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3 Winning Strategies for Taking the ISEE

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If your child’s future includes attending a private middle school or high school, then taking the Independent School Entrance Exam (ISEE) or SSAT is in their future. While there are different levels offered depending on what grade your child is applying for, the ISEE will always test the same sections:

  • Verbal Reasoning
  • Quantitative Reasoning
  • Reading Comprehension
  • Mathematics Achievements

There is also an unscored essay that is sent to the schools your child is applying to.

There’s a common misconception that because the ISEE tests students on their academic achievements, it’ll be a breeze to simply take the test without any preparation. However, the ISEE is a way for a student to stand out during the admission process. And like any standardized test, there are always strategies to help students do their best. Here are 3 no-fail strategies to put in place:

1. Practice and Prepare

Like most tests, practice and preparation are the best way to succeed. Knowing the sections being tested is a helpful advantage, allowing the student to focus on learned material prior to taking the ISEE. During the preparation period, it’s advised for the parent and child to set a goal, which will give meaning to each study session and improve stamina on test day. Practicing learned material and sample problems will also result in the student walking into the test room feeling more confident and motivated to perform well. Whether with a family member, other students, or a private tutor, it’s advised to begin preparing for the ISEE at least two months before taking the test.

2. Test Like a Pro

Unlike other standardized tests, there is no penalty for wrong answers on the ISEE. This means it’s key for students to never leave a question blank—even if they don’t know the answer. It’s also important to think of the answer before reading the answer choices, as this will build a student’s confidence during the test.  Ward off negative or discouraging thoughts surrounding the test being “too hard,” because the ISEE is designed to be difficult so almost no student gets most of the answers correct. Students should also not expect to finish the test in its entirety. Adjusting expectations early will keep students in a positive frame of mind. 

3. Take Care of Yourself

A few days before the test day, it’s crucial for your child to sleep well as this will have an impact on performance. Going to bed early at least two nights before the test will result in a rested and alert test taker. Eating a protein-filled breakfast the day of the test will also jump-start the brain and optimize performance. It’s also suggested that students do not practice for the ISEE the day before the test. Your child’s brain will need a break as they will need to focus for several hours the next day, so you want them to feel as fresh and energetic as possible. 


Lauren Hubbard  


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