Applying to a specialized school in New York is competitive. The best schools are extremely stringent and only students that have successfully passed the SHSAT will be eligible to get in.
Enrolling in a preparation course before taking the SHSAT, will give you the best chance of passing. And that’s where the ArgoPrep subscription program comes in.
Fully accredited and a winner of a number of awards, ArgoPrep was started in order to help able students make the grade. Essentially, it prepares candidates in the English and math sections of the SHSAT so that they can be confident when taking the test.
That being said, there are other prep courses out there. Is ArgoPrep the best one to go for?
In this review we will answer just that. By lifting the lid off of the ArgoPrep SHSAT prep course and analyzing what it offers we will provide you the lowdown on whether the course remains worthwhile in 2021.
Who are ArgoPrep?
ArgoPrep is an educational technology (EdTech) and publishing company that provides online study platforms (including self-study platforms), private tutoring, workbooks, and online preparatory (prep) courses to students preparing for SHSAT, K8-Math, K8-ELA, and the Graduate Record education (GRE), along with 2 standardized college admission tests – SAT and ACT.
ArgoPrep was founded on July 11, 2014, by Anayet Chowdhury as a for-profit company that offered online learning services to K-12 students.
It later started to publish workbooks for helping these students enhance their learning. It is currently used by students, teachers, and parents (who are engaged in homeschooling or helping their children study better).
Currently, it is based in West End Avenue in Brooklyn, New York. Relatedly, ArgoPrep is owned by Argo Brothers, Incorporated, which also owns the ArgoPrep Learning Center that is located in Manhattan Beach, New York.
ArgoPrep is committed to offering comprehensive in-class and online lessons using well-organized study plans and practice tests that aptly transform the student into a well-prepared SHSAT candidate who is ready to ace his/her SHSAT.
In fact, its motto is to prepare, practice, review (for the exam). It also provides 4 SHSAT workbooks to help the candidate prepare well for the SHSAT.
These SHSAT workbooks are created in-house by ArgoPrep tutors and professionals. These educational resources and professional tutoring have earned this company a good reputation as an industry leader in providing EdTech for SHSAT candidates.
To date, ArgoPrep has bagged the following awards so far:
- 2019 Winner of National Parenting
- Tillywig Brain Child Award
- Moms Choice Gold Award
- 2019 Homeschool Seal of Approval
- Bronze Winner of the 2020 Education Hero of the Year
- Parent’s Choice Gold Award
The ArgoPrep tutors who create and deliver the prep lessons are state-certified teachers. The competitiveness of SHSAT is revealed by the admission rates to specialized schools.
As mentioned, about 29000 students took SHSAT in 2019 and about 5000 got admission offers, and this translates to an admission rate of about 17.25%.
ArgoPrep wants to ensure that its students/candidates are among the 17.25% who will get admission offers.
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An Overview of ArgoPrep’s Services
ArgoPrep provides online study platforms, private tutoring, workbooks, and online prep courses to students preparing for SHSAT, K8-Math, K8-ELA, and GRE, along with 2 standardized college admission tests – SAT and ACT.
It is also worth mentioning that it offers 4 online preparation programs for SHSAT, GRE, SAT, American College Testing (ACT), and K-8 math and English Language Arts (ELA).
The SHSAT prep program is a subscription-based service that provides a comprehensive on-demand test-prep program through an online education platform and 4 printed workbooks.
ArgoPrep provides easy-to-understand lessons that are well-organized into SHSAT study plans. As an EdTech company, it provides its SHSAT lessons through an online platform that can be accessed at any time.
This provision of on-demand lessons, along with flexible study plans allows a candidate to set his/her learning pace. This means that its SHSAT program allows for self-paced learning.
Even so, to take this course, the candidate must have first registered with the DoE of New York City to take SHSAT.
Also, because this SHSAT course is offered to gifted students, it should be considered as a supplemental educational product as the student (or SHSAT candidate) is expected to have completed the mandatory school curriculum. This means that the course is not a substitute for the standard school curriculum.
The test-prep program has a lecture repository with over 100 video lectures, a test bank with over 1200 practice questions, 30 hours of instructor-led video explanations, a quiz bank, 4 workbooks, and 5 full-length SHSAT practice examinations.
It also comes with intelligent analytics for progress tracking, and expert live support from tutors. Relatedly, ArgoPrep offers this program through subscription-based plans, and there are currently 3 plans – the 3-month, 6-month, and 12-month plans.
