Types of Private School Admissions Tests

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There are several different types of admissions tests that private schools may require as part of the admission process. Each one has a specific purpose, and tests different aspects of a child's preparation for private school. Some admission tests measure IQ, while others look for learning challenges or areas of exceptional achievement. The high school admissions tests basically determine a student's readiness for the rigorous college prep studies most private high schools offer. 

Entrance exams might be optional at some schools, but in general, these are important aspects of the admission process. Here are some of the most common types of private school admission tests.


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Managed by the Educational Records Bureau (ERB), the Independent School Entrance Exam (ISEE) helps assess a student's readiness for attending an independent school. Some say the ISEE is to private schools admissions testing what the ACT test is to college admissions testing. While the SSAT may be taken more frequently, schools typically accept both. Some schools, including Milken Community Schools, a day school in Los Angeles for grades 7-12, require the ISEE for admission. 


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SSAT is the Secondary School Admissions Test. This standardized admissions test is offered at test centers throughout the world and, similar to ISEE, is one of the most widely used exams by private schools everywhere. The SSAT serves as an objective assessment of a student's skills and readiness for high school academics.


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EXPLORE is an assessment test used by high schools to determine the readiness of 8th and 9th graders for secondary level academic work. It was created by the same organization which produces ACT, the college admissions test.


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The COOP or Cooperative Entrance Examination is a standardized admissions test used in Roman Catholic high schools in the Archdiocese of Newark and the Diocese of Paterson. Only select schools require this entrance exam.


HSPT® is the High School Placement Test. Many Roman Catholic high schools use the HSPT® as a standardized admissions test for all students applying to school. Only select schools require this entrance exam.


TACHS is the Test for Admission into Catholic High Schools. Roman Catholic high schools in the Archdiocese of New York and the Diocese of Brooklyn/Queens use the TACHS as a standardized admissions test. Only select schools require this entrance exam.


OLSAT is the Otis-Lennon School Ability Test. It is an aptitude or learning readiness test produced by Pearson Education. The test was originally devised in 1918. It is frequently used to screen children for entry into gifted programs. The OLSAT is not an IQ test like WISC. Private schools use the OLSAT as one indicator of how successful a child will be in their academic environment. This test is not typically required, but may be requested.

Wechsler Tests (WISC)

The Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children (WISC) is an intelligence test which produces an IQ or intelligence quota. This test is commonly administered to candidates for primary grades. It is also used to determine if any learning difficulties or issues are present. This test is not typically required for secondary schools, but may be requested by elementary or middle schools.


The Preliminary SAT®/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test is a standardized test normally taken in 10th or 11th grades. It is also a standardized test which many private high schools accept as part of their applications process. Our College Admissions Guide explains how the test works in case you decide to take it. Many secondary schools will accept these scores in place of the ISEE or SSAT. 


The SAT is a standardized test normally used as part of the college admissions process. But many private high schools also accept SAT test results in their applications process. Our Test Prep Guide shows you how the SAT works and what to expect.


If you are an international student or student whose native language is not English, you will probably have to take TOEFL. The Test of English as a Foreign Language is administered by the Educational Testing Service, the same organization which does SATs, LSATs and many, many other standardized tests.

Top 15 Test-Taking Tips

Kelly Roell, About.com's Test Prep Guide, offers sound advice and lots of encouragement. Plenty of practice and adequate preparation are important for success on any test. But, it's also important to consider your attitude and your understanding of the test structure. Kelly shows you what to do and how to be successful.

Just a piece of the puzzle ...

While admissions tests are important, they are only one of several things which the admissions staff looks at when reviewing your application. Other important factors include transcripts, recommendations, and the interview.

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Kennedy, Robert. "Types of Private School Admissions Tests." ThoughtCo, Aug. 26, 2020, thoughtco.com/types-of-private-school-admissions-tests-2774694. Kennedy, Robert. (2020, August 26). Types of Private School Admissions Tests. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/types-of-private-school-admissions-tests-2774694 Kennedy, Robert. "Types of Private School Admissions Tests." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/types-of-private-school-admissions-tests-2774694 (accessed April 2, 2023).