Standardized Tests

graduate admissions test prep

The GRE, GMAT, and LSAT: Test Prep and the Graduate Admissions Process

Graduate schools in the United States usually require the submission of scores from one of three standardized tests during the admissions process: the GRE, the GMAT, or the LSAT. These tests are each unique in content and format, and nearly every student will benefit from preparing for several months prior to his or her test date.

Prepping for the GRE

The Graduate Record Examination General Test, or GRE General Test, is required by nearly every graduate program in the United States as part of their application processes, and it is also often accepted by business and law schools in place of either the GMAT or LSAT. Students interested in pursuing advanced degrees should therefore expect to prepare for and take this test, which is a nearly four hour test of your math, vocabulary, and advanced reading comprehension skills. The test is typically administered via computer, so Inspirica’s approach to the test includes a mix of content, structure, and strategy, preparing you for the variety of complex tasks you will face on test day.

For more, see our complete breakdown of the GRE, including details on test format, scoring, registration, test dates, and our approach to preparing for this test.

Prepping for the GMAT

The Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT) is used by business schools throughout the United States for admissions. Much like the GRE, the GMAT involves material students often have not seen since high school, so preparation typically requires a mix of tutoring and extensive self-study. Testing is done on individually scheduled dates at private testing centers and using a computer system that adapts the test to each student’s individual performance. This question-adaptive computer interface is one of the most unique aspects of the GMAT, and it means that practicing the process of taking the test is just as important as mastering the content that is tested.

For more, see our complete breakdown of the GMAT, including details on test format, scoring, registration, test dates, and our approach to preparing for this test.

Prepping for the LSAT

The Law School Admission Test (LSAT) is used for admission to law schools throughout the United States. As the LSAT is the most difficult of all the standardized tests used for graduate admissions, preparation tends to be extensive, often lasting six or more months and involving numerous practice tests. Most students test two or three times, with the dates scheduled far in advance. The LSAT is a more “traditional” test than the GMAT and GRE: though it will transition to digital administration beginning in July 2019, it is not an adaptive test, which means that students will receive the same pre-selected set of questions regardless of their performance during the test.

For more, see our complete breakdown of the LSAT, including details on test format, scoring, registration, test dates, and our approach to preparing for this test.

The SSAT and the ISEE: Entrance Exams for Private, Independent, and Boarding Schools

For many families, the process of applying for admission to independent, private, and boarding schools can be intimidating. Not only does each individual school have its own set of admissions policies and procedures, but many include a requirement to submit standardized test scores, too. This often puts parents in the unfortunate position of having to tackle the standardized test preparation process for the first time in an unfamiliar context.

Most schools require the completion of one or the other of the Independent School Entrance Exam (ISEE) and the Secondary School Admissions Exam (SSAT). However, some accept scores from either test, so it is important that you check with each school to which you are considering applying as you begin this process. The tests are in many ways similar to one another, but there are some important differences to consider. Our Program Coordinators are here to provide advice and support every step of the way.

Three Key Features of the Tests

There are three key features common to both tests that are essential to understand as you begin the testing and application process.

First, both tests are designed by the test-writers to make students feel uncomfortable while taking them. Although most of the concepts tested will be familiar to most students, the format in which those concepts appear will almost certainly be new to them, making the structure of the test one of its most predictable challenges. This predictability, however, is what makes these tests so amenable to preparation: with proper instruction and practice, students can learn to see through the test-writers’ misdirections to successfully answer questions that they would otherwise get wrong.

Second, although the scores on both tests are presented in different formats on each test’s score report, the methods used to calculate those scores are essentially the same. Rather than compare test-takers against an objective set of standards, students are instead compared against one another, with the score reports showing a set of percentiles or stanines that rank applicants against one another. These are methods of calculation used by all standardized-test makers, and for most of the nationally prominent tests, these methods usually result in scores roughly correlated to students’ success in school. But because the SSAT and ISEE are designed to serve the schools that aim to attract the small subset of students who are among the best in the nation, this subjective method of comparison usually results in scores well below what parents anticipate as they begin this process. This gap between expectations and reality can often be closed with time and effort, but this once again illustrates the need for a preparation plan as part of the application process.

