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A Parent's Guide to New York State Tests

A Parent's Guide to New York State Tests

Here's everything you need to know about New York State tests for students in elementary school through high school, plus the 2020-2021 exam dates.

Updated March. 16: Standardized testing begins in third grade for most New York students—and continues up until they graduate from high school. Many parents however admit that they know little about these tests—their only heads-up was an after-the-fact report from their kids or scores in the mail months later. While we don’t know for certain what this school year’s testing situation will be, it’s always a good idea to know when tests are being administered to help your student prepare.

Editor's note: New York has canceled most 2021 Regents exams except those required by federal rules. 

RELATED: This is What You Need to Know About the NYC School Application Process

The Annual New York State Tests

There are several state tests administered to public school students in New York throughout their education and the results give teachers information about their students’ progress. The DOE also uses test results to judge how schools are performing.

New York State English Language Arts Test (ELA)

Students in third-eighth grades take the ELA test each spring. (Students who have been in the U.S. for less than 1 year usually take the ELA tests after their first year here. Some students with disabilities take the NY State Alternate Assessment instead.) On this untimed test, students read or listen to short passages of stories, articles, or poems and then answer multiple-choice questions, as well as write longer written responses.

220-2021 New York State English Language Arts Test Dates: April 20-22, 2021 (paper); April 19-26, 2021 (computer)

New York State Math Test

Like the ELA, students in third-eighth grades take the NYS Math Test each spring. It is also untimed and includes both multiple choice and open-ended questions. For both this test and the ELA, teachers (from a different school) score the tests and distribute results to parents, which include the student's scale score, performance level, and information on his or her strengths and weaknesses in the different skill areas tested.

2020-2021 New York State Math Test Exam Dates: May 4-6, 2021 (paper); May 3-10, 2021 (computer)

New York State Science Test

This test, given in fourth and eighth grades, requires students to apply scientific concepts, formulate hypotheses, make predictions, and/or use other scientific inquiry techniques. The written examination is untimed and consists of multiple-choice and short and long open-ended questions. The assessment also includes a 1-hour laboratory performance examination, which tests students’ skill using hands-on equipment and materials.

2020-2021 New York State Science Test Dates: May 25-June 4, 2021 (performance); June 7, 2021 (written)

New York State Alternate Assessment (NYSAA)

Every year, students with cognitive disabilities in third-eighth grade take this alternate test, which covers English language arts, mathematics, and science. The subjects are reduced in depth and breadth to meet the needs of the test-taker. (New York state contracts with Dynamic Learning Maps to customize the test to the individual abilities of the student.) The Committee on Special Education determines which students are eligible to take the NYSAA; most eligible students will have an Individualized Education Plan that identifies them as such.

2020-2021 New York State Alternate Assessment Dates: March 8-June 11, 2021

New York State English as a Second Language Achievement Test (NYSESLAT)

All students in kindergarten through 12th grade who receive English as a New Language services will take the NYSESLAT every year until they show that they have mastered the language enough to flourish in an English-only classroom. (There are five levels depending on the student’s grade level.) The speaking section is administered individually, and the other sections, where students respond to stories, questions, or a picture, can be administered to a group.

2020-2021 New York State English as a Second Language Achievement Test Dates: April 19-May 28, 2021 (speaking); May 17-28, 2021 (listening, reading, writing)

New York State Regents Exams

New York officials have moved to cancel most Spring and Summer New York State Regents Exams, except those required by federal rules. Algebra I, English, living environment, and earth science Regents exams will still be administered in June, as per federal rules. The move to cancel these exams comes due to another year of blended learning. Students must still pass their Regents-based courses by the end of summer 2021 to earn a diploma.

For more information about cancelations and exemptions, visit the NYS Education Department website

Regents Exams, which can be taken at any point in high school, measure achievement in high school-level courses. In order to graduate from high school, students must pass five Regents exams: English language arts, a math, a science, social studies, and any additional Regents exam approved by the state (options include United States History and Government, Global History and Geography, English Language Arts, Algebra I, Geometry, Algebra II, Living Environment, Earth Science, Chemistry, and Physics). High scorers are eligible for honors and distinctions; the scores are also used for school quality reports, and teacher development and evaluation.

Placement Tests

Although they are optional, these tests are required for placement in certain schools.

