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What does the Student-Portriat-Sheet (SPS) look like?

We frequently get asked the question: what is the TJ Student Portrait Sheet (SPS)?

The Student Portrait Sheet (SPS) is a series of mini-essays that demonstrate Portrait of a Graduate (POG) skills as well as interest in STEM. Apart from the Problem-Solving Essay (PSE), this is a major component in the admissions process.

Format: 4 questions, maximum of 1500 characters each, 1-hour total time limit; computerized exam (typed, not hand-written)

Sample Questions (2 of 4 questions that showed up on the 2021 admissions exam):

  1. (TJ 2021 Test) Leader: You have probably heard the expression “born leader”. The phrase implies that the qualities which make a good leader are innate — you’re either born with the skills it takes to be a leader, or you’re not. Others believe that key leadership qualities can be learned over time implying that learners can be taught to lead. Discuss which leadership style you agree with in detail. Describe a situation about your experience with leadership. Lastly, name a person who exemplifies the leadership

  2. (TJ 2021 Test) Goal-Directed and Resilient Individual: There are times when we are faced with challenges while working towards achieving a goal. Tell us about a time when you set a goal and had to overcome a challenge to achieve that goal. What was your goal; what challenges did you have to overcome; what did you do in response to achieve your goal? Please respond in a short answer/essay format and use examples and include specific details.

In 2014, the FCPS School Board developed and adopted the “Portrait of a Graduate,” which includes a set of “skills” every student should demonstrate. These skills include: Communication, Collaboration, Ethical and Global Citizen, Creative and Critical Thinker, and Goal-Direct and Resilient Individual. For TJ Admissions, in addition to the aforementioned portrait of a graduate's characteristics, students also need to show that they are an Innovator, Leader, and Problem Solver. That is a total of 8 skills that students need to demonstrate on the SPS.

On the SPS, students need to demonstrate that they embody these skills by writing essays that pull from their own experience (through extracurriculars and coursework).

In addition to these characteristics, students also need to show that they are passionate about STEM and interested in TJ specifically. They need to show their passion for STEM via the STEM extracurriculars/experiences that they write about, and show their interest in TJ by mentioning specific offerings they might take advantage of.

Want to learn more about the TJ Admissions Process? Visit and consider one of our prep options. Questions? Reach out to us at

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