If you are the parent of a student with a disability, registering for the ISEE is a task in itself. Part I of this post discussed the unique requirements and characteristics of the ISEE, along with the process of applying for accommodations. Once a student is registered, however, there is an even bigger task ahead: preparing for the test. There are several steps all students, including those with learning differences, can take to prepare to do their best on the exam:
- Start preparations early
This is good advice for any test taker, but it’s especially important for students with a learning disability and/or ADHD. If a student tends to get overwhelmed during the year, consider starting preparations the summer before he or she takes the test.
- Practice the pacing and duration of the test
For many students, the ISEE is the first test where the time limit matters. While other tests are designed to give most students time to comfortably finish each section, even high-achieving students can have trouble finishing certain sections of the ISEE on time. Use practice tests to help students develop a pacing strategy. For example, students who have been taught to underline and make notes on a reading passage—a great strategy for a class text—might find that they run out of time when trying to apply this to the ISEE Reading Comprehension section.
The length of the test is also challenging. Many standardized tests in school are administered with only one or two sections per day. The ISEE requires students to sit for 2 ½-3 hours and complete five test sections with only short breaks in between. It’s especially important for students with learning differences to practice the prolonged concentration the test demands.
WARNING ABOUT EXTENDED TIME: While extended time can be helpful for many students with learning disabilities, it also means a longer test. If the student is taking the paper version of the ISEE, this means every student in the extended time room must wait until the extended time is up for each section. If a student has difficulty staying focused and tends to burn out by the end of the test, extended time may hinder the student more than it helps. Completing a practice test under both the regular and extended time limits can help determine whether extended time would be helpful or not.
- Prepare with accommodations in mind
If accommodations are granted, the student should incorporate them into test preparation. For example, during practice tests, allow for the time the student will receive (usually 150% for extended time), not the standard time. On the other hand, if accommodations are not approved, it’s extra important to practice under test conditions so the student gets used to what that feels like.
- Focus on both content and test-taking strategies
Focusing on vocabulary, reading comprehension, and math concepts will help students in school as well as with test preparation. Many parents report that their child’s academic achievement improved after preparing for the ISEE. It’s also helpful, however, to learn test-taking strategies specific to the ISEE. For many students, the ISEE is the first test where strategies, such as using process-of-elimination to make a better guess, can make a big difference in their scores.
- Work to improve strengths as well as weaknesses
While the focus of test preparation is often on the weaker sections, a student should also focus on his or her strong subjects. Don’t assume that because a student gets good grades in a certain subject it will automatically translate to a good test score. The ISEE questions are probably different from what students are used to seeing in school, so even a strong academic subject deserves attention during test prep time.
- Remember that a test score is just a test score
It’s important to find the private school that is the best fit for the student, and the ISEE is only one part of the application process. So students should have confidence in themselves and feel comfortable with simply doing their best.
That said, the ISEE is one part of the private school admissions process, and a good score can only help a student’s application. L.A. Tutors can help students make an individualized study plan, find the right resources, and understand the concepts and strategies needed to earn the highest score possible.