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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Your child has taken the SSAT. You have received the Scores Report. Now what does it mean? How do you read the Scores Report?
How to read the Scores Report
You will recall that the SSAT consists of 3 sections: Quantitative or Math, Verbal and Reading Comprehension. For grades 8-11 each section has a possible 800 points perfect score theoretically allowing a 2400 points total. There is a Writing Sample or Essay but it is not scored.
The SSAT uses Percentile Ranks to show you how your scores in each section compare with students who have taken the test over the last three years. A score in the 85th percentile indicates that you are ahead of 85% of other students taking the test.
How do schools use the Scores Report?
Schools use the Scores Report for several things.
1. They want to see if you are prepared to do the work at a private school. Private schools typically expect a high standard of academic work. and there is a lot of it. For example, the typical public school high school Shakespeare class will cover one play a year if it is lucky. A private school English literature class will cover several plays a year. And in great depth and detail.
2. Schools are looking for deficiencies in your basic or core learning skills. A brilliant mathematician must be able to read and understand what he is reading. Hence, the SSAT has the Reading Comprehension component. Once your deficiencies are identified
Many Roman Catholic high schools don't use the SSAT or ISSE admissions tests as part of their admissions requirements. For instance, Roman Catholic high schools in the Archdioceses of New York and Brooklyn/Queens administer the Test for Admission Into Catholic High Schools or TACHS.
Elsewhere in the country you will find the Cooperative Admissions Exam (COOP) or the High School Placement Test (HSPT). What the admissions staff are looking for is readiness for high school level academic work. The tests are generally given in the late fall of grade 8.
Diocesan and archdiocesan high schools generally admit most of their new students from elementary schools within their own dioceses. (A diocese is a legal territory and entity under the control and jurisdiction of a bishop.) Consequently, most of the students have been educated to certain standards which are well-known within that diocese. Standardized tests are not necessary in order to develop a student profile. That profile is already well-known. as well, the teachers and principals of the diocesan elementary schools themselves are known quantities. That being the case, it is simply a matter for the admissions office to identify any marginal performers and decide on those applicants. The testing per se has already ben done.
Standardized testing is part of most private schools' admissions requirements. The two most commonly used independent school tests are the SSAT or Secondary School Admission Test and the ISEE or Independent School Entrance Examination.
Many parents and students focus too much on standardized test scores. While test scores are important, they are only one of many benchmarks which an admissions committee will review.
What is being tested?
What are schools looking for? Basically, schools want to assess language and mathematics skills. Reading comprehension, vocabulary, reasoning, mathematical concepts and problems and more are the substance of most standardized tests.
When can you take the test?
SSAT and ISEE are offered several times a year in many locations nationwide. For registration deadlines, fees and other details consult their sites. You can register in a variety of ways incuding online, by telephone, via mail and by fax. If you need assistance paying the examination fees, there are fee waiver programs available.
Can you practice for the test?
All the common admissions tests have spawned a wide range of test preparation solutions. SSAT and ISEE have excellent, in-depth guides on their sites which give sample questions and much more. But the plain truth is that there is no point cramming for a standardized test. Become familiar with the testing format and the type of questions asked. Apart from that, do the best you can!