Every math student in America will have to face standardized tests at one stage or another. Many colleges and universities rely heavily on standardized test scores to help them separate students into those invited to enroll and those left disappointed.
Standardized tests can be a significant challenge for many students, including students who tend to excel at other tests and in class. Mathematical components tend to be a stumbling block for otherwise standout students.
Two of the lesser-known standardized tests in operation in the US – the Secondary School Admission Test (SSAT) and the Independent School Entrance Exam (ISEE) – act as gatekeepers to these third-level institutions. To pass these tests, students will need to be familiar with the test content, but also thoroughly understand the structures and nuances of the tests themselves.
Everyone is familiar with the SAT, but the SSAT is another crucial benchmark in the admissions process for private and independent schools. Like other standardized tests, the SSAT is designed to challenge a child’s comprehensive education from grades 5 to 12. Success in the SSAT opens fantastic educational doors to students and a strong test score can offer them their first taste of a lifetime of academic opportunity.
The SSAT has three distinct levels: Elementary (grades 3-4), Middle (grades 5-7), and Upper (grades 8-11). Each level is customized to reflect the content that students will have seen during the years for which they are being assessed. The tiered approach to the test allows for more fair and accurate assessments of each individual student’s capabilities at different stages of their academic growth.
There are four major sections to the SSAT: Quantitative, Verbal, Reading, and Writing. Each section is as important as the last, but the Quantitative portion is particularly interesting. It evaluates the students’ mathematical proficiency and ability to solve problems in several topics, including arithmetic, algebra, geometry, and data interpretation. It is also worth noting that the written portion is unscored.
Just like the SSAT, the ISEE is an unsung hero of the American standardized testing scene. It is a test that’s focused on helping students to gain admission to independent schools. Similar to the SSAT, the ISEE has four sections: Verbal Reasoning, Quantitative Reasoning, Reading Comprehension, and Mathematics Achievement. As you can see, the test aims at challenging students in a well-rounded way, offering each student the chance to shine regardless of their best subjects.
The ISEE also followed a tiered approach, with the levels categorized as Lower (grades 5-6), Middle (grades 7-8), and Upper (grades 9-12). Just like with the SSAT, this staggered approach helps examiners see how different students show their academic capabilities at different stages of their educational journey.
Success in the Mathematics Achievement section of the ISEE requires a full understanding of various aspects of mathematics, such as arithmetic, algebra, geometry, and data analysis. The problem-solving questions are of particular note to examiners and many independent colleges are keen to see how children handle these issues when they arise.
Tips for the Tests
Performing well in the SSAT and the ISEE takes much more than regular tests. Unlike other assessments, standardized tests offer students unique challenges. At the same time, however, there are several steps students can take to make sure they give the tests their best shot.
Master the Basics
This one sounds obvious, but a fundamental understanding of the concepts in the test is vital. Understanding is the cornerstone of mathematical success and by practicing topics such as arithmetic operations, algebraic equations, and geometric principles, students will drastically improve their chances of success. Without these fundamental skills, students will struggle to pass these, and other, standardized tests.
Contact A Math Tutor
While a classroom education is the bedrock of every child’s mathematical journey, investing in an external tutor has been shown to drive students’ test scores in the right direction. Tutors have the advantage of being able to focus on one child’s needs, something school teachers simply can’t guarantee. During one-to-one math tutoring sessions, teachers can plug specific gaps in that child’s knowledge, maximizing the benefits of the time they spend together.
Both the SSAT and the ISEE are timed. This means that effective time management is essential for students. Practicing for tests like these can be challenging, but there are ways to prepare. Students should sit down and answer a set number of questions against the clock. With enough repetition, students will become faster at answering and will get used to managing their time more efficiently.
Standardized Test Preparation Courses
Students should consider enrolling in specific preparation courses for standardized tests. In these courses, students get a real feel for the test, from the environment and conditions to the topics and the way in which questions are asked. The teachers in these courses are also able to explain the nuances of the tests, helping students become familiar with what they will face and remain calm when the time comes.