ISEE test preparation, why do it? How much time should be spent on it? THAT MUCH? Is the ISEE different from the SSAT? Those are really good questions.
The Independent School Entrance Exam (ISEE) is used for private school and boarding school admissions to grades 5-12 and skews way above grade level in what it assesses, so just learning test-taking strategies is insufficient. Moreover, earning stanines of 7s, 8s, and 9s requires near perfect section scores. That’s why we recommend a nice long runway to prepare for the ISEE. Most of our students are engaged in 1:1 programs meeting twice weekly–once with a literacy specialist and once with a math specialist–for 15-25+ weeks, which translates to 45 to 90 hours of instruction (plus homework). Yes, that much and here’s why.
At My Learning Springboard, we believe that ISEE test preparation, and most other preparation for standardized assessments, should be aligned with and extended from a curriculum framework. What we are doing should tie in closely with what your student is learning or will learn in his or her classroom. All learning is enhanced when it is connected with something that you already know and/or something you want to know. Preparing for an assessment such as the ISEE helps streamline that focus towards a multi-faceted endpoint; not only does your student solidify his/her foundational skills, but he/she extends them while also implementing targeted test-taking strategies. For this reason, we view ISEE test preparation as an opportunity to bolster middle and high school readiness. My Learning Springboard also offers specialized instruction for students with learning disabilities and/or heightened anxiety. These students also benefit from more time to learn, apply, and integrate testing content and strategies.
Over time we have found that the approach to ISEE test preparation that works best for families and students is one that allows for incremental improvements over time. We always start with diagnostic testing so that our recommendations are individualized, and we recommend this planning begin in January, February or March prior to the upcoming admissions season. We need this runway to effectively plan and implement both grade level and above grade level instruction in all areas of the test, including Verbal Reasoning (vocabulary development), Reading Comprehension, Quantitative Reasoning, Math Achievement, and 5-paragraph essay writing. ISEE preparation provides ample opportunity for enhancing executive function skills, such as planning with the end in mind, managing time more effectively, initiating and completing tasks, and controlling impulses and emotions.
Cramming for the ISEE is not effective. Taking the long-view for test preparation–making it a marathon, not a sprint–allows each student to adjust his/her pace based on numerous factors, such as diagnostic results, learning style, previous experiences, family and school commitments, and time for practice, practice, practice. Taking a longer-term approach allows each student to internalize the grade level material covered in his/her classroom and during test preparation sessions and firmly establish the building blocks to move towards mastery of above grade level material. Many of our students have commented that due to ISEE test preparation with My Learning Springboard faculty they feel better prepared for their school work and more confident when new material is introduced, especially in mathematics. This extended time frame for test preparation allows for true content mastery and creates a much better long-term value for students and families engaged in the process.By Brad Hoffman, CEO and Educational Consultant, and Laurie Gross, Executive Director and Learning Specialist