5 Strategies for Admissions Test Preparation

Plan Your Work

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Most private schools require applicants to take a standardized test as part of the admission process. Essentially what the schools are trying to determine is how prepared you are for the academic work that they want you to be able to do. The most commonly used tests in independent schools are the SSAT and the ISEE, but ther are others that you may encounter. For example, Catholic schools use HSPTs and COOPs which are similar in content and purpose.

If you think of the SSAT and ISEE like the college level SAT or its preparatory test, the PSAT, then you get the idea. The tests are organized in several sections, each designed to assess a specific skill set and knowledge level. Here are several tips to help you best prepare for this important exam.

1. Start Test Prep Early

Begin final preparation for your admissions test in the spring for testing in the following fall. While these standardized tests measure what you have learned over the course of many years, you should begin working some practice tests in the spring and summer before you actually take the real thing in the late fall. There are several test prep books that you can consult. Want some study tips? Check out this blog for some SSAT test prep strategies.

2. Don't Cram

Last minute cramming is not going to be very productive when it comes to learning material you should have been learning over several years. The SSAT is designed to test what you have learned over time at school. It's not designed so that you have to learn new material, just master the material you have been learning in school. Instead of cramming, you might consider working hard in school and then during the last few weeks before the test, concentrate on three areas:

  • know what is expected
  • take practice tests
  • review subject material

3. Know the Test Format

Knowing what is expected when you step through the door to the testing room is just as important as taking practice tests. Memorize the format of the test. Know what material will be covered. Learn all the variations in the way a question can be presented or worded. Think like the examiner. Paying attention to details like how you'll take the exam and how it is scored can help you excel overall. Want more test prep strategies? Check out this blog on how to prepare for the SSAT and ISEE.

4. Practice

Taking practice tests is critical to your success in these standardized tests. You have a certain number of questions which must be answered within a fixed time. So you must work to beat the clock. The best way to perfect your skills is to actually try to duplicate the test environment. Try to match the test conditions as closely as possible. Set aside a Saturday morning to work a practice test to the clock. Make sure that you do the practice test in a quiet room and have a parent present you the exam, just as if you were in the actual testing room. Imagine yourself in the room with dozens of your classmates taking the same test. No cell phone, snacks, iPod or TV. If you are really serious about honing your timing skills, you should repeat this exercise at least twice.

5. Review

Reviewing subject material means exactly that. If you have pursued your studies in an organized manner, that means pulling out those notes from a year ago and going over them carefully. Note what you didn't understand. Practice what you weren't sure of by writing it out. That's a common test prep strategy, writing things out, because for many people, this strategy will help them remember things better. As you practice and review, make a note of where you excel and where you need assistance, and then get help in the areas where you have deficiencies. If you plan to take the tests next year, understand the material now so that you can nail them. Don't put off thorough test preparation. Remember: you cannot cram for these tests.

Article edited by Stacy Jagodowski

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Your Citation
Kennedy, Robert. "5 Strategies for Admissions Test Preparation." ThoughtCo, Oct. 29, 2020, thoughtco.com/strategies-for-admissions-test-preparation-2774693. Kennedy, Robert. (2020, October 29). 5 Strategies for Admissions Test Preparation. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/strategies-for-admissions-test-preparation-2774693 Kennedy, Robert. "5 Strategies for Admissions Test Preparation." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/strategies-for-admissions-test-preparation-2774693 (accessed March 23, 2023).