seem “unfair,” it is a grading system that is used throughout the country in many universities and is a good and consistent measure of the effectiveness of any exam.
The incredible decline in most students’ scores has people questioning the purpose of the exam altogether; how can there be such a drastic shift in a grading scale that is known to be a standardized measurement of one’s testing ability? Students spend months, even years, preparing for the exam that will determine which college or university they will attend. Although, the grading scale may seem out of control, students need to remember that the only control that really matters is the one that they have over their knowledge and education.

At JM Learning Prep in Brooklyn, NY, we understand that the grading scale might be fair or unfair, but the fact of the matter is that we don’t want our students, and outside students to take this to heart. Your hard-work is not overlooked. We do not want you to feel discouraged or feel as if you failed; we want you all to keep your heads held high. We’ve received questions such as, “How can this exam compare students who have taken the exam in May to those who took it in June with such an increased shift in the grading scale?” We understand that it might seem as though the exam is losing its validity, but the best way to overcome this obstacle is with a calm state of mind and realize that many colleges will be looking at the percentiles more than the score itself.

A student tutored for SAT prep at JM Learning Prep, Son**, (the entire first name and last name will not be mentioned to maintain some anonymity) was one of the people affected by this downward curve. Taking a look back at her past SAT scores, the numbers just don’t add up for her June 2018 SAT. When she first started with JM Learning Prep, she scored an 1110 on her first exam and sky rocketed quickly past the 1400 on almost every practice exam she took. Even scoring a few 1500’s along the way. In April 2018, Sonia scored a 1430/1600 with 6 incorrect questions in Math, 4 incorrect in Grammar and 8 incorrect in Reading; placing her in the 94th/95th Percentile, fairly indicative of her practice exams. Now in June, her score was a 1460/1600, with 3 incorrect questions in Math, 2 incorrect in Grammar and 2 incorrect in Reading; placing her in the 99th Percentile - not indicative of her practice exams, but on par with how many questions she gets wrong per section. The problem becomes her percentile: to be placed in the 99th Percentile of the SAT Exam, a student would have had to have scored at least a 1560...so why do the numbers not add up? Sonia has always been a dedicated student, striving for success every chance she got. After asking Son** about her tutoring preparation, she described how she would attend SAT lessons three times a week and take practice tests at JM Learning’s testing center. She also mentioned that on her free time she would read books above her grade level to familiarize herself with the complex vocabulary used in the grammar section of the SAT exam and how JM and its tutors helped throughout the entire process to create an effective study plan.

Another student tutored for SAT prep at our educational facility, Mel****, went through a similar shock as Son**. Similarly, to Son*** Mel*** started with a 1070 and quickly rose past a 1300, completing our level 1 program and transitioning into a semi-private. In March 2018, Mel*** scored a 1370/1600 with 9 incorrect questions in Math, 4 incorrect in Grammar, 13 incorrect in Reading: placing her in the 96th Percentile. In May, however, she scored a 1400/1600 with 5 incorrect in Math, 8 incorrect in Grammar, 12 incorrect in Reading; placing her in the 97th Percentile. Lastly, in June 2018, Melanie received a 1340/1600 with 4 incorrect in Math, 6 incorrect in Grammar, 9 incorrect in Reading; placing her in the 94th Percentile. Again, do these calculations make sense? Mel*** described the private lessons she had with one of our SAT tutors/CEO, Jonathan Milman, and how even when she couldn’t make it to the tutoring facility, Jon would send her work to do at home, checking up on her regularly and even answering questions outside of her lesson plan (our tutors are very dedicated because we believe that the students results are indicative of the tutors’ results). Mel*** would practice every single night, spending 45 minutes on Reading, 45 minutes on Grammar and 1 hour on Math. She explained how after attending her first crash course at JM Learning Prep, she went over all the types of Math questions that could possibly be seen on the SAT until she knew each and every question.

This downward curve affected some students more deeply than others. A dedicated JM Learning student, Dan***, started attending tutoring lessons in February of 2016. His first ever diagnostic exam score was a 1040, however his most recent one was a 1500. Amazing right? Dan*** explained how he would study an SAT packet a day, even spend around 8 hours practicing and reviewing in our tutoring facility. He attended SAT private lessons twice a week for 4 months. Looking back at his actual exam scores, in April 2018 Dan*** scored a 1290/1600 with 12 incorrect questions in Math, 12 incorrect in Grammar, 7 incorrect in Reading: placing him in the 90th Percentile. Now in June 2018, he only scored a 1370/1600 with 3 incorrect questions in Math, 8 incorrect in Grammar, 3 incorrect in Reading: placing him in the 96th Percentile. After all the time and effort that he put into preparing for this exam, he felt as though he was scored unfairly. This bump in the road did not slow him down though; Dan*** is back at JM Learning Prep, preparing for the next SAT exam.
The number one suggestion that we urge our students to follow is to not be hard on yourself. Moving forward, there are a few steps that can be taken to recover from the blow that was the June SAT: pay $50 to hand score your exam or retake the exam in August, October, November or December (most schools accept scores until December). As stated earlier, a lot of Universities and Colleges are looking at percentiles instead of scores from such downward curves. Hold on to this positivity.

