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Private School Admissions Tests for Young Children

An Explanation of the ERBs


Private School Admissions Tests for Young Children

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In recent years, there has been a great deal of publicity about companies centered in New York City that prepare young students entering pre-kindergarten through fourth grade for what are known as the ERBs, or the tests given by the Educational Records Bureau. These tests are also called the Early Childhood Admissions Assessment (ECAA) . The ERB, which administers tests for independent school admissions in the New York area, also gives the ISEE or Independent School Entrance Exam for students in grades 5-12. Here is more information about the controversy surrounding the tests and what the tests measure.

The Controversy Surrounding ERB Tutoring

Many private schools are concerned that independent tutors are over-preparing for children for these tests so that the schools don't get a good read on the students' development. The schools believe that the best way to prepare young children for school is speaking, playing with, and reading to the child. In addition, tutoring a child in the ERB and the admissions process can make a child feel overly stressed or lead to preciousness or possibly insincerity in the interview -which will lead to a negative interview experience for the applicant and the interviewer. In addition, schools remind parents that these tests are only part of the admissions process -which also includes the interview and teacher reports (and grades for older students).

Though there has been a lot of mystery about the ERBs, they are similar to commonly used intelligence tests. Here is more information about what these tests measure:

What the Tests Are Like

All of the ERB tests for students in pre-kindergarten through fourth grade are designed to be administered one-on-one by a tester to a student. The ECAA or ERB test for Pre-Kindergarten through first grade is an adaptation of the WPPSII-III, an intelligence test . The test has eight sub-tests, four of which measure verbal skills and four of which measure non-verbal skills. The test for admission to second grade is adapted from the WISC-IV (the Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children) and has ten subtests, five of which measure verbal abilities and five of which measure non-verbal abilities. The admission test for third and fourth grades is adapted from the WISC-IV and the CTP-Reading Comprehension test. As with the test for second grade, there are 10 subtests, five of which measure verbal abilities and five of which measure non-verbal abilities.

More Details on the Subtests

The subtests on the ECAA include the following verbal subtests: similarities, vocabulary, word reasoning, and comprehension for the youngest children, and information is added in the second grade. The important abilities measured on the verbal tests include the ability of a student to define vocabulary words and to compare two abstract concepts, among other abilities. The non-verbal subtests for the youngest children include block design, matrix reasoning, coding, and picture concepts, and the older test-takers also have to take the picture completion subtest. The non-verbal tests measure visual-motor processing speed in terms of the child's ability to copy geometric designs, and they also measure the child's ability to copy designs using blocks, using visual organization and visual-motor coordination, among other skills. The test for pre-kindergarten through first grade lasts 40-50 minutes, while the tests with ten subtests last 60-90 minutes, and the reading comprehension subtest lasts 40 minutes.

How to Prepare Your Child for Admissions Tests

Unlike tests for students in grades 5-12, which include the ISEE and SSAT, the ECAA does not lend itself to preparation. Instead, the abilities measured on these tests are developed over time, and, though there is much controversy surrounding what intelligence tests measure, people differ on how well they do on these tests, even as adults. Therefore, it is difficult to change how well a person does on these tests, and test-takers are compared to other test-takers of exactly the same age from a national sample.

The best way to prepare your child for the test day is to make sure that he or she is comfortable speaking with an adult in an unfamiliar setting. You may want to give your child a general idea of what the test will contain, something along the lines of, "the adult will ask you to solve puzzles and answer questions, and do your best to answer the questions." The test administrator will provide specific instructions for the child in a way the child can understand, and the instructor will try to make your child feel comfortable. Do not stress out your child-or yourself-by placing too much emphasis on the test. Remember, children tend to do best at the school that fits them best. The admissions test is just one part of the process of finding the school that will help your child develop fully and happily.

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