Third, both tests allow students to test multiple times, and it is generally to your child’s advantage to test more than once. Part of beating any test is giving yourself as many opportunities as necessary to succeed, and taking the test multiple times can be a great way to maximize chances for improvement. For the SSAT, the process of testing multiple times is fairly straightforward, as the test is administered on a set schedule eight times each year. The ISEE, however, is scheduled using administered using a testing seasons calendar that divides the year into three 4-month periods, with students limited to one test date per period for a maximum of three tests per calendar year. Planning a testing calendar well in advance of application deadlines therefore becomes an essential part of any preparation process.

An Overview of the ISEE

The Independent School Entrance Exam is used for admission to private elementary and secondary schools throughout the United States. There are four levels of the test – Primary, Lower, Middle, and Upper – each used in the admissions processes for students of different grade levels. Each level of the test is taken by students representing a range of ages, with the Middle Level test taken by students applying into grades seven and eight being the most common.

For more, see our complete breakdown of the ISEE, including details on test format, scoring, registration, test dates, and our approach to preparing for this test.

An Overview of the SSAT

The Secondary School Admissions Test is used for admission to private elementary, middle, and high schools throughout the United States. There are three levels of the test – Elementary, Middle, and Upper – each corresponding to one of the aforementioned three admissions processes. Each level of the test is taken by students across a range of ages, with the most common being the Upper Level taken by students applying into grades 9-12.


For more, see our complete breakdown of the SSAT, including details on test format, scoring, registration, test dates, and our approach to preparing for this test.

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To learn more about how we can help your family as it prepares to complete these application processes, schedule a free phone consultation with our team of Program Coordinators today!

An Overview Advanced Placement (AP) Tests

Overview

Advanced Placement classes give students the chance to take college-level courses, master college-level content, and earn college credit while still in high school. College Board offers almost 40 different AP courses in a variety of subject areas, and most American high schools offer some number of those to their students. Every AP course has a corresponding exam, which is administered at the end of the term, and most colleges and universities will offer credit only to students who achieve a certain score on the relevant AP exam.

Inspirica’s approach to AP-exams relies on finding the perfect balance between reviewing content and honing test strategy. Our tutors’ mastery of standardized-test strategy extends to AP exams, but we recognize that content makes up a more significant part of preparation for the AP exams than it does for many other tests. Given this, our tutors only qualify to work on AP programs if they have extensive knowledge of the specific test and its content; many even own graduate degrees in the relevant subject area. Your tutor will be an expert, and he or she will ensure that you go into test day feeling like an expert as well.

Format

The format of the AP exams varies from class to class, but most contain both multiple-choice and free-response sections to last approximately three hours. Visit the test-specific page below that corresponds to the course you’re taking for more information about the format of that particular test:

Scoring

All AP exams are scored on a scale that ranges from 1 to 5, and that score is the one that colleges will use to determine whether a student earns course credit and if so, how much. The requirements that must be met to attain each score vary from exam to exam depending on the composition of the specific test, but they are always determined by a committee of college professors using an introductory-level college course as a reference point. The weight of each portion of the exam also varies from test to test; visit the test-specific page below that corresponds to the course you’re taking for more information about the scoring of that particular test.

Registration and Test Dates

AP exams are administered in mid-May, at the end of their corresponding courses and near the end of the school year. Registration is done through a student’s College Board account and may be facilitated by the student’s counselor or AP teacher; visit the College Board website for more information.

Inspirica’s Approach

Success on an AP exam requires a demanding combination of content knowledge and mastery of test technique; fortunately, our tutors are experts in both. You’ll be matched with someone who is well-versed in the relevant content and who has a black belt in standardized-test strategy, and they’ll work with you to figure out your specific needs and how best to address them. We recognize that there are as many different types of AP students as there are AP tests, so whether you’re a content master who needs some coaching in process of elimination or a test-taker extraordinaire who needs someone to review your class notes with you, Inspirica has you covered.

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To learn more, schedule a free phone consultation with our team of Program Coordinators today!

