What’s the Difference Between the CHSEE and the TACHS?

By Nicholas LaPoma, Esq.

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Archdiocese of New York has decided to replace the Catholic High School Entrance Exam (CHSEE) with an online Test for Admission into Catholic High Schools (TACHS).

Many students have been asking about how the shift from the CHSEE to the TACHS will impact their chances of admission at potential high schools, so I thought that it would be helpful to explain a few things about the CHSEE and TACHS. Firstly, I’ll recap what the CHSEE and TACHS actually are. Then, I’ll focus on the format and content of each exam to show how students can adapt their study plans to meet this change.

What are the CHSEE and TACHS?

The CHSEE and TACHS are two entrance exams for Catholic high schools in the New York Metropolitan area. The CHSEE serves nine Catholic high schools on Long Island, while the TACHS is typically reserved for Catholic high schools in New York City.

Eighth-grade students seeking admission to a Catholic high school would first consult the school’s website to figure out which entrance exam they accepted. They would then register for that exam in the fall, sit for that exam in November, and hear from their prospective schools sometime after that.

Fun fact: affectionate — or somewhat ironic — students have dubbed the CHSEE the “cheese” exam, since the two words are spelled so similarly. Very rarely will you hear the acronym pronounced.

How is the CHSEE formatted?

The CHSEE consists of two sections. The first section, called “Abilities,” contains questions that you might find on an IQ test. The makers of the CHSEE rarely release this part, but it tends to test abstract pattern recognition. Students, for instance, might be asked to identify the next shape in a sequence.

The second section, called “Achievement,” is a bit more tangible. The Achievement Section is further divided into five more subcategories: reading comprehension (40), Word Study (50), grammar (50), mathematics (40), and writing. Reading comprehension and mathematics test their respective subjects at the eighth-grade level. Word Study focuses on vocabulary questions and synonyms and antonyms; the once-feared spelling section has since been removed from the exam. Writing asks students to copy a poem and respond to a prompt with a short paragraph. All of the questions in the Achievement Section, except for the writing part, are multiple choice.

How is the TACHS formatted?

The TACHS consists of 200 multiple choice questions in four sections: reading (50), language (50), mathematics (50), and abilities (50).

The reading, language, and mathematics section all test their respective subjects at the eighth-grade level. The “abilities” section tests topics like pattern recognition and abstract reasoning. Some students, for example, have been asked to fold the paper in a certain way.

What’s the difference between the CHSEE and the TACHS?

The similar formats of the CHSEE and the TACHS might cue you into a pattern: the CHSEE and TACHS aren’t very different. In terms of content, they all test reading, writing, grammar, and mathematics skills at the eighth-grade level, and tack on a section to examine students’ abstract reasoning capabilities.

The focus of certain sections of the exam, though, does differ slightly. Here’s a short, and by no means complete, list of the small differences:

  • The CHSEE tests vocabulary mainly by presenting a solitary word and asking students to identify the best synonym or antonym. The TACHS exclusively tests vocabulary by presenting it within a passage.
  • The TACHS dedicates a substantial portion of its mathematics section to estimation, while estimation rarely appears on the CHSEE.
  • The TACHS asks students to clarify the ordering of paragraphs, but the CHSEE never tests this.
  • The TACHS presents students with graphs on the mathematics section, while the CHSEE never pairs a word problem with a visual aid.

How will the TACHS be administered?

The TACHS will be administered online on November 7th.

So, how should you study for the TACHS?

The good news for students planning to take the CHSEE is that, when they switch over to the TACHS exam, the content and format of the exam don’t change all that much. Since the content tested by each exam is so similar, a student’s solid foundation in the CHSEE’s subject matter will help that student perform well on TACHS.

That being said, students should still prepare by using TACHS-specific practice materials so they can address the subtle differences between both exams.

Want to prepare for the TACHS Exam? Check out Curvebreakers’ online, 20-hour TACHS Review Class!