10 Tips for Parents and Students on the SSAT, ISEE and HSPT
Is your child getting ready to apply to an independent school this fall? If so, they may need to take a standardized test as part of their application process. We’ve compiled 5 tips for parents and 5 tips for students as they begin the application and testing process.
5 Tips for Parents
- Check your desired schools’ testing requirements. Many schools have chosen to maintain the “test-optional” policies first introduced during the pandemic, while others are test-blind, meaning that they will not consider students’ scores even if they submit them. Some independent schools require SSAT, ISEE or ERB scores while many parochial schools (including those that are part of the Archdiocese of Washington) require HSPT scores. Some schools administer their own admissions tests rather than using standardized tests. Check the admissions requirements on schools’ websites or contact Marks Education.
- Determine whether your child is taking a digital or paper test. The SSAT and ISEE are offered in both paper and digital formats, and their availability varies by location. Paper testing will not be an option for many international students, so they will have to prepare for the digital version of the test, which can be administered at home or at a testing site. Students within the United States who do not have easy access to a testing site may need to take a digital test as well. Both formats offer advantages, but the paper test is most conducive to annotating and keeping track of notes and progress on math questions – for this reason we encourage taking the test on paper as much as possible.
- Check testing availability early so that you can sign up at a testing center that is convenient for you. If your child is taking the ISEE in the Washington, DC area, in person testing availability tends to be limited.
- Have your child take a baseline test. Whether your child is taking the SSAT, ISEE, or HSPT, a baseline test provides insights that are essential to the testing process. A baseline can help students determine if the SSAT or ISEE is the better fit for their strengths. A baseline test can also help you to determine if test scores could be an advantage to your child’s application. Marks Education offers free virtual and in-person baseline testing every weekend of the year.
- Plan for your child to take at least 2 sittings of a test. While some kids ace the test on their first try, many will benefit from taking the test at least twice. Test jitters may be less intense the second time around, and schools will often accept scores from multiple test dates, so if a student can get a higher score on even one section of the test on the second date, it makes sense to submit it. Most schools allow you to select the test dates that you wish to submit.
5 Tips for Students
Marks Education has helped a lot of students prep for the SSAT and ISEE. Here are a few tips to help students when they sit down on test day this fall.
- Remember you don’t have to answer questions in the order they come. Every question is worth the same number of points, whether it’s easy and you spend 30 seconds answering it, or it’s hard and you spend 5 minutes grappling with it. So don’t invest too much time on one question. Instead, target the questions that you know you can answer correctly, and do as many of these as you can before focusing on more difficult questions. If there is a question you think you can do but it might take some time, mark it and come back to it after answering the easier questions. If there is a question that looks too difficult, don’t waste time. Skip it and move on.
- Know when you should randomly guess. On the SSAT, you will lose a quarter of a point for a wrong answer, so you should not randomly guess if you don’t know the answer. However, if you can eliminate at least one answer choice, it pays to guess! In many cases, you will immediately be able to identify certain answer choices that are obviously wrong. One answer choice might seem to be way too big (thousands of feet, say, when the answer will only be a matter of inches) or too small (a negative number when you know you need a positive). Others might not make sense for other reasons. If you can eliminate these answers first, it’s okay to then guess. On the ISEE, there is no wrong answer penalty, so it always makes sense to guess if you’re not sure of the answer, even if you can’t eliminate answer choices.
- On the reading section of the ISEE and SSAT, always write down the main idea of a reading passage before proceeding to the questions. If you’re unsure, ask yourself, “what is the overall topic of the passage?” Then ask,”what is the author saying about the topic?” Doing this will help you answer questions about the author’s purpose and helps you assess how well you understood the passage.
- Don’t let unfamiliar words scare you. On the verbal section of the SSAT, ISEE, and HSPT, you will likely encounter words you have never seen before – that’s OK! You can find root words in many of the most difficult sounding words, or find other associations with the words (you might remember that you’ve brandished a weapon in a video game, or you might remember the lore or canon of your favorite TV show). Pull from all the knowledge you have!
- For analogies on the SSAT, build strong connections between the two words. Some are obviously synonyms or antonyms. But others may be more subtle. Perhaps one of the words is similar to the other but to a lesser or greater degree, such as “cry is to sob” or “sad is to distraught.”
Need further guidance and practice with the SSAT, ISEE or HSPT? Contact Marks Education
for a free consultation with a tutor or to set up baseline testing.