While most of us are focused on enjoying our summer vacation, independent school parents are thinking about getting their child ready for the independent school entrance exams ISEE and SSAT.


In our experience as independent school educators, we’ve come up with a test preparation plan that will work, without piling on unnecessary homework, wasting valuable time, or increasing stress.


Step #1 – Talk to your child’s teacher, and look to your school’s administration for guidance. There are two key reasons why this is important:  First, teachers can tell you if your child shows proficiency in academic subjects, or if there are areas that need some review and reinforcement. This way, rather than allowing a test prep tutor to pile on unnecessary practice, you can focus your tutoring on the specific skills and subjects identified by the school. Second, schools usually have the best information on tutors and test prep programs that are effective. Unfortunately, there is no shortage of opportunists posing as educators and profiting off of nervous parents who aren’t sure of how to best help their child prepare. This is why we have been enlisted by a visionary, local independent school to offer standardized test prep in house, so that their parents need not look outside of school for help. And the results are striking. Those students who follow their school’s advice score significantly higher than those who seek additional tutoring outside of school. There is no question here. Parents who listen to the experts in their schools help their children to succeed.


Step #2 – Evaluate the possibilities and commit to ONE. One of the most common mistakes parents make is operating under the assumption that more prep is better. This is usually counterproductive. When a student prepares with more than one program, strategies can become confused. We have observed students just shutting down at test time as the stress of juggling multiple strategies builds up. To prevent overload, choose the test prep program that looks like the best fit, and stick to it. How do you find the best fit? This is where Step #1 comes into play. For example, if your child shows proficiency in math and literacy, then choose a program that emphasizes test taking strategies, rather than content review.


Step #3 – Make sure that there is daily practice. Standardized tests look very different from most classwork. In fact, they speak a language all their own. Our best results have been with students who practice for short periods every morning. Rather than cramming for a test over the course of a few weeks, these students are immersed in testing language, daily, over the course of several months. There is nothing wrong with longer practice times sometimes, but the most important thing is to get in the habit of absorbing test strategies a little every day. This is, from our experience, the best way to learn the language of tests, and get kids familiar with the kinds of problems they’ll see on the test.