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How to Improve Your SSAT/ISEE Scores Before the Admissions Deadlines this Winter

November 18, 2023

With private school admissions deadlines approaching, here are some answers to some parent FAQs about the tests that we frequently encounter. 

Do you have any general advice for parents of students taking the SSAT or ISEE?

The advice is really going to vary depending on which test. For the SSAT, know your options.  There are national testing dates in October, November, December, and early January.  There is also a paper-based flex test that can be scheduled on demand with an educational consultant, and the digital at-home SSAT is available on most weekends. I would suggest planning to test more than once.  Students usually test in November and December on the national testing dates and then have the January or self-scheduled flex test if needed.

For the ISEE, there are three testing seasons. The fall season runs from August through the end of November with the winter season running through December through the end of March.  The spring/summer season is from April – July, which is after the application deadline. Most students will take the ISEE once at the end of the fall testing window in mid-late November and then again in December or early January for their second attempt. Within these windows students can also schedule a private administration of the test with an educational consultant.

When are application deadlines?

This will vary by school and region, but a good generalization for our schools in the Northeast is January 15th.  Some may accept applications through February 1, but it is always a good idea to confirm the deadline with the schools that you are applying to.

What should I do if my student’s score is in a lower percentile than expected?

It’s important to understand that your student’s percentile scores are normed against other students who are taking the test. Therefore, your student is being compared to a highly motivated and academically strong cohort of students as those are the ones who are taking these tests. It’s also important to keep in mind that schools do not have a minimum percentile score and that many factors go into the admission decision. Schools accept students with varying skills and talents to create a well rounded student body. Special interests–such as sports, music, theater, and debate–can add a lot of value to the student’s admission portfolio.

My student does really well in school. Why would their initial score not reflect that?

Both the SSAT and ISEE are considered aptitude tests.  By definition, they intentionally ask questions that students typically do not see in school.  Both tests are trying to assess a student’s critical thinking and problem solving skills with material that they may not have seen before. For example, both tests include math content that will likely extend beyond a student’s grade level. Additionally, the analogies on the SSAT and the sentence completions and quantitative comparisons on the ISEE are question types rarely used in schools. However, they are both highly coachable and with practice and instruction, many students are able to meet their true potential once they know what to expect on the test and how to approach the questions. The test prep also helps to build student’s underlying academic skills which are also beneficial for student’s day in and day out work in school.

What does a tutoring plan look like?

The first step is to determine baseline percentiles, either by using a practice test or by looking at scores from a previous official test. In addition to giving the student greater familiarity with the test itself, it also helps us to identify the student’s overall strengths and weaknesses. Tutoring sessions are one-on-one and are tailored to your student’s specific needs with focused instruction and practice. Schedule a call with a Summit Program Director or call us at 1-800-MYTUTOR to discuss SSAT or ISEE tutoring options for your child. Your Program Director will help you build a customized plan and help to schedule a free practice SSAT or ISEE test. Contact us today.