SSAT/ISEE Training

Students planning to take the SSAT, ISEE, or any of a host of high school admissions exams needn't undertake an extended test prep program to perform well on the test. But some test practice and thorough study/review of the math and language fundamentals can help familiarize a student with the test's format and question types, identify and strengthen weak points, and deepen understanding and skills in key areas. 

For the record, the parade of high school admission and/or placement exam acronyms includes (blue titles are links to official test sites):
  • SSAT: Secondary School Admission Test - Like the SAT's kid sister; receives hand-me-downs (e.g., analogies, quarter-point wrong answer penalty) that updated versions of the SAT leave behind. Accepted/required by many independent and magnet schools nationally. Administered in three levels: lower (grades 3-4), middle (grades 5-7), and upper (grades 8-11).
  • ISEE - Independent School Entrance Exam - Features sentence completion (another SAT hand-me-down) and quantitative comparison question types in place of the SSAT's analogies and guessing penalty. Accepted/required by many independent and magnet schools nationally. Administered by ERB (Educational Records Bureau) in both online and paper-and-pencil formats (both on-site) in four levels: primary (grades 2-4), lower (grades 5 & 6), middle (grades 7 & 8), and upper (grades 9-12).
  • SHSAT -Secondary High School Admissions Test - The entrance test for all but one of New York City's nine Specialized High Schools. Structured in two 75-minute sections, the SHSAT presents unique and challenging content, including scrambled paragraphs, logical reasoning, and novel or unfamiliar math puzzles. Administered by the NYC Department of Education to students in grades 8 and 9.
  • HSPT -High School Placement Test - One of the three Catholic high school admissions tests. Administered by STS, which intentionally provides very limited practice materials and emphasizes that the test changes every year. The best HSPT preparation involves rigorous review and strengthening of math and English language fundamentals, in conjunction with practice testing using SSAT and/or ISEE materials.
  • TACHS - Test for Admission into Catholic High Schools - Another Catholic high school admissions test evaluating reading, writing, math, and reasoning, the TACHS is short on practice material or detailed test information. Best prepared for in the same way as the HSPT.
  • COOP -Cooperative Admissions Examination Program - The test for admission to Catholic schools in new Jersey and Rockland County. The COOP is comprised of seven sections: sequences, analogies, quantitative reasoning, verbal - words, verbal - context, and math. One practice test is available from the COOPexam website; otherwise, the best preparation is the same as for the HSPT or TACHS, with possibly some SHSAT practice as well to help train on novel/unfamiliar questions.
  • Yeshiva High School Placement Exam (BJE/PSAT 8/9) - Formerly known as the BJE, the placement test for many New York area Jewish high schools includes a Judaic Studies component and a General Studies component, the latter of which is currently the College Board's PSAT 8/9 exam.  Limited PSAT 8/9 practice materials are available from the College Board, so the best approach to preparing for the General Studies test is similar to that for the Catholic high school admissions tests described above.
Most test makers urge parents and students to focus on strong scholarship in the fundamentals to perform optimally on these tests. I fully agree, with the qualification that familiarity and training with a particular test and its format, content, and style can yet further enhance a student's performance by improving its test-taking component. However, as a general matter, very few if any practice tests are available from the test makers.

When very limited actual test materials are available, test-targeted preparation is in large part not feasible. Fortunately, in my experience, rigorous study and strengthening of fundamentals along with practice testing on the available tests across the spectrum of high school entrance exams is a highly effective way to prepare for any one or more of these tests.