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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Updated June 10, 2016 |
Preparing for Admissions Tests
Don't leave admissions test preparation to the last minute. Adequate test preparation will give you the confidence to take the test and do as well as you can.
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
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Updated April 10, 2015 |
The Writing Sample
At some point in the admissions' process, your child is going to have to write an essay sometimes referred to as The Writing Sample. Here's how to cope with that challenge.
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 child to keep
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Updated February 08, 2017 |
How To Read The Test Scores
SSAT test scores can be mysterious to most parents. What do they mean? How does the admissions staff use them?
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
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Updated June 09, 2016 |
COOP, HSPT and TACHS
You will encounter COOP, HSPT and TACHS if you are applying to some Roman Catholic high schools.
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.
Updated June 09, 2016 |
SSAT and ISSE
Most private schools use standardized tests as part of their admissions process. The SSAT and ISEE are the common tests you will encounter at independent schools.
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!
 
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