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ISEE, SSAT, and SHSAT

What are these tests?

The ISEE (Independent School Entrace Exam), SSAT (Secondary School Admissions Test), and SHSAT (Specialized High Schools Admissions Test) are exams used by middle and high schools, especially in the New York City and Los Angeles areas, to gauge academic readiness. Some require them on the application, some don’t.

Most students take one or more of these exams in the 5th, 6th, or 8th grades when applying to the 6th, 7th, or 9th grades. It’s important to check which exam the school requires, as they are specific depending on the type of school.

Doing well on these exams is important for high school-bound students to attend the institution of their choice. We’re here to help!

Which one should my student take?

All three exams cover vocabulary, math, and reading comprehension. Which one to take depends on the student’s grade and target school.

ISEE

  • Administered by the Education Advisory Company
  • Most common exam used for middle and high school admissions
  • Has three different levels: Lower Level (5th-6th grade), Middle Level (7th-8th grade), and Upper Level (9th-11th grade)
  • Scored in stanines (1-9)
  • Has a norm reference scoring system
  • Uses synonyms and sentence completion to test vocabulary
  • No calculator allowed
  • Essay is not scored but sent to schools

SSAT

  • Administered by the Enrollment Management Association
  • Used for elementary, middle, and high school admissions
  • Has three different levels: Elementary Level (3rd-4th grade), Middle Level (5th-7th grade) and Upper Level (8th-11th grade)
  • Scored out of 2400
  • Has a norm reference scoring system
  • Sometimes contains an experimental section that does not affect scoring
  • Essay is not scored but sent to schools

SHSAT

  • Administered by the NYC Department of Education
  • Only used for the nine specialized high schools in New York City
  • Taken by 8th and 9th graders
  • Scored out of 800
  • Uses scaled scores 
  • Contains experimental questions within each section that do not affect scoring
  • Taken in October or November
  • No essay

The most common question is:

“What score will my student get?”

And there’s the rub. These tests used norm reference scoring systems, which means that each raw score is compared to the scores of everyone else at that grade level who took that test, then converted to the scaled score. This makes it impossible to determine exactly what score a student will get, as the scale changes for each test. In order to adequately equip students for this endeavor, our tutors teach strategies specific to each test and make sure students have a solid foundation of vocab, math, and reading comprehension skills.

How does tutoring help?

These tests have one particularly difficult trait: they test above grade level in order to help stratify the scores. Our tutors know exactly which techniques and operations students need to know. We make sure each student knows the basics, then teach them the advanced tidbits they’ll need: how to factor polynomials, how to set up systems of questions, and SohCahToa among them. This advantage is what helps students score in the upper tiers of these tests.

Young students have less experience taking standardized tests than older students: that’s one of the first skills we teach them, as mastering the format is just as important as the content. It may seem basic, but having strategies for filling in bubbles and grid-in questions helps young students avoid mistakes.

We teach students how to:

  • Decide which test to take
  • Identify important indicators within each question
  • Get unstuck during difficult problems
  • Eliminate incorrect answers
  • Recognize patterns
  • Find the problem types they often miss
  • Stay focused for the entire test
  • Manage the timing of each section
  • Write an articulate, proofread essay
  • Determine how many times to take the test

We teach students how to:

  • Decide which test to take
  • Identify important indicators within each question
  • Get unstuck during difficult problems
  • Eliminate incorrect answers
  • Recognize patterns
  • Find the problem types they often miss
  • Stay focused for the entire test
  • Manage the timing of each section
  • Write an articulate, proofread essay
  • Determine how many times to take the test

A word about scores

Remember, these tests are only one part of the application process, and test scores are not necesarily indicative of a student’s abilities. Writing insightful answers to the short answer questions, acing the interview, and navigating the deadlines are just as important to application process.

But wait, there’s more!

We can also help with:

  • Forming a list of safety, target, and reach schools
  • Applying to boarding and early college high schools
  • Brainstorming short-answer responses
  • Interview preparation
  • Application-building
  • Regents exams
  • The Hunter College High School Entrance Exam
  • TACHS
  • HSPT

We’re here to help

Let us make your test prep journey as simple as possible. Schedule a consultation with us so that we can help you reach your full potential.

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