“My child is a great student.  He works hard and earns excellent grades.  He just doesn’t test well.”


How many of us have made that same observation about our own child?  As teachers and test-prep tutors, this phenomenon of good students struggling at test time seems to be more the norm than the exception.   What is it about standardized tests that stump so many good students?  In short, testing well is It’s not as simple as knowing what you learned in class.  Want to see for yourself?


The test makers publish preparatory manuals for students so that they can get a sense of what types of questions will be asked, and how they will be presented.  For the Independent School Entrance Exam (ISEE), we refer to the manual published by ERB, “What to Expect on the ISEE.”  And for the Secondary School Admission Test (SSAT), we refer to the “Official Guide.”  Without exception, the teachers we work with are absolutely astonished by the questions.  Not only do they look different from the way most questions are asked in class, but many of the questions are ambiguous and otherwise confusing.  Want a humbling experience?  Open ERB’s “What to Expect on the Independent School Entrance Exam, Lower Level.”  If you weren’t a believer in formal test prep before that, I’m going to bet you’ll become one.