Unfortunately, the dedication that Son**, Mel*** and Dan*** express toward their education is not something that the SAT exam measure, but it is also something that cannot be taken away from them. These three students, alongside even more JM Learning students know that they did not deserve the scores that they received in June, however they are still planning on taking the exam again. We encourage all students to maintain this type of forthrightness. Regardless of the circumstances, no student should feel as a failure. A bit of tenacity mixed with the right SAT preparation will prevail and despite the circumstance, overcoming difficulties is always the best lesson learned.

WHow to determine if your child needs tutoring

“How to Determine if Your Child Needs Tutoring”

How to determine if your child needs tutoring

Posted By: Jonathan Milman on July 18th, 2018


Most parents are conflicted with the decision of whether they should send their child to receive some extra academic help. If you’re a parent, here are some questions that you should be asking yourself…


  1. Does your child struggle in school?
    1. While some parents believe that a struggle in a particular class or school in general is an automatic indicator of the necessity of a tutor, a private instructor or “extra help” can make the child feel inadequate. Therefore, it’s important to understand why the child is struggling. We will point out some specific factors that go into a child’s struggle with academics
  1. Too challenging – Often times because the teacher is forced to cover a large amount of material throughout the year, there is not enough time to focus on enough practice for a subject or for the teacher to explain at the speed that some students need. In this case we highly recommend obtaining a professional that can break down the material well enough for the student to have a thorough understanding of the material and enough practice to truly perfect the topics covered.
  2. Not challenging enough – Some students feel disinterested in the material, feeling as though the material is not stimulating thus causing poor results on exams and homework assignments. In this case, we recommend going to the child’s school and asking if the school can provide more intensive classes to stimulate the child. If switching classes/programs is not a viable option, we provide a variety of workshops to motivate the student and teach them well beyond their current grade level. It will allow them not only to obtain interest and obtain great confidence in the subject, but hone in on his/her strengths.
  • Lack of motivation or “Laziness” – While many parents believe that brute force and punishment is the immediate answer to Laziness, often there is a more specific underlying issue. Often times it has to do with friends. Thus, Environment is so crucial to the learning process and an integral part of academic success. If the child is surrounded by highly motivated individuals, then the child will adapt and thus become someone who is highly motivated and push themselves forward to achieving any goal necessary. Laziness or a lack of motivation is not something that can be fixed by hiring a tutor because those same habits will simply apply toward the tutoring session, thus wasting time and money. We suggest sitting down with the student and understanding where the lack of motivation comes from and how it can be fixed.
  1. Organization and Time Management – With so many different classes and assignments, one of the most crucial concepts for a student to master is how not to procrastinate. Students need a highly regimented schedule and a thorough understanding of time management in order to succeed. Students can complain about their excessive homework, but teachers are very good at assigning just enough homework to make the class effective while not forcing the student to spend all of his/her time on one subject. Thus, it is important to complete homework in an efficient manner, spending 2-3 hours maximum per night. All of our programs and tutors spend time organizing a study plan for the student to succeed and manage with all of his/her studies.


  1. Are there specific exams that need to be prepared for?
    1. There are a variety of exams at various ages that students need to do well on. These are called “Benchmarks” and indicate the student’s overall progress throughout the year. The best way to determine whether or not your child needs tutoring for these specific exams is to evaluate the child by doing a mock exam. If the child scored well enough, then there is nothing to worry about. If not, then we would recommend signing up for one of our programs. It’s important to be pre-emptive here and not wait until the last minute.


  1. Do you simply want to your child to get ahead?
    1. Although the obvious answer for most parents is yes, it’s important to understand the strengths and weaknesses of your child first before signing up for various courses and programs. Some children need a nudge, some are very willing, and others will just be resentful toward forceful enrollment. We suggest having a conversation with the child and explain the benefits so that he/she could arrive to a reasonable conclusion, thus eliminating any sense of strife. The child has to want to be in the class or there will simply not be a benefit to the process.


“The SHSAT Exam and the Proposed Changes to the Application Process for NYC Specialized High Schools”

The SHSAT Exam and the Proposed Changes to the Application Process for NYC Specialized High Schools

Posted by JM Learning Prep on July 9th, 2018

If you're confused about all the discussion around the SHSAT Exam and the proposed changes to the application process, please read the following article below. Comments are welcome.

