What every parent wishes they’d known about the SSAT and ISEE

The SSAT (Secondary School Admission Test) and ISEE (Independent School Entrance Examination) are standardized tests commonly used by private schools for admissions decisions. Here are some key things that every parent should know about these exams:

1. Purpose and Format: The SSAT and ISEE measure a student's academic abilities and readiness for a rigorous private school curriculum. Both tests assess reading comprehension, math, and verbal skills. The SSAT also includes an essay section, while the ISEE includes a writing sample.

2. Importance of Preparation: Adequate preparation is crucial for success on these exams. Familiarizing your child with the format, content, and timing of the tests through practice materials and mock exams can help them feel more confident and perform better on test day.

3. Test Scoring: Both the SSAT and ISEE use scaled scoring systems. The scores are used by schools to compare students' performance against each other. It's important to understand the scoring ranges and percentiles to gauge your child's performance relative to other test-takers.

4. Test Dates and Registration: The SSAT and ISEE are offered on specific dates throughout the year. It's essential to check the registration deadlines and plan accordingly. Registering early ensures availability and allows sufficient time for preparation.

5. Test Preparation Options: Various resources are available to help your child prepare for the SSAT and ISEE. These include practice books, online resources, tutoring services, and test prep courses. Assess your child's needs and choose the option that best suits their learning style and goals.

6. Test Flexibility: Some schools may accept either the SSAT or ISEE, while others may have a preference for one. It's important to research the requirements of the schools your child is interested in and plan accordingly.

7. Test Anxiety: Test anxiety is common among students, and it can negatively impact performance. Encourage your child to develop effective stress management techniques, such as deep breathing exercises, positive self-talk, and maintaining a healthy lifestyle.

8. Test Scores and Admissions: While SSAT and ISEE scores are an important factor in the admissions process, they are not the sole criteria for acceptance. Schools also consider other aspects like academic record, extracurricular activities, recommendations, and interviews.

9. School Selection: It's essential to research and select schools that align with your child's academic strengths, interests, and overall goals. Consider factors such as school culture, curriculum, location, and extracurricular opportunities.

10. Supporting Your Child: Throughout the test preparation and application process, provide emotional support and encouragement to your child. Remind them that their worth is not solely determined by their test scores and that they have many opportunities for success.

By understanding these key aspects of the SSAT and ISEE, parents can better support their children in navigating the admissions process for private schools and help them achieve their academic goals.


The SSAT (Secondary School Admission Test) and ISEE (Independent School Entrance Examination) are both standardized tests used by private schools for admissions purposes. While they serve a similar purpose, there are some differences between the two exams. Let's explore them in detail:

1. Purpose and Administration:

   - SSAT: The SSAT is administered by the Enrollment Management Association (EMA) and is widely accepted by independent and private schools in the United States and around the world. It assesses the academic skills and readiness of students in grades 3-11 for admission to grades 4-12.

   - ISEE: The ISEE is administered by the Educational Records Bureau (ERB) and is primarily used for admissions to independent schools in the United States. It assesses students in grades 2-12 for admission to grades 5-12.

2. Test Sections and Content:

   - SSAT: The SSAT consists of three main sections: Verbal, Quantitative (Math), and Reading Comprehension. The Upper Level SSAT (for students in grades 8-11) includes an additional section called the Writing Sample, which requires students to write an essay on a given topic.

   - ISEE: The ISEE includes four sections: Verbal Reasoning, Quantitative Reasoning, Reading Comprehension, and Mathematics Achievement. The ISEE also includes an unscored section called the Experimental section, which is used for test development purposes.

3. Test Structure and Format:

   - SSAT: The SSAT is a multiple-choice test. The Verbal section assesses vocabulary and analogies, the Quantitative section tests math skills and problem-solving abilities, and the Reading Comprehension section evaluates reading comprehension skills. The Writing Sample section requires students to express their thoughts in an essay.

   - ISEE: The ISEE is also a multiple-choice test. The Verbal Reasoning section assesses vocabulary and sentence completion, the Quantitative Reasoning section tests math skills and problem-solving abilities, the Reading Comprehension section evaluates reading comprehension skills, and the Mathematics Achievement section focuses on math concepts and problem-solving skills.

4. Test Levels:

   - SSAT: The SSAT offers three levels based on the grade of the student: Elementary Level (grades 3-4), Middle Level (grades 5-7), and Upper Level (grades 8-11).

