Skip to main content

Last Updated On: February 16th, 2024

As we reflect on the last few years since COVID started, it becomes abundantly clear that the landscape for standardized testing and private school admissions has changed drastically. As always, the admissions process remains secretive and individualized, with a significant number of schools choosing to go test optional, meaning the ISEE or SSAT tests are no longer required.

So what now?
In Los Angeles, most private schools have replaced these tests with a writing assessment or an admissions exam, in some cases, schools can even choose to do both. However, it’s important to note that test optional has not become a national movement just yet, with the majority of New York City private schools still requiring the SSAT or the ISEE. The BIG CHANGE? Most schools are also now requiring ERB or other standardized test scores from 1-2 years prior to the current school year.

What is the ERB?
First off, it’s important to know ERB is not a test, it’s a company that makes tests like the CTP5 and the ISEE. When you hear admissions requesting ERB scores, they really mean CTP5 scores. This test is made for students from grades 1-11.

Each CTP5 test is slightly different per grade level, so it makes sense that the ERB doesn’t release specific timing for these tests. However, based on the sections, content, and testing site schedules, it’s safe to assume testing will approach anywhere from 3 to 4 hours, often spread out over multiple days. It’s without question that more advanced grade levels will have longer sections and testing will require more stamina.

The CTP5 is just a tool used to compare student progress. It helps schools assess growth, see which classes to place your child in, compare grade levels within the school, and even gauge the differences between students across counties and states. If you’d like to learn more about the sections and topics of the ISEE, check out this blog with sample questions and a more detailed breakdown.

Why the change?
While many schools once valued the coveted ISEE and SSAT, since COVID many private schools have come to see that these tests and the prep work required are not easily accessible to all socioeconomic demographics. Private schools have also noticed the overarching decline in test scores since children were forced into remote learning during COVID. Although these deficits won’t linger on forever, the circumstances have certainly impacted this generation of students with testing fears and learning gaps.

By using the CTP5, or ERBs as we like to call them, students actually have an advantage. The content is grade level instead of above grade level. For example, some sections of the ISEE have math that is 2-3 grades above the level a child applies for. Even in a simple verbal reasoning section, kids are faced with words they have never seen in school and even words that should be fitting for a student many years above them. This is what makes ISEE preparation so important. Without advanced tutoring and dedicated preparation for at least 3-6 months, it’s nearly impossible to expect spectacular ISEE scores.

Personally, I like the switch to CTP5. It really provides an accurate assessment of your child’s knowledge. The content is so much more approachable to students, and teachers are often more lenient with timing and pacing to provide their students the best chance at good scores.

What about preparing?
The good news … you don’t have to prep for the CTP5/ERB test. It’s meant to be taken without preparation. However, we understand the desire to support your child and provide them with all opportunities to succeed. We do indeed offer ERB prep tutoring!

We use resources like TestingMom and Tutorified to customize prep plans for students of all grade levels. While there is mystery surrounding ERB testing and no published practice tests to date, we at LA Tutors 123 have years of experience and resources on how best to prepare your student for their test.

Ultimately, there are no guarantees that we can make a student perform, but with our tutoring services we can ensure increased confidence, a strong education, and an opportunity to put their best foot forward during the admissions process.

How are the ERBs scored?
Both versions of the CTP5 (paper and online) have their score reports delivered directly to schools. The data is given in percentiles and stanine scores on a 1-9 scale, just like the ISEE. Students are compared to norm groups, their peers, and ranked against other students (in their grade level) in other schools nationwide that took the test.

How do you decipher the score report?
Carnegie Prep does a good job breaking it down into simple terms, “For example, students who receive a score of 75th percentile (stanine of 6) on the Verbal Reasoning section have performed better than 75% of the similar population who took the test.” Another way to see it… a stanine score of a 5 is better than 60% of a student’s peer group.

While ERB’s website tries to break down the abbreviations used on the score report, it’s still quite confusing if you haven’t seen an ERB score report before. If you’re still feeling lost, remember our team at LA Tutors 123 are here to help you during all steps of the admissions process.

What should my child aim for?
It’s hard to say with any certainty what an admissions office is looking for, but from what we see, schools want to see average stanine scores and above grade level stanine scores. The more competitive the scores, the more likely students are to get admitted to their dream school.

What about public schools? What’s the equivalent to an ERB?
Since ERBs are generally offered at private institutions, public schools are keeping up the status quo and offering standardized tests comparable to the ERBs. What was once known as STAR testing is now referred to as CAASPP, The California Assessment of Student Performance and Progress. This test is usually taken in the spring and is utilized by students in public schools looking to transition and apply to private schools. This test is similarly scored and also offers content in grade level. It doesn’t require preparation and can be used interchangeably.

Happy studying! And remember we’re always here to support you.

Photo by Yan Krukau from Pexels

About LA Tutors 123

LA Tutors 123 is a premier in-person and online private tutoring company based in Beverly Hills, CA. If you have specific questions or want a personalized plan, reach out to us here. We’re happy to help in any way we can.

Leave a Reply