The ArgoPrep SHSAT Prep Program
ArgoPrep provides easy-to-understand lessons that are well-organized into SHSAT study plans. Each of these study plans is based on the same SHSAT prep course, which can also be described as the SHSAT prep program.
As an EdTech company, it provides its SHSAT lessons through an online platform that can be accessed at any time and thus can be described as a provider of on-demand online SHSAT prep course.
It also allows the candidate to set his/her learning pace, hence supporting the creation of a personalized study plan.
The SHSAT program covers all the topics examined in SHSAT, as well as equips the candidate with the skills of how to answer the questions.
A Subscription-Based Service
ArgoPrep offers its test-prep programs as subscription-based services, and this applies to the SHSAT program. This also means that the candidate must register for this program.
Currently, ArgoPrep offers a 24-hour free trial that allows the candidate to assess whether the program is a good fit for him/her. If the program is a good fit, then the candidate can enroll.
When enrolling for the SHSAT program, ArgoPrep requires the student to take a test called the diagnostic test so as to know which class schedules are the best fit for him/her.
Afterward, the student is introduced to the examination format of SHSAT and can then start taking math and language classes. The focus of this test-prep program is to ensure that the candidate has enough practice before taking the test.
Registration allows the candidate to have his/her own dashboard. Parents can view the dashboard of their child and even see how (s)he has progressed in learning and how much (s)he has scored in the practice quizzes.
The course also comes with:
Intelligent analytics for tracking progress. Likewise, for each SHSAT practice test taken, there is an official explanation provided for why the candidate scored the results provided.
Even so, ArgoPrep shows the candidate the raw scores, and this is important for progress tracking as an increase in raw scores is a good indicator that the candidate is preparing well for SHSAT.
Expert live support from tutors. Even so, this is dependent on the subscription plan chosen.
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Course Access, Approach, and Utility
As a web-based course accessed via the dashboard, the student can only access the course after logging into the SHSAT student portal provided on the website.
This website has an appealing user interface, and its functionality provides for a good user experience. It also provides mobile apps for iOS and Android mobile devices.
Like other prep courses offered by ArgoPrep, the SHSAT prep course provides guidance on what to learn, direction on how to learn, and regularity in taking lessons.
As an on-demand course with online lessons and physical workbooks serving as learning materials, this course helps the candidate know what concepts are tested, and how to answer the questions according to the way the questions have been worded and formatted.
As mentioned, ArgoPrep adequately prepares the candidate for the two sections of SHSAT by covering the topics that are examined.
The Approach used in teaching by ArgoPrep
The approach used in teaching by ArgoPrep can be summarized as follows:
- Knowledge Acquisition – ArgoPrep provides video lectures and print lessons to the candidate. These lessons teach the candidate concepts and knowledge that are going to be tested.
- Practice – This involves the candidate taking practice quizzes and multiple full mock SHSAT so as to test how well (s)he has grasped the knowledge being tested.
How much is ArgoPrep?
As mentioned, ArgoPrep offers subscription-based plans. This means that there are multiple plans that one is allowed to choose from.
Each plan has its own length of study, content volume, and benefits.
Payment is made using PayPal, Mastercard, or Visa card.
Regarding customer testimonials, the website has published testimonials from candidates who benefited from its test-prep program.
The Pros & Cons of the ArgoPrep SHSAT Prep Program
The pros and cons of this prep course are listed below:
Overall, the ArgoPrep SHSAT prep course is a high-quality platform for students looking to successfully be admitted into a specialized school in New York. The simple user interface along with the many educational resources, including videos and practice questions, makes learning fun and productive.
The Live Chat function is especially useful. Essentially, young students will not get bored working through the materials, and the fact they relate so closely to what will be tested in the SHSAT also makes for rewarding learning.
It is not cheap, but the 12-month plan does offer value for money when compared to the other packages. The free 24hr trial is also a great way to see what is on offer. Highly recommended.
A Close Look at the SHSAT
SHSAT is designed to test for mathematical skills and proficiency in English grammar. It is produced by the American Guidance Service (AGS), which is owned by Pearson Education.
The only 2 specialized schools that do not use SHSAT scores as admission criteria are Engineering at City College and Fiorello.H.LaGuardia High School of Music & Art and Performing Arts.
So why do the aforementioned 8 specialized schools use SHSAT as their admission criteria? The answer is that it is a legal obligation stipulated under the Hecht-Calandra Act.
This act mandates these schools to use the SHSAT scale and composite scores (explained later) as the admission criteria.
In 1972, the Hecht-Calandra Act only obligated Bronx High School of Science, Stuyvesant High School, and Brooklyn Technical High School, and later the Department of Education of New York City made SHSAT the mandatory test for students seeking admission to the aforementioned 8 specialized schools.
