SSAT, ISEE & HSPT Prep & School Placement Advising

Specialized test prep for private school applicants

Applying to a private middle school can be stressful for students and parents alike. It means specialized tests and application deadlines. We can help explain the difference between the SSAT, ISEE and HSPT tests and make sure your child is prepared by teaching test-specific strategies. In addition to tutoring sessions, we hold Dress Rehearsal Practice Tests on a regular basis that provide our students with the opportunity to take full-length practice tests so they know exactly what to expect on test day. 

Our writing coaches are experts in the application essay, guiding your child to articulate what makes him or her unique and an asset to the school of his or her choice. We also assist parents with the parent letters many independent schools require.

Our instruction is tailored to fit each student, focusing on his or her unique strengths and weaknesses, learning style and academic goals. We help middle school students become confident, independent learners for life.

The Secondary School Admission Test (SSAT) 

The SSAT tests students in fifth through eleventh grade and consists of five sections: verbal, which tests vocabulary through synonyms and analogies, reading comprehension, two mathematics sections, and an un-scored writing sample.  Students often find the vocabulary to be challenging on the SSAT, as well as the upper level math concepts.  All questions are multiple choice with five answer choices.  Students are penalized ¼ point for incorrect answers.  The SSAT provides a scaled score and percentile rank comparing the results with students in the same grade and gender that have taken the exam over the previous three years.  The SSAT is offered throughout the year and students are not limited to the number of times they can take it. Students can take the SSAT at a local independent school or privately.  Students should aim to take the SSAT at least twice and can choose which scores to submit to schools. 

We recommend that students aim to take the SSAT once in October or November, in December and, if necessary and acceptable to the colleges they are applying to, January.

The numbers of sessions a student will need can vary widely and depends on how much homework a student does, but here's a good rule of thumb for the average number of sessions:
Quantitative 5-8 sessions (depends on whether we have to teach them the math, which we often do)
Verbal 4-6 sessions (depends on strength of vocabulary)
Reading 4-6 sessions
Essay 1 session

The Independent School’s Entrance Exam (ISEE) 

The ISEE tests students in fourth through seventh grade. The ISEE consists of five sections: verbal, which tests vocabulary through synonyms and sentence completions; quantitative reasoning, including comparison questions; reading comprehension, focused on passage-based reading skills; one mathematics section; and an un-scored writing sample. Students often find the quantitative comparison questions on the middle and upper level exams difficult. Sixth graders taking the middle level ISEE often struggle with the math section because it tests mathematical concepts they may not be familiar with.  All questions are multiple choice with four answer choices.  Students are not penalized for incorrect answers.  The ISEE provides a scaled score and percentile rank comparing the results to students in the same grade that have taken the exam over the previous three years. The ISEE is offered throughout the year, however, students can only take it once a quarter as defined by the ERB. Students can take the ISEE on paper at a local independent school and privately or can take it on a computer at a testing site.

Students should take the ISEE for the first time in October or November and for the second time in December or January. 

The High School Placement Test (HSPT) 

The HSPT tests students in eight grade who are applying to Catholic high schools.  The exam consists of five tightly-timed sections: verbal, which tests synonyms, antonyms, analogies, logic, and word classification; quantitative, which tests number manipulation, geometric and non geometric comparisons, and number series; reading comprehension, which tests vocabulary and passage-based reading skills; mathematics, which tests concepts and problem solving; and language, which tests grammar, spelling, and composition.  Students need to adopt multiple strategies to answer the variety of question types in each section.  They often find the fast-paced timing challenging as well as the grammar and spelling tested in the language section.  All questions are multiple choice with four answer choices.  Students are not penalized for incorrect answers.  The HSPT provides a scaled score and percentile rank comparing the results with other students that took that exam.  Exams are offered in November and December.  Students can take the HSPT twice, however, all scores are sent to schools.  

School Placement Advising

Our Educational Consultant Lisa Gelman specializes in helping parents of elementary and middle school students identify and apply to independent day schools and boarding schools where their children will find academic and social success. She has extensive experience working with a range of students, including students applying to competitive private schools and boarding schools and students with learning differences. Lisa values each child she works with as an individual with unique strengths and weaknesses, interests and goals.