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How to Prepare for Admissions Tests




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Most private schools require some kind of test for admission, particularly for the middle and upper grades. Independent day schools usually require the ISEE, or Independent School Entrance Exam, while boarding schools require the SSAT, or Secondary School Admissions Test. Catholic schools require different tests, such as the TACHs or the COOP or HSPT.

Here are some general strategies to prepare for these tests:

  • Get a Review Book

    Look over a review book to get a sense of the sections on the test, which mainly consist of reading, verbal reasoning (such as identifying the word that is synonymous, or the same as, the given word), and math. Get a sense of the format of the sections and the time allotted for each section.
  • Take Timed Practice Tests

    Practice taking the tests under simulated test conditions, giving yourself only as much time as the test allows. Be sure to pay attention to how you pace yourself on these tests, and note if you are taking too much time, or if you are rushing. Instead of getting hung up on one question, mark any question you are unsure about and go back to it when you've finished the other questions.
  • Boost Your Weak Areas

    If you find that you are consistently getting certain types of test questions wrong, go back and correct those areas. For example, you may need to work on one area of math, such as fractions or percents, or you may need to work on your vocabulary by making flash cards with the most commonly used vocabulary words on these tests, which are available in the test review books.
  • Hire a Tutor if Necessary

    If you cannot boost your scores on your own, consider hiring a tutor or taking a test-prep course. Be sure that the tutor has experience preparing students for the test you are taking, and do all the homework and practice tests that are part of the course to get the most out of it. Here is more information about how to look for the right tutor.
  • Read the Directions Carefully

    Students often read the questions incorrectly, even though they know the answers to the questions. Slow down and read the directions, and underline KEY words such as "EXCEPT" or "ONLY" to make sure you are answering what each question asks.
  • Get Ready for Test Day

    Know what you need for test day, including the proper identification and writing implements. Have the directions to your test site ready, and arrive early so that you can get the best seat. Listen carefully to the directions, and fill in the test sheet properly. For example, be sure to bubble in the answer to the right question. Bring snacks and water so that you can refresh yourself during breaks.
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