An Overview of the LSAT

Overview

The Law School Admission Test (LSAT) is created by the Law School Admissions Council (LSAC)and is used for admission to law schools throughout the United States. As the LSAT is the most difficult of all the standardized tests used for graduate admissions, preparation tends to be extensive, often lasting six or more months and involving numerous practice tests. Most students test two or three times, with the dates scheduled far in advance.

The LSAT is a more “traditional” test than the GMAT and GRE: though it will transition to digital administration beginning in July 2019, it is not an adaptive test, which means that students will receive the same pre-selected set of questions regardless of their performance during the test. Inspirica’s approach to tutoring the LSAT focuses heavily on instilling proper technique for all the different question-types so that you can head into test day knowing that you won’t be surprised by anything the LSAT throws at you.

Format

The LSAT consists of five multiple-choice sections, four of which contribute to the student’s score. The scored sections include:

  • One Reading Comprehension section
    • 27 questions
    • 35 minutes
  • One Analytical Reasoning section (a.k.a. logic games)
    • 23 questions
    • 35 minutes
  • Two Logical Reasoning sections (a.k.a. arguments)
    • 25 questions
    • 35 minutes.
  • An additional section of one of the above types will be included with each test. Although this section will not affect a tester’s score, it will not be identifiable by the testers in any way, forcing them to complete it as if it were a regular test section. This variable section as it is used by LSAC to pretest questions and new question-type variations for upcoming tests.

The LSAT also includes an unscored writing sample, and as of June 2019, the this portion of the test is administered separately from the multiple-choice test at a time and place of each test-taker’s choosing. Visit LSAC’s Writing FAQs page for complete details on this process.

The LSAT is defined primarily by both its rigor and its pace. Every section forces students to process information of varying types and in varying formats while operating under severe time constraints. Combined with its nearly three-hour length, that challenge makes for a tough afternoon.

This is exemplified by the Analytical Reasoning section, which presents students with several scenarios of varying types; each scenario contains a number of rules, which interact in multifarious and convoluted ways. Students must plot out each scenario and answer questions that either introduce new information or require them to deduce certain immutable facts about the overall scenario, all while remembering to keep an eye on the clock. If this sounds challenging, that’s because it is! Fortunately, our LSAT programs focus heavily on mastering strategies for each distinct question-type, with the primary emphasis placed on the sections with which each individual student needs the most practice; you’ll go into test day fully prepared for the unique challenges of the LSAT.

Scoring

Test-takers receive a raw score for the test which is simply equal to the number of questions correctly answered. The LSAT does not deduct points for incorrect answers.

Then, using a process called equating, the LSAT will produce an overall scaled score for the entire test that ranges from 120 to 180; this ensures that scores from different LSAT administrations are comparable over time. The scaled score, which is reported along with an LSAT score band, is the best representation of a student’s performance on the LSAT, particularly since the LSAT does not calculate individual section scores as most other standardized tests do.

After each test date, unless cancelled within six calendar days of the test, a student’s scores are added to his or her score report. Each score report includes all of the following:

  • the score from your most recently completed test
  • results of up to 12 tests completed since June 2013, including notations marking any cancellations or absences.
  • An average score, if you have more than one reportable score since June 2013 .
  • a percentile rank for each reported score; these percentiles indicate the percentage of testers over the last three testing years whose scores were lower than the tester’s reported scores.

When the student applies to law schools, the entire score report is submitted with the application; the LSAT does not offer the option to pick and choose which scores are submitted.

Three times each year — in June, September, November — the LSAC offers tests “with disclosure.” These tests are released directly to test-takers along with their scores, allowing them to review the questions in full along with their scores. Once released, these tests become part of the publicly available set of official test materials and are never administered again.

Registration and Test Dates

The LSAT is administered every one to two months year-round at test centers approved by the LSAC, and there is no limit on the number of times a student can take the test. It’s generally to your advantage to test more than once: part of beating any test is giving yourself as many opportunities as necessary to succeed, and taking the test multiple times can be a great way to maximize your improvement. To search for nearby test centers and register to take the LSAT, visit the LSAC’s website and follow the corresponding instructions.

