Frequently Asked Questions
Before making the decision on which test to take, know which one is being required by the private school your child is applying to. If the school has no preference and accepts both tests, it is important to be informed about the differences between the tests and assess your child’s abilities. For any of these tests, we offer the ISEE practice test, SSAT practice test, and HSPT practice test to prepare your child.
The SSAT and ISEE are similar in many ways: they are both composed of 5 sections that test students’ verbal, reading, quantitative, and writing skills. However, there are a few key differences between the ISEE and SSAT:
- Score report: The SSAT score report presents three section scores: verbal, reading, and quantitative. The ISEE score report presents four section scores: verbal reasoning, reading comprehension, quantitative reasoning, and mathematics achievement. On both tests, the raw score is converted into a scaled score to account for the difficulty between different tests. On the SSAT, the scaled score is converted into a percentile score, whereas on the ISEE, the primary normative score is a stanine.
- Guessing strategy: While the Middle and Upper Level SSAT have a guessing penalty where students receive 1 point for each correct answer, 0 points for questions left blank, and lose ¼ point for each wrong answer, the Lower Level SSAT does not have a guessing penalty. Likewise, the ISEE does not have a guessing penalty. Students receive 1 point for each correct answer and 0 points for every incorrect answer or unanswered questions.
- Verbal section: Students need to answer synonym questions for both the ISEE and SSAT. The difference is that ISEE features sentence completions, while the SSAT has analogy questions.
- Reading section: Both the ISEE and SSAT reading passages cover a variety of subjects. However, SSAT includes poetry and older style literature while the ISEE generally focuses on more contemporary passages.
- Math sections: Both tests have two math sections. The ISEE has a quantitative reasoning section, which focuses on problem solving and critical thinking questions. It also has a mathematics achievement section, which has primarily knowledge-based questions. The SSAT, on the other hand, has two quantitative sections that are composed of a mix of critical thinking and knowledge-based questions.
- Writing sample: Students complete an unscored writing sample for both the ISEE and SSAT.. The writing is sent to schools together with the scores for the multiple-choice sections of the test. This is part of a student’s applications portfolio which is submitted to the admissions officers.
ISEE – Students may register to take the ISEE up to three times in a 12-month admission cycle, once in any or all of three testing seasons. Given the timeline in the Bay Area, students will be able to take it twice, once in Fall and once in Winter. The seasons are Fall (August–November), Winter (December–March), and Spring/Summer (April–July). Please refer to the ISEE website for more details.
SSAT – Students may register to take the SSAT once a month with no limit to the maximum number of tests they can register for. There is also an option for a Flex Test. A Flex Test can be taken in the same month as a normal SSAT, which means that families could take two SSATs in one month. That being said, you can only schedule one Flex Test per year. Here is the information for the SSAT Flex Test, which gives you the flexibility to sign up for an SSAT at a date that is most convenient for you. We work with the Bodin Group, which administers flex tests to many of our families. When you register for a Flex Test with Bodin, please ask for Sue and tell her that you work with us.
HSPT – The HSPT can only be taken once, preferably at students’ most preferred Catholic high school. Please refer to the HSPT website for more details.
Below is a chart of our general recommendation for private school test prep. The diagnostic is a strong indicator of different testing recommendations so again, double-check with our experienced consultants for special cases. Special cases can mean extremely high diagnostic scores or extremely low diagnostic scores.
|Summer Start (July – Early September)
||Fall Start (September – November)
|November – Take both ISEE and SSAT
December – Take both ISEE and SSAT
|December – Take SSAT
January – Take both ISEE and SSAT
There is no better way to prepare for an official diagnostic test than taking a practice test that replicates testing environments and procedures. If you are interested in signing up your child for a practice test with us, kindly contact us at (888)521-5243 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The next step in our process is a complimentary consultation call with a Managing Consultant, Vanessa Phan, who will break down the results of the test and outline the roadmap for the ISEE practice test, HSPT practice test, or SSAT practice test.
Both the ISEE and SSAT require students to write an essay, but it’s not graded. So why do you need to write it? A copy of the writing sample is sent to the admissions officers of the schools and will still be a differentiating factor in your application. It is a great way for schools to see how well you express yourself. and how you perform on a series of standard tasks. The essay is where you get to shine as an individual and strategically differentiate yourself from the other applicants. Schools look closely at your essay, so think of it as part of your application and take it seriously.
We still believe that tests are a good way for students to differentiate themselves. Even if they are not required, if the scores are above the 90th percentile, we would still recommend that they be submitted. This allows admissions committees to have more information about your child that can help to separate them from the numerous other applicants. This holds true especially if your child does not have great grades or an impressive GPA.
Our private school test preparation program is very rigorous and it is a good way for students to enrich themselves. It focuses on confidence-building and laying the foundation for future success. It is also a good way to make sure that they have covered all of the grade-level material during the school year to have better placement and better classes which would make a huge difference in their school performance. It allows them to learn valuable test-taking skills which could be very valuable throughout their academic career.