HSPT vs ISEE vs SSAT – What’s the difference? [updated]

HSPT vs ISEE vs SSAT – What’s the difference? [updated]

By | 2017-08-31T11:43:58+00:00 July 2nd, 2015|HSPT, Independent School Admissions, ISEE, SSAT, Test Prep|0 Comments

What’s the difference?

If your child is applying to independent or Catholic schools, you are probably familiar with the different entrance exams that schools utilize to help select students for admission– primarily the HSPT for Catholic schools, and the SSAT or ISEE for independent private schools. These tests serve to gauge the applicant’s academic level compared to his/her peers and help admissions officers decide whether or not the student will be able to keep up with the school’s curriculum.

 
 
To prep or not to prep?

Some schools discourage preparing for these entrance exams in order to more accurately assess the student’s aptitude. While it’s certainly understandable why a school might want all its applicants to test naturally without preparation, the fact remains that a lot of applicants will utilize tutoring services and prep classes to raise their testing scores. Since scores are not based on the number of questions answered correctly, but rather on how students score in comparison to peers, even advanced students will want some level of preparation for these exams. For many, this standardized test will be the first test which covers such advanced topics and takes over two hours, so becoming familiar with the types of questions covered and the allotted time for each section will help to assuage nerves associated with these often intimidating tests. All standardized tests have similar test-taking strategies, so the same skills that your child will acquire while preparing for these entrance exams will be used again when preparing for his/her SAT or ACT.

What will the test look like?

Here is an example of a verbal question and a math question released by the creators of the ISEE exam. These questions are for students in 8th grade applying to high school.
1. The article on gene splicing was so ——- that only a handful of the students were able to understand it.
(A) contrite
(B) esoteric
(C) functional
(D) genuine
2. What is the solution set for x2 + 49 = 0?
(A) 7
(B) 7i
(C) ±7
(D) ±7i

(Correct Answers: 1. B, 2. D)

If your eighth grade student has not yet been exposed to vocabulary of this level and math of this caliber, a good test-taker can still use strategies to eliminate wrong answers and increase his/her chances of correctly answering challenging questions.

Category HSPT ISEE SSAT

Levels

The HSPT has only one level and is used for entrance into grade 9. Primary Level
entering grades 2-3
Lower Level
entering grades 4-5
Middle Level
entering grades 6-8
Upper Level
entering grades 9-12
Elementary Level
entering grades 5-6
Middle Level
entering grades 7-8
Upper Level
entering grades 9-12

Total Testing Time

2 hours 21 minutes Primary Level 2
53 minutes + untimed essay
Primary Level 3&4
60 minutes + untimed essay
Lower Level
2 hours 20 minutes
Middle Level
2 hours 40 minutes
Upper Level
2 hours 40 minutes
Elementary Level
1 hour 35 minutes
Middle Level
2 hours 50 minutes
Upper Level
2 hours 50 minutes

Components

Verbal
Quantitative
Reading
Mathematics
Language
Science*
Religion*
Mechanical Aptitude*
Verbal
Quantitative
Reading
Mathematics
Essay(unscored)
Mathematics
Verbal
Reading
Essay(unscored)

Scoring

Ranges from 200-800

Schools will look more closely at the percentile rank

Ranges from 760-940

Schools will look more closely at the percentile rank or stanine (1-9)

Elementary Level
Ranges from 300-600
Middle Level
Ranges from 440-710
Upper Level
Ranges from 500-800

Guessing Penalty

Points are not deducted for an incorrect answer

Points are not deducted for a blank answer

This means you should always make an educated guess!

Points are not deducted for an incorrect answer

Points are not deducted for a blank answer

This means you should always make an educated guess!

Points are deducted for an incorrect answer

Points are not deducted for a blank answer

Consult a tutor/teacher to find the best strategy for you!

Question Types

Multiple Choice
(4 answer choices)
Lower Level
Multiple Choice
(4 answer choices)
Essay
Middle/Upper Level
Multiple Choice
(4 answer choices)
Quantitative Comparison
Essay
Multiple Choice
(5 answer choices)
Essay
The Verbal section includes analogies, unlike the HSPT or ISEE.

Difficulty

Overall, the HSPT tends to be the easiest of the three tests. The ISEE’s math sections tend to be difficult, even for advanced students. The SSAT can be challenging but reasonable for well-prepared students.

Test Dates/Locations

Dates: Usually in January (check each school/testing site for specific dates)

Location: The school you are applying to

Dates: Multiple dates between November & April**

Location: click here to search testing locations and times.***

Dates: Once a month between October & June, except May

Location: click here to search testing locations.

*The Science, Religion, and Essay sections of the HSPT may or may not be required by the school to which the student is applying. Contact each individual school for further details .
**The ISEE can only be taken once every testing season and must be submitted to a school.
***The ISEE also has an electronic testing option at Prometric Testing Centers.

When should my child start preparing?

It’s a good idea to identify target schools at least a year before the application process begins. Once you’ve done that, have your child take a diagnostic test! Once you know his/her baseline score, you can figure out how much preparation will be needed to bring that score up to the acceptance range of the target schools. Who knows? Your child may already be well within the range you’re shooting for! Either way, it’s a good idea to know where he/she stands before preparation begins so that you can utilize time wisely. Once you’ve come up with a preparation strategy, a tutor can be helpful to teach your child any missing concepts and strategies. Preparing for entrance exams, whether it’s for an independent or parochial school, can be overwhelming for not just the student but his/her family as well. For a FREE diagnostic test and consultation, click here or call 866.60.TUTOR today!

Final thoughts…

Admissions offices will supply you with all the information needed in regards to deadlines and testing requirements. No matter which test your child is planning to take, definitely have him/her take a diagnostic test first. Most students who sit for these tests are bound to be newcomers to the standardized-test experience, and it’s important to know where they are starting so that you can help them get to where they need to be. Bear in mind that, as with college exams, admissions offices of independent and parochial schools will be looking at much more than JUST entrance exams – with good planning, a lot of practice, and guidance from an expert tutor, your child will be well prepared!

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