Test Preparation

Standardized tests are a large part of the admission process at many private schools. Here you'll find information on the most commonly used exams and how to prepare for them. Explore the tests, what the scores mean, and how the schools will use them.
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If you are thinking of applying to an American private school and English is not your first language, you will be required to take a test known as The Test of English as a Foreign Language. Known more commonly as TOEFL which is pronounced TOE-full, this is an important part of the private school admissions process.
 
TOEFL used to be a paper-based test which is known as TOEFL PBT. This older method of taking the TOEFL test is being phased out. The newer form of TOEFL is TOEFL iBT. This is the test which is administered online in test centers worldwide. This video gives you an overview of what TOEFL is.
 
 
TOEFL is administered in most countries. You take the computer-based test at an examination center under supervised testing conditions. Watch this short video to see how the test is administered. 
 
So let us examine what is involved and how to prepare for the test.
 
What is TOEFL?
 
TOEFL is a standardized test administered by the world-famous Educational Testing Service. ETS is based in Princeton, New Jersey and has been around since 1947. It is an old, very established, highly regarded testing service. ETS is a not for profit organization.  ETS administers all kinds of tests which are given at over 9,000 locations in 180 countries. The tests with which we are probably most familiar are the SAT and AP tests which high school students typically take in their junior and senior years.
 
Why do you need TOEFL?
 
TOEFL . . .read more
Standardized admissions tests are part of the drill in most private school admissions offices. Why is that? Because the school needs to know what you know and don't know academically.

The SSAT and ISEE are the two most commonly used admissions tests. They measure your language and math skills. How do the admissions offices use the test scores which the testing organizations send them? Largely for comparison purposes. For example, if a school has an applicant pool with an average verbal score of 600 and yours is 700, you will be at the top of the list in that one aspect of all the factors the school looks at. Conversely, if your quantative score is 550 and the pool average is 750, you will be at or near the bottom of the list in that comparison.

Bear in mind that the admissions office looks at many things when it reviews your application. If teacher recommendations corroborate the test score results, that is a very strong plus or minus for you. For example, if you scored well in the verbal section of the SSAT and your teacher writes glowing comments about your language arts skills, that will improve your chances significantly. The reverse is also true. A poor quantitative score combined with a weak or vague reference from your math teacher ("Johnny has challenges with his math lessons.") won't help your case.

Many factors come into play when it comes to standardized tests. The most . . .read more
Admissions tests in private schools are supposed to measure your child's aptitude and readiness for the work in a serious private prep school. They are merely one tool for assessing a child's progress to date. Some children have learned their lessons well. Some children take tests well. Other children have deficiencies in certain skill areas. Still others do not test well.
 
Long-term Test Preparation
 
In a perfect world every child would master all the skills necessary to succeed academically. But children learn differently. Their teachers teach the same material differently. The school expects certain results in certain subject areas. That's why a standardized admissions test is a critical part of most private school admissions requirements.
 
If you can take the long term approach to admissions test preparation, it certainly is the ideal. But you need to start a few years out from the actual admissions test itself. Here's what to do: monitor your child's progress carefully. Identify any deficiencies and remediate them. Hire tutors if necessary. Create and maintain a climate for academic success. Set expectations accordingly.
 
Then about eighteen months before the admissions test date purchase the test preparation materials which are so widely available. Read about the test your child will be taking. Understand what is required. Then have your child take at least 2 practice tests six months before the actual test date. That will give you enough time to tweak any parts of the test which require extra attention.
 
The Crash Course
 
Last minute cramming can pay . . .read more
Preparing for the SSAT and ISEE which most private schools use as part of their admissions procedures requires some advance planning. You can't cram for these standardized admissions tests. Wny? Because you are being tested on your knowledge of subject materials which have been learned over many years. On the other hand there are certain things you can do to make sure you test as well as you possibly can.
 
1. Be familiar with the test format. This requires your actually taking several practice tests. Being familiar with a test format means that you will not waste time trying to understand the test instructions. Every minute is precious in a timed test. The SSAT offers some sample questions for your to review. Work these in a quiet area where you can focus on how the questions are asked. There is no substitute for practice. The more tests you work the more you will relax and be confident the day of the actual test.

2. Purchase a test preparation book. There are several commercial test preparation books.  The SSAT offers its own proprietary test preparation materials. It makes good sense to order both the commercial and SSAT materials. You can only boost your confidence by consistent practice using these test preparation materials. Will these materials improve your scores? Only understanding the test format and the material being tested will produce good results.

3. Understand the scoring. You will lose 1/4 point for incorrect answers or . . .read more
At some point in the admissions' process, your child is going to have to write an essay otherwise known as The Writing Sample. Don't be unduly fazed by this requirement. It is simply one more piece of the admissions' puzzle.
 
What is the Purpose of the Writing Sample?
Very simple really. All the school wants to do is determine how well your child can express herself in her writing. Many schools will split this part of the application up into a series of questions. On The Madeira School application, for example, she is asked to answer five questions in Part 2.  By the way, Part 2 of Madeira's application is to be completed by the candidate. This is very important. The school wants to hear what your child has to say. Not what her uncle or father has to say.

One thing you must never do, no matter how tempted, is to use the services of an essay writing company such as EssayEdge. Most of the time it isn't possible anyway, because the two places where an essay is required are on the SSAT test itself and during the interview at the school. So, put that thought out of your mind right now. The school wants to hear what your child thinks, it wants to see how she writes and all in her own words, not somebody else's.
 
Practice Makes Perfect
The secret to writing effortlessly is to practise as much as you can. Encourage your . . .read more
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