Your child has always done well in school. In fact, your child has always done so well in school that now you want to put him or her in a better school. So you have your child sit for an ISEE diagnostic exam. You fully expect that your child will knock it out of the ballpark, since, after all, he or she is already reading above grade level and gets perfect scores on all of his or her math tests. You think that maybe he or she will need only one or two sessions with a test prep tutor, just to go over some basic strategies and pull in those few extra points.
Your child’s diagnostic scores come back. Your jaw drops. Your child, the one who always exceeds expectations in school, has gotten dismal scores. He or she has scored around the 25th percentile on all sections of the test. How is this possible? How can you make sense of this?
Simple: the ISEE differs from a test in school in a few very important ways:
1) Each level of the ISEE is aimed at a range of grade levels and abilities. It’s very possible your child hasn’t even seen some of the material covered on the test yet, especially if he or she is at the lower end of the grade range for his or her level.
2) The questions are written in a trickier way. On your school tests, for the most part, the questions resemble the questions you have been working on all along in your homework and classwork. However, some questions on the ISEE are designed to present information in a more convoluted way, so you have to do some more detective work to figure out what the question is asking of you.
3) The makers of the test don’t expect you to get every question right. This is probably the hardest thing to wrap your head around, since of course in school, in order to obtain the highest possible score, you have to get every question correct. The ISEE is designed to have questions that should be un-answerable.
You want your child to be the best. We all do. But, for some standardized tests like the ISEE, being the best doesn’t necessarily mean getting a perfect score. In addition to learning the content, working on practice questions, and meeting with a test prep tutor, your child should know what the makers of the test expect from him or her. Keep everything in perspective, and your child will truly be the best.
By Vera Wexler, Private Tutor