We get a lot of questions about preparing for admission to Thomas Jefferson High School of Science and Technology. Here are some of the most popular.


Who is eligible to apply to TJ?

In short, any 8th grader in Arlington, Fairfax, Falls Church City, Loudoun, Prince William Counties with a minimum 3.0 GPA and currently in Algebra I or higher is eligible to apply. For more specifics, check out TJ’s eligibility requirements.

How do we apply to TJ?

The first step is to apply online, typically in September. All eligible applicants take the admissions exam in November. If they pass the exam, they take the SIS/Essay test in February.

Is the test administered on paper or on the computer?

The first round exam is on paper with a bubble sheet and lined sections for the reading and science short answer questions. The second round SIS/Essay exam is on the computer with a maximum character count.

How are semifinalists decided?

Decisions are based on GPA and test results. To qualify, a student must score:

  1. Math: at least 50th percentile

  2. Reading: at least 75th percentile

  3. Science: at least 75th percentile

AND one of the following:

  • Math: at least 75th percentile

  • Science: at least 90th percentile

When should we start preparing?

It all depends on the student — some begin in elementary school and others at the start of 8th grade. Our TJ-specific exam classes begin in 7th grade with the option to continue classes until the exam. Before 7th grade, we do private tutoring to focus on your student’s areas for improvement and to encourage the exploration and pursuit of their passions. Either way, the first step is to come in for a diagnostic test for us to make an assessment. Schedule it here, or call us at (703) 442-4700.

If my student misses one of your classes, can they make it up?

Because our courses are individualized to their particular students, each class is often on a slightly different timeline; therefore, it usually doesn’t make sense for them to join a different class as a makeup. Our policy is to email over all topics covered and homework materials so your student doesn’t miss a beat.

Can you guarantee our student will pass the first round or gain admission?

While our goal is for students to walk out of the test saying That was easy!, there is a lot of competition, and there are no guarantees. Our exam prep classes will help students succeed in school, learn important skills in each subject, and help prepare them for all kinds of standardized tests, including the SAT and ACT.

Should we wait to begin SIS/Essay prep until we get the results back from the exam?

Because of TJ’s timeline, they only give you about two to three weeks between notification and the semifinal round SIS/Essay test. That’s not much time to improve a student’s writing skills. Our winter classes begin in December to allow students to learn and implement new skills with weeks of essay writing practice.

What happens if we join an essay class but find out our student doesn’t make it?

Some students decide not to continue the class while others continue with the understanding that they either want to continue working on their writing skills or that they want to apply to TJ the following year during sophomore admissions. While our classes are nonrefundable, we believe the skills learned in both exam prep and SIS/Essay prep will help students in high school not only on their tests and essays but also in the college application process.

Have more questions?