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To take a SHSAT, the student needs to register for the exam via the SHSAT online registration portal of the Department of Education (DoE) of New York City.
It is the DoE of New York City that has contracted AGS to produce and grade SHSAT. During registration, the student chooses his/her preferred testing center, as well as the preferred specialized high school (s)he intends to join.
Normally, the candidate is allowed to list up to 8 specialized schools in his/her order of preference so that if his/her admission is rejected by his/her most preferred school because there is no open seat available, then (s)he still has a chance of being admitted to another specialized school.
After registration to take SHSAT, the student becomes a candidate who can now enroll in the SHSAT prep program offered by ArgoPrep.
ELA and Math Sections of the SHSAT
SHSAT has 2 sections:
English Language Arts (ELA) Section
This section is intended to assess the ability of the examinee to recognize grammar errors in sentences, and then correct them; as well as assess his/her ability to comprehend and analyze different genres of texts.
There are two types of questions – scored questions and embedded field questions – but the examinee (student taking the test) cannot differentiate between the two types of questions.
For the purpose of this review, it is important to note that there are 10 embedded field questions and 47 scored questions, which means that the examinee has to answer 57 questions in the ELA section. Each of these 57 questions is a multiple-choice question (MCQ).
There are 2 parts in the ELA section:
There are 9 to 19 questions in this part that assess the ability of the examinee to recognize grammar errors in sentences, and then correct them; as well as improve the quality of writing in a paragraph.
This part has 2 distinct segments. In the first segment, each question is based on an individual sentence or paragraph. In the second segment, a text made up of several paragraphs is used as the basis to answer all the questions asked.
There are 38 to 48 questions in this part that assess the ability of the examinee to comprehend and analyze different genres of texts.
If there are 19 revising/editing questions, then there are 38 reading comprehension questions so that the total ELA questions add up-to 57.
For this part, 5 or 6 different texts, including literary and informational texts are provided. For each text, there are 6 to 10 questions that need to be answered.
The informational text includes any one of the following 3 genres of texts: argument, exposition, or functional text. The functional test can be a personal essay, opinion piece, biography text, speech, or an essay written for the general public that focuses on a single topic such as art, literature, historical account, scientific idea, technical fact, journalism, or economic issue.
Regarding the literal text, it can include any literary genre that has been taught to middle-school students such as satires, poetry, myth, parody, allegory, mystery, adventure story, and fiction (including historical, science, or realistic fiction).
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This section has 57 questions based on the syllabus/curriculum set by New York City DoE for Grade 7 and Grade 8 classes.
For the eighth-grade SHSAT candidate, the math section covers material included in Grade 1 to Grade 7 classes, while the ninth-grade SHSAT candidate is tested on materials included in Grade 8 classes.
Relatedly, this section has 2 types of questions – grid-in format questions and MCQs. There are 5 grid-in questions and 52 MCQs. The key topics tested are basic math, algebra, geometry, word problems, factoring, logic, substitution, and basic coordinate graphing.
The standard duration set for completing the SHSAT is 180 minutes (3 hours), which is enough to answer all the 104 questions without any break.
The examinee is prohibited from using a calculator or calculation aid during the exam. Relatedly, it is recommended that the examinee spends 90 minutes (1 hour 30 minutes) on each section.
The test is taken in October or November, and the final results are released in March of the next year.
For the student who took the SHSAT and has received the results, (s)he and his/her parent, can make an appointment with an assessment specialist from the DoE to review the SHSAT results.
The candidate who has received the admission offer can decide whether to join the specialized school in the following September.
Current eighth-grade students can apply for the test to be taken this fall (of the 2021-2022 school year).
SHSAT results are provided as scale scores which are summed to provide the composite score. The scale scores are based on the number of correctly answered questions in each section – ELA and Math. So, there is the ELA scale score and the math scale score.
Wrong answers are not penalized, but instead, the raw score is calculated as the total number of correctly answered questions.
This raw score is then converted into a scale score using a formalized method created by DoE. This formalized method is secret and changes yearly because SHSAT questions change yearly.
This formalized method allows for the conversion of the raw score in each section into a scale score that ranges in value from 200 to 800. When these two scale scores – the ELA and Math scale scores – are added together, the sum is called the composite score.
A modified version of SHSAT like that used by Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology uses the raw score and grade point average (GPA) of the student to determine whether (s)he can be admitted or not.
Normally, the GPA and raw score are used to create a sliding scale where a cut-off value can be set for admission.