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Summer SSAT/ISEE Test Prep Tips

SAT or ACT Summer preparation

Schools could require the SSAT or ISEE, once again!  We can help!

Last year, due to COVID-19 school closures, many independent schools in the Washington, DC area either opted to administer their own “in house” virtual admissions exams or to go test optional or test blind rather than to require the SSAT or ISEE. While local independent schools have not yet stated whether they will require standardized tests for this year’s admissions cycle, there is a good chance that they will again request SSAT or ISEE scores.  With that in mind, the test prep tutors at Marks Education have come up with four summer test prep tips that can help young test takers achieve their best score in the fall!

Read, Read, Read!

While it might not be top of middle schoolers’ ‘fun’ list during summer break, it’s critically important that children taking standardized tests read to expand their vocabulary and improve their reading comprehension skills. The SSAT reading section includes passages from different genres including fiction, non-fiction, and poetry. Some of the passages on the test are quite old (think Francis Bacon who died in 1626 or Henry David Thoreau born in 1817). The ISEE focuses on non-fiction passages. Regardless of the test your child is taking, it’s important that he or she reads widely.

Encourage your child to read a variety of books over the summer to prepare to take standardized tests. Ask her to read a novel, a biography, and another non-fiction book of her choice. For the biography, ask your child whom she might be interested in learning more about. A sports star? A famous artist? A politician? A prominent CEO? There are many biographies written specifically for children and young adults, so check those out at the library or on Amazon. To check comprehension, ask your child questions about the main ideas or themes explored in a book, inquire about a novel’s plot or its characters, or ask what a historical figure’s legacy might be.

Ask your child to read a couple of news articles or opinion editorials every week and discuss them together. This strategy can really help your child prepare for standardized tests. Consider subscribing to a children’s news magazine such as The Week Junior.


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If you would like your child to work with a tutor on developing active reading skills over the summer, consider signing up for our reading and writing summer intensive.  We have a list of books and articles that we use with students, but we can also incorporate summer reading assignments.

Improve your Vocabulary

The SSAT and the ISEE both have sections devoted to vocabulary. On both its synonyms and analogies sections, the SSAT requires knowledge of vocabulary words out of context. The ISEE also includes a synonyms section that tests vocabulary out of context. There are 60 verbal questions on the SSAT (30 synonyms and 30 analogies).  Believe it or not, because of the way the SSAT is scored, getting only 5 more vocabulary words correct can make a real difference in a student’s score.

For most kids, learning hundreds of words the month before they take an SSAT or ISEE is impossible, so be sure they start reviewing words over the summer.  Ways to improve vocabulary include reviewing common roots, prefixes and suffixes so that students can decipher words they may not be familiar with.  Check out a sample root word exercise from our SSAT workbook here.  Make flash cards from SSAT word lists, and make sure that your child uses the words he is learning.  You can do this with vocabulary exercises such as those created by Marks Education. You can also make learning vocabulary a family affair by agreeing to use 5 of the day’s words at dinner time in conversation.  Research suggests that the number of repetitions needed to learn a word is between 10-15, so the more your child practices her words the better.

Brush up on Math Topics

Unlike reading and vocabulary, algebra and geometry aren’t topics that parents use in day-to-day life, and many parents may not feel comfortable advising their children how to get ready for standardized tests. Asking your child to practice math independently may seem like a tall order, but thankfully the internet is chock full of resources useful for standardized test preparation, just as long as you’re picking resources that closely align with the core math topics covered on the SSAT and ISEE. Here is a list of the most heavily tested topics on these tests, along with instructional resources to practice with:

Ratios, rates, and percent:
Ratios, rates, proportions
Ratio and Proportion
Solving Proportions


Algebraic expressions:
Algebraic Expressions

Area, volume, and angles:
Geometry Practice

These resources are very thorough and often give excellent answer explanations. Many students are able to find score improvements by reviewing these topics. If you feel your child needs more direct math assistance, consider signing him up to work with one of our excellent tutors in a Summer Math Intensive Program.

Take a Practice Test at Marks Education

It’s FREE! Marks Education offers free proctored practice tests throughout the summer. We use SSAT and ISEE tests created by the test companies. A practice test will show you which sections might be the most challenging for your child and which topics he or she needs to work on. Take advantage of Marks Education’s complimentary 30-minute consultation to discuss the results of the practice test with one of our expert tutors.

Contact Marks Education to sign up for a free, official, professionally proctored standardized test, today!

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