   - ISEE: The ISEE offers four levels: Primary Level (grades 2-4), Lower Level (grades 5-6), Middle Level (grades 7-8), and Upper Level (grades 9-12).

5. Scoring:

   - SSAT: The SSAT uses a scaled scoring system, with scores ranging from 500 to 800 for each section. The scores are accompanied by a percentile rank, which indicates how a student performed relative to other test-takers in the same grade level.

   - ISEE: The ISEE also uses a scaled scoring system, with scores ranging from 760 to 940 for each section. The scores are accompanied by a stanine, which is a standardized score ranging from 1 to 9 and represents how a student performed relative to other test-takers.

It's important to note that schools may have different preferences regarding the SSAT or ISEE. Some schools accept either test, while others have a preference for one over the other. It's advisable to research the requirements of the schools you are interested in and choose the test that aligns with their preferences.

Both the SSAT and ISEE are challenging exams that require thorough preparation. It's recommended to utilize study materials, practice tests, and consider seeking additional resources such as tutoring or test preparation courses to maximize your child's performance on these exams.

How and when should your student test?

Determining how and when your student should test depends on several factors, including their grade level, desired school admission timeline, and test registration deadlines. Let's explore the details of how and when your student should test:

1. Grade Level Considerations:

   - Elementary Level: If your student is in grades 3-4 (SSAT) or 2-4 (ISEE), they can take the test at the elementary level. This level is designed specifically for younger students and assesses their abilities in age-appropriate content areas.

   - Middle Level: Students in grades 5-7 (SSAT) or 5-6 (ISEE) can opt for the middle level. This level tests their academic skills and readiness for admission to middle school or junior high.

   - Upper Level: Students in grades 8-11 (SSAT) or 7-12 (ISEE) can take the upper level test, which evaluates their abilities for admission to high school or secondary school.

2. Admission Timeline:

   - Early Admission: If your student is aiming for early admission to a school, they may need to take the test earlier than the regular testing dates. Early admission timelines vary by school, so it's crucial to check with the schools you are interested in for specific deadlines.

   - Regular Admission: Most students take the SSAT or ISEE during the regular admission period, which typically falls between the fall and winter months. This allows schools to receive test scores in time for their admission decisions.

3. Test Registration Deadlines:

   - It's important to be aware of the registration deadlines for the SSAT or ISEE. These deadlines are typically a few weeks before the actual test date. Early registration is recommended to secure a spot and avoid any last-minute issues.

   - Check the official websites of the SSAT (ssat.org) and ISEE (erblearn.org) for the most up-to-date information on registration deadlines and available test dates.

4. Test Preparation:

   - Adequate preparation is crucial for your student's success on the SSAT or ISEE. Consider allowing sufficient time for them to review the content, practice test questions, and become familiar with the test format.

   - Utilize study guides, online resources, practice tests, and consider enrolling in test preparation courses or working with a tutor if needed.

5. Test Frequency:

   - Students can take the SSAT or ISEE multiple times if they wish to improve their scores. However, it's essential to check the policies of the schools you are applying to regarding multiple test scores. Some schools may consider the highest score, while others may consider the most recent score.

   - Be mindful of test registration deadlines and score reporting timelines if your student plans to retake the test.

Remember to communicate with the schools you are interested in to understand their specific requirements and preferred test scores. It's also advisable to consult with your student's school counselor or educational consultants for personalized guidance on when and how your student should test based on their individual circumstances and goals.

Tips for SSAT or ISEE Test Preparation

Preparing for the SSAT or ISEE (Secondary School Admission Test or Independent School Entrance Exam) is essential for students seeking admission to private or independent schools. Here are some detailed tips to help students effectively prepare for these exams:

1. Familiarize Yourself with the Test Format:

   - Understanding the structure and format of the SSAT or ISEE is crucial. Both tests consist of multiple-choice questions, and they assess students' verbal, quantitative, and reading comprehension skills.

   - Review the different sections of the test, such as verbal reasoning, quantitative reasoning, reading comprehension, and essay writing (optional for SSAT, mandatory for ISEE).

2. Review the Content:

   - Each section of the SSAT or ISEE has specific content that students should review.

   - For verbal reasoning, practice vocabulary-building techniques and strategies for synonyms and analogies.

   - In quantitative reasoning, review mathematical concepts, problem-solving techniques, and mathematical operations.