Controversy surrounding the potential changes to the SHSAT has NY Public Schools and parents of middle-schoolers consumed with anxiety and worry. The SHSAT exam has been consistent for the past decade, until Mayor De Blasio proposed to change the way students are accepted into New York City’s elite Specialized High Schools. De Blasio explained how these Specialized High Schools need to be more diverse with their student population, so students of different ethnicities have an equal chance of acceptance. This change would eliminate the SHSAT exam and implement the acceptance of only the top students from every public middle school. For those of you unfamiliar with Specialized High Schools and the intensity of the SHSAT exam, an article written in the NY Times explains, “New York City has nine specialized high schools, which offer a more rigorous curriculum than most other public high schools in the city. The schools are intended to serve the needs of students who excel academically and artistically, according to the Department of Education. The schools are:

  • Bronx High School of Science
    • The Brooklyn Latin School
    • Brooklyn Technical High School
    • High School of American Studies at Lehman College, in the Bronx
    • High School for Math, Science and Engineering at City College, in Manhattan
    • Queens High School for the Sciences at York College
    • Staten Island Technical High School
    • Stuyvesant High School, in Manhattan

The ninth school, Fiorello H. LaGuardia High School of Music and Art and Performing Arts, on the Upper West Side, uses student auditions and academic records, not SHSAT scores, to determine admissions.” In order, to get offered a seat to one of eight elite Specialized High Schools, the student needs to receive a minimum score out of 800 on the SHSAT exam, which is known as the cutoff score. Such scores vary each year for every school and are never officially released to the public. However, based on information from past students and parents, the cutoff scores for the last 5 years for Stuyvesant, Brooklyn Tech, and State Island Tech were...

Stuyvesant: 562(2013), 559(2014), 556(2015), 552(2016), 555(2017)
Brooklyn Tech: 483(2013), 486(2014), 483(2015), 482(2016), 486(2017)
Staten Island Tech: 503(2013), 506(2014), 508(2015), 508(2016), 515(2017)

To give a further background on the SHSAT Exam, there is an ELA (English Language Arts) section and a Mathematics section. Each section is made up of 57 questions. Changes to the ELA portion of the exam have been implemented this year to test students more on what they learn in school. The Revising/Editing section of the ELA portion will have 9 to 11 questions instead of 20 and the Reading Comprehension section will have 46 to 48 questions instead of 37. According to an update released by the NYC Department of Education, “...in past years, all reading comprehension texts were informational texts. The Fall 2018 test will include the following: 3 to 4 informational texts that may include any of the subgenres students should have experience with in middle school; some of these texts may contain supporting visual and/or quantitative graphics, 1 to 2 literary prose texts, which may include any of the subgenres students should have experience with in middle school, and 1 poem. Each text will have 6 to 10 questions associated with it.” One of de Blasio’s proposed changes is to eliminate the SHSAT exam entirely from the admissions process for Fall 2019. If this change is approved by the Legislature, then students will be accepted strictly from their middle school class rank and their statewide standardized test scores.
The second proposed change would have the city, “set aside 20 percent of seats for low-income students who score just below the lowest cutoff score. Those students would need to complete a summer session called the Discovery program, created in 1972 to give disadvantaged students who were not offered a seat at a specialized high school a chance to earn a spot.” In theory, these changes do not sound too catastrophic. The intention behind this proposal is not meant to be malicious, it is to simply stress that every child deserves a fair chance to succeed in the academic world.
As described earlier, this exam tests the student’s ability to think comprehensively, both linguistically and mathematically. JM Learning Prep offers an SHSAT course that can be taught in a one-on-one “private” setting, a small group setting with two to four people, or a class setting, depending on your preference. Our learning center consistently follows the news for updates related to NYC Education, which allows us to customize our programs accordingly. When there is a change or a proposed change, we make sure to inform our clients about it and then implement it into our courses. At JM Learning Prep, we believe that you can only make the right decision when you have the right information, and we are here to help.


Work Cited


  1. “How Would Mayor De Blasio's SHSAT Plan Affect Your Middle School?” NY Daily News, NEW YORK DAILY NEWS, 25 June 2018, interactive.nydailynews.com/…/nyc-middle-school-shsat-data…/
  2. Blint-welsh, Tyler. “What Is the SHSAT Exam? And Why Does It Matter?” The New York Times, The New York Times, 21 June 2018, www.nytimes.com/…/what-is-the-shsat-exam-and-why-does-it-ma….
  3. Lee, Christopher. “The Battle Over Elite High Schools.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 6 June 2018, www.nytimes.com/…/op…/specialized-high-schools-new-york.html.