Gifted and Talented

Students entering kindergarten through third grade sign up in the fall to take the untimed Gifted & Talented test in the spring. There are two parts: The non-verbal assessment asks kids to complete patterns, sequences, and connect ideas in order to demonstrate an understanding of relationships and an ability to solve problems. The verbal section requires children to respond to oral instructions about tasks such as detecting likenesses and differences, recalling words and numbers, defining words, following directions, establishing sequence, and solving arithmetic problems. Answers are machine-scored for an overall score between 1 and 99. A score of 90 or above qualifies the student to apply for placement at G&T programs.

Gifted and Talented Exam Dates: This year's test is scheduled to be administered in April 2021. According to Mayor Bill de Blasio, there will be an intensive public engagement process through the spring and summer to work with parents, community leaders, and stakeholders to think of a process that works better for the future and reaches more kids than the test that is currently in place. A new approach will be announced by September.

Specialized High School Admission (SHSAT)

Students in eighth or ninth grades who plan to enroll in one of New York City’s eight specialized high schools (The Bronx High School of Science; The Brooklyn Latin School; Brooklyn Technical High School; High School for Mathematics, Science and Engineering at City College; High School of American Studies at Lehman College; Queens High School for the Sciences at York College; Staten Island Technical High School; and Stuyvesant High School) must take the Specialized High Schools Admissions Test in the fall. The multiple choice-format test evaluates the skills and knowledge the student has acquired via the NYC public school curriculum through seventh grade. Students are tested on reading comprehension, including revising and editing, as well as problem-solving skills in math. The test is 3 hours and scored out of 800 total points. (Fiorello H LaGuardia High School of Music & Art and Performing Arts admits by portfolio or audition, while LaGuardia High School considers audition and academic records).

2020-2021 Specialized High School Admission Test Dates: The deadline to register for the SHSAT is Jan. 15; test administration begins Jan. 27. 

College Tests

These exams are given in high school and the scores help predict college readiness and placement.

Advanced Placement Exams

These standardized pencil-and-paper exams are given at the end of the year in 38 specific subjects (which match a specific AP course). A few courses have different ways to assess what students have learned—for example, AP Art and Design students submit a portfolio of work. Most U.S. colleges grant credit, advanced placement, or both for qualifying AP scores. Colleges also look favorably on students who excel in AP classes and on the exams.

2020-2021 AP Exam Dates: May 3-7, 2021; May 10-14, 2021


The ACT (an abbreviation of American College Testing), which is accepted by all 4-year U.S. colleges and more than 225 colleges abroad, covers four academic skill areas: English, math, reading, and science reasoning. There is also an optional 40-minute writing test. The 3-hour test is multiple choice and high scorers attract college acceptances and financial aid. (Most colleges and universities will accept scores from either the SAT or ACT, but according to the Princeton Review, college-bound students are increasingly taking both.) Most high school students take the ACT during the spring of their junior year or fall of their senior year. It's important for students to leave time to re-take the test if they need to raise their score before applying to college.

2020-2021 ACT Exam Dates: Dec. 12; Feb. 6, 2021; April 17, 2021; June 12, 2021; July 17, 2021


While it won’t count toward college admissions, the PSAT (Preliminary SAT), taken by high school sophomores and juniors, is good prep for the SAT and the scores are used to identify National Merit Scholars and award merit scholarships. The multiple-choice test has two sections: Math (algebra, geometry, and trigonometry) and Evidence-Based Reading and Writing, consisting of passage-based questions. It is scored out of a total 1520 points.

2020-2021 PSAT/ National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Exam Dates: Oct. 29; Jan. 26, 2021


The SAT (Scholastic Assessment Test) is a multiple-choice, pencil-and-paper test created and administered by the College Board which provides colleges with one common data point to compare all applicants. The SAT is comprised of two sections: Evidence-Based Reading and Writing, and Math. The Evidence-Based Reading and Writing is comprised of two tests, one focused on reading and one focused on writing and language. The test is 3 hours and scored out of 1600 total points (800 point for each section).

2020-2021 SAT Exam Dates: Nov. 7; Dec. 5; March 13, 2021; May 8, 2021; June 5, 2021


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Shana Liebman


Shana Liebman is the features editor of NYMP. She’s a writer and editor who has worked for magazines including New York MagazineSalon, and Travel & Leisure—and she is the mom of two energetic little boys.

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