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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2019-20 Best SSAT Prep Courses Reviewed
The SSAT’s questions are different than questions on other standardized tests. Make sure you learn about the best SSAT test prep programs out there.

The SSAT is probably unlike any test your student has ever taken. That’s because it’s designed to find the best students in a large pool of excellent students. The SSAT’s questions are significantly different—in their difficulty and their content—from questions on other standardized tests, to the point that your student isn’t even expected to know everything that’s on the test! This means that, in order for your student to have the best chance at getting a score that’ll help them get admitted to their school of choice, they’ll need to prepare for the test.

There are a lot of test prep options out there, from tutoring, to books, to online services. We’ve compiled a list of 5 of the best test prep options we’ve found. But first, here are some things to consider before choosing a prep solution:

  • How does your student learn best? Some students learn best in a self-paced program where they are in control, while others may benefit from the more rigid prep plan that a tutor or a class can provide.
  • Where are you now, and where do you want to go? It’s important to have an idea of your student’s score goals, and to know where they stand at the beginning of the preparation process. That means taking a full-length test that provides scores and quality feedback, and comparing that performance to where they need to be. If you don’t know what score your student needs to aim for, check out the target scoring information that
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A Parent’s Guide to Private School Entrance Exams
As you’ve been doing your boarding school research, you’ve likely seen ISEE/SSAT score submission requirements for your target schools, and understand how important scores are to the admissions process. Unfortunately, tremendous candidates can get bypassed because they were not able to demonstrate what they knew on test day.

There are many reasons why a private, independent, or boarding school could be the best option for your student. They typically offer thrilling academic challenges, extensive STEM or arts programs, or other remarkable resources. Their student-teacher ratios are excellent, and faculty may have advanced academic degrees and strong professional reputations. While only about 10 percent of students attend private schools nationwide, private school admissions is selective and competitive.

To help distinguish applicants, private schools use standardized testing. The admissions process, especially for those migrating from public to private, can be an eye-opening experience. The Independent School Entrance Exam (ISEE) and Secondary School Admissions Exam (SSAT) are the most commonly used admissions tests for private, independent, and boarding schools. The High School Placement Test (HSPT) is often used by Catholic schools for entrance into grade 9.

The ISEE and SSAT are long multiple-choice tests lasting 2-3 hours and potentially covering above-grade-level content. For the 4th grader applying to private middle school, this might the first time they have undergone two hours of solid testing with only one or two short breaks. The best starting point is always to have your student take a full-length diagnostic test. It’s important to know where your child is starting from so that you can help them get to where they need to be.

ISEE & SSAT Similarities and Differences

Start by looking at the websites of your target schools or giving the admissions offices a quick call to

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How To Improve Your SSAT Quantitative Score
The experts at Noodle Pros offer on improving quantitative scores on the commonly used private school standardized admissions test, the SSAT.

I asked the experts at Noodle Pros for suggestions as to how to improve quantitative scores on the commonly used private school standardized admissions test, the SSAT. Their answers follow. ...Rob

Four Noodle Pros give advice on how to improve your SSAT quantitative score: 

1. Be thorough.

Write out your math as thoroughly and as clearly as you can. Even when you can do much of the calculation in your head, it helps a lot to have your step-by-step thinking on paper in front of you. Many times when you get lost or stuck, you can look at what you have written and find your way out of a jam. You can also find and fix the errors in your thinking or your calculation more quickly and more accurately when you can see the work in front of you. Don't do all your math in your head! - Brendan Mernin, 27 Years Tutoring

2. Be confident.

Students do their best when they feel confident. The challenge in maintaining good morale is that the difficulty of the exam can cause students anxiety. Remember that, according to the SSAT website, the SSAT writers design the questions so that only 50 to 60 percent of the test-takers get the question right. Help your child maintain a realistic view of what is expected, and take on preparation in reasonable “chunks.” Start by mastering the questions on content your child already knows, gradually pursue new content or new applications of content, and remind your child

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The Benefits of Tutoring
How does tutoring work? When should you engage a tutor for your child? Answers to these questions and more.
Photo: Highwaystarz Photography

Editor's note: I asked Noodle Pros to explain how tutoring works and how it might benefit private high school students. Their professional tutors provided the answers to the questions below. ~Rob Kennedy

Noodle Pros is an exclusive group of experienced, professional tutors who work in all tests and subjects from pre-kindergarten to graduate school. Tutors are available in 11 major U.S. cities, internationally, and online.  

1. At what age should parents consider having their children tutored? What are the warning signs that some remediation is necessary? 

Kalen Lister, Pre K-8 Expert: Parents can begin tutoring their children at four years of age to prepare their youngsters for the Pre-K admissions exams and interview readiness. While it seems surprisingly early to some, it can be a positive experience, one that helps kids forge an enthusiastic relationship with learning. Most children enjoy the special time and attention that the one-on-one format provides. Furthermore, they will be more calm and confident on test day if they have been exposed to critical concepts and the various test formats which they will encounter. This usually translates to better scores. Also, a good tutor can provide guidance to the parents about the types of games that will help deepen spatial, phonetic, arithmetic, and aural reasoning.

Many families, however, start incorporating tutoring when their children are in elementary school for any range of remedial needs, test preparation, executive functioning skills, application and interview coaching, and enrichment. If your child exhibits any of the following, a

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Admissions Testing: Preschoolers
The pressure to get your child into the right school starts at a very early age. We look at some of the assessment hurdles your child might face depending on which school you are considering.

When our daughters went to preschool back in the '70s in Garden City, New York, we took them in for an interview, and that was about it. The children were toilet-trained and pretty well socialized. To the best of my knowledge, there were no formal assessments of their cognitive skills and so on. As far as their mother and I were concerned, our daughters were gifted children. We never had any formal assessment of our suspicions until the girls were much older at which point testing confirmed that they were indeed gifted. 

Is your child gifted or bright? There is a difference.  For a detailed explanation of the differences read Gifted vs. Bright: Understanding the Difference

Preschool admissions assessments have changed in the 21st century. Preschools want to know what your child knows and what she is capable of at age two. So, against that backdrop, let's look at some of the more common ways preschools assess their very young applicants. And, perhaps even more important from our point of view as parents, let's try to understand why such testing is necessary.

Common Assessment Tools

The Otis-Lennon School Ability Test is commonly known as Olsat. This test is popular in New York City where it is a requirement for admission into programs for gifted children. The OLSAT traces its roots back to a test developed by Dr. Arthur Sinton Otis which was known as Army Alpha, which was administered to U.S. Army recruits in World War I.

Another test which you will encounter

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