   - For reading comprehension, practice active reading strategies, identify main ideas, make inferences, and analyze passages.

   - If the essay is required, develop strong writing skills, practice organizing thoughts, and familiarize yourself with essay structures and persuasive writing techniques.

3. Practice with Sample Questions and Practice Tests:

   - Use official or reputable practice materials that include sample questions and full-length practice tests.

   - Solve a variety of practice questions to become comfortable with the types of questions asked in each section.

   - Take timed practice tests to simulate the actual testing conditions and improve time management skills.

   - Analyze your performance and identify areas of strength and weakness to focus your study efforts.

4. Develop Test-Taking Strategies:

   - Learn effective test-taking strategies that can help improve your performance.

   - Practice strategies such as process of elimination for multiple-choice questions, guessing strategies, time management techniques, and skimming passages for reading comprehension.

   - Work on pacing yourself during the test to ensure you have enough time to complete all the sections.

5. Seek Additional Resources and Support:

   - Consider enrolling in test preparation courses or working with a tutor who specializes in SSAT or ISEE preparation.

   - Online resources, study guides, and test prep books can provide additional practice and guidance.

   - Discuss your test preparation plans with your teachers, school counselors, or educational consultants who can provide valuable insights and support.

6. Manage Test Anxiety:

   - Test anxiety is common, but managing it is crucial to perform your best.

   - Practice relaxation techniques, deep breathing exercises, and positive visualization to reduce anxiety before and during the exam.

   - Get sufficient rest, maintain a healthy lifestyle, and stay organized to minimize stress.

Remember that consistent and dedicated practice, along with effective study strategies, can significantly improve your performance on the SSAT or ISEE. Start early, create a study schedule, and utilize available resources to enhance your test preparation and increase your chances of achieving your desired results.

Which scores really matter to school?

When it comes to standardized tests like the SSAT or ISEE, understanding which scores truly matter to schools is crucial for students and their parents. Here are some key points to consider:

1. Admission Criteria Varies:

   - Different schools have varying admission criteria and priorities, which may include a combination of factors such as test scores, grades, extracurricular activities, recommendations, and interviews.

   - While test scores are an important component of the admission process, they are typically not the sole determining factor.

2. Composite Scores:

   - Both the SSAT and ISEE provide composite scores that reflect the overall performance of the student across the different sections of the test.

   - Composite scores provide a comprehensive view of the student's abilities and can be used by schools to assess their academic readiness.

3. Sectional Scores:

   - In addition to composite scores, schools may also consider sectional scores to gain insight into the student's strengths and weaknesses in specific areas.

   - For instance, if a school places significant emphasis on mathematics, they may pay particular attention to the student's quantitative reasoning score.

4. Score Ranges and Percentiles:

   - Schools often look at score ranges and percentiles to evaluate a student's performance relative to other test takers.

   - Percentiles indicate the percentage of test takers that scored below a particular student. Higher percentiles indicate stronger performance.

5. Admission Standards:

   - Schools may have specific score thresholds or target ranges that applicants are expected to meet.

   - It is essential to research and understand the admission standards of the schools you are interested in to determine the scores that may be required for consideration.

6. Holistic Evaluation:

   - Many schools adopt a holistic approach to admissions, considering various factors alongside test scores.

   - They may prioritize a student's overall academic record, character, extracurricular involvement, personal essays, and letters of recommendation.

7. Contextual Factors:

   - Some schools take contextual factors into account when evaluating test scores, such as a student's background, educational opportunities, or personal circumstances.

   - This ensures a fair evaluation of students who may have faced challenges or had limited resources.

It's important to note that while test scores hold significance, they are just one part of a comprehensive evaluation process. Students should strive to achieve their best scores, but they should also focus on their overall academic performance, personal growth, and involvement in extracurricular activities. Understanding the specific requirements and priorities of each school and presenting a well-rounded application can greatly enhance the chances of admission.

Final Thoughts

In conclusion, understanding the SSAT and ISEE can greatly benefit parents and students navigating the admissions process. Knowing the format, content, and scoring of these exams helps parents guide their children effectively. Recognizing the importance of test preparation, considering test date options, and utilizing available resources can optimize the chances of success. Additionally, acknowledging that test scores are just one piece of the puzzle and that schools take a holistic approach to admissions is crucial. By being informed and proactive, parents can better support their children in preparing for the SSAT or ISEE and making informed decisions about their educational journey.