1. Don’t Study Above Your Level
There are three levels of tests that comprise the ISEE — lower, middle, and upper. Often, a test preparation company will advertise “ISEE Preparation” without specifying the level — this usually means upper-level only! Don’t study above your level! Students who should be preparing for the lower level ISEE should not be struggling to understand concepts that apply only to upper-level students! Instead of searching for ISEE preparation, search for your specific level, i.e. “ISEE Lower Level Preparation.” Which test your student needs to be take depends on the grade he or she is entering. Prospective fifth and sixth graders take the lower level; students entering seventh and eighth grade take the middle level; students seeking admission to high school (ninth through twelfth grades) take the upper level test. Parents might be tempted to help their students for a test above their level, in hopes that the content covered on the lower tests will be superseded by the more difficult material. Unfortunately, this isn’t always true. According to the ERB, who administers the test, it’s best to prepare for your own test level.
2. Begin Studying Early
Like any other exam, the ISEE requires diligent and steady practice to master. The best way to prepare your child is to begin early. Studies have consistently shown that it’s important to begin studying well in advance and not to cram. To begin, you should read What to Expect on the ISEE, a free guide issued by the Educational Records Bureau (ERB) which administers the exam. After this, you should begin working with your student at home and research various professional ISEE lower/mid/upper-level preparation courses. Don’t leave preparation to the last moment!
3. Know What’s on the Test in Advance
Standardized tests like the ISEE, with all the pressure and constraints they place upon the test-taker, are challenging. Why not make it easier by knowing what’s going to be on the test in advance? There are five sections on the ISEE: verbal reasoning, quantitative reasoning, reading comprehension, mathematics achievement, and an essay. Each section has a limited scope that is outlined in the ERB’s What to Expect on the ISEE. By knowing what material is covered on the exam, you can help your student focus their study to do their best on the ISEE. If your child needs help with specific topics, you should consider seeking professional test preparation, preferably a company which specializes in the correct level of the ISEE, to help make the most of your child’s educational opportunities.
4. Take Practice Tests
While studying the material on the test is an essential part of any preparation program, students must also be ready for the restrictions and time limits the ISEE imposes upon test-takers. Many test-takers face difficulty when timed or under pressure. The best way to mitigate anxiety and nervousness is to become comfortable with the structure of the test by taking many practice exams which reflect the structure of the real test-timed, without calculators, etc. Professional ISEE test preparation can be very helpful in this regard, but be conscious of whether companies use real ISEE exams or simulated ones. The makers of the ISEE limit access to good preparation materials; consequently, many third-party books available on the Internet and through some companies will attempt to simulate test questions — but in the end there is no substitute for the real thing. The best preparation materials will come from established test preparation companies like Testmasters, Kaplan, or Princeton Review, which have a history of helping people prepare for the ISEE.
5. Practice Writing Essays
Even though the ISEE essay is ungraded, your student’s ISEE essay plays a critical role in the admissions process and cannot be neglected. The essay is sent on to the schools the student is applying to, where it is read by admissions committees. These committees will primarily be looking at the levels of maturity and organization displayed by your student’s essay; admissions officers will be most impressed by how clearly and coherently a student can communicate with written English. Another tip: don’t be negative! Nobody will admit a candidate who talks about how much he hates school, no matter how well the essay is written. Use practice essays from the ERB to start off with; consider ISEE test preparation programs that can provide professional feedback and guidance on essays.