Inspirica’s Approach

Inspirica’s approach to tutoring the LSAT recognizes the differing needs of students applying to graduate programs. We’ve seen every type of student, from those who are in college and want to enroll in law school immediately upon graduation to those who have been out of college and working full-time for years. Our team will work with you to find a tutor who fits your availability, and your tutor will focus both on teaching technique and guiding your independent preparation as you practice those techniques on your own.

Like all other standardized tests, there are certain aspects of taking the LSAT that are impossible to replicate through homework alone, which is why regular practice tests are a staple of our programs. Your tutor will help you set up a schedule of periodic tests that will give you the opportunity to practice the techniques you’ve learned in the context of a full test while also familiarizing you with the experience of taking the full test. Though the format of the LSAT is more traditional than that of either the GRE and GMAT, the experience of taking the test must still be practiced, as the combination of length, difficulty, and timing makes it a grueling experience.

For LSAT programs, you’ll take official practice tests released by the LSAC. After every test, you and your tutor will review the results together in order to pinpoint exactly why and how your right answers were right and your wrong answers wrong. You’ll then use the insight gained during this process to revise your practice plan; you’ll be able to both see the product of your hard work and determine what part of the test to attack next.

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To learn more, schedule a free phone consultation with our team of Program Coordinators today!

An Overview of the GMAT

Overview

The Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT) was created by the Graduate Management Admission Council and is used by business schools throughout the United States for admissions. Much like the GRE, the GMAT involves material students often have not seen since high school, so preparation typically requires a mix of tutoring and extensive self-study. Testing is done on individually scheduled dates at private testing centers and using a computer system that adapts the test to each student’s individual performance. This question-adaptive computer interface is one of the most unique aspects of the GMAT, and it means that practicing the process of taking the test is just as important as mastering the content that is tested. Inspirica’s approach to tutoring the GMAT begins with this fact, and your tutor will ensure that you go into test day having had ample experience with the mechanics of taking the test.

Format

The GMAT is comprised of four sections and takes approximately 3 1/2 hours to complete

At the beginning of the test, students are given the opportunity to sequence their sections in one of three pre-selected orders. This gives each tester the flexibility to take the test in the sequence that best fits their individual strengths and weaknesses. The sequences are as follows:

  1. Analytical Writing, Integrated Reasoning, Quantitative, Verbal
  2. Verbal, Quantitative, Integrated Reasoning, Analytical Writing
  3. Quantitative, Verbal, Integrated Reasoning, Analytical Writing

The GMAT is a computer-adaptive test, which means that the difficulty of the test changes from question to question in response to the student’s performance. Because of this, the GMAT is only offered in digital form, and test-takers are not able to skip questions or change answers after they have been submitted, as the response to each question controls which question the tester gets next.

In addition to its unique interface, the GMAT also contains multiple question-types that are seldom or never seen on other tests. This is best illustrated by the Data Sufficiency question type, which provides students with a question and two informational statements, then challenges them to determine what combination of the given information is sufficient to answer the question. Even though students are not required to actually answer the question in order to get the problem correct, the difficulty of this question-type is often compounded by the presence of material with which students are rusty. If this sounds challenging, that’s because it is! Fortunately, our GMAT programs focus just as heavily on mastering strategies for each distinct question-type as they do on learning content, so you’ll go into test day fully prepared for anything the GMAT can throw at you.

Scoring

Each section of the GMAT receives an individual score. The essay is scored twice, once by a human grader and once by a computer, and the two scores are averaged to produce a final score from 0.0 to 6.0. The Integrated Reasoning section is scored purely based on the number of questions that a student answers correctly, and the final score will range from 1 to 8. Some Integrated Reasoning questions have multiple parts, and a student must answer every part correctly in order to receive credit for that question. Scoring for the Verbal and Quantitative sections is more complex, as each score takes into account several factors: the number of questions a student answers in the section; how many of those answers are correct; and the difficulty level of the questions answered.

In addition to the individual section scores, the GMAT will also produce a total score from 200 to 800, with two-thirds of test takers scoring between 400 and 600. The total score is the best single measure of a student’s performance on the test, and it is based only on the student’s performance in the Verbal and Quantitative sections.

Students will be able to see their unofficial scores immediately upon completing the test, and they will have two minutes to decide whether to accept the scores or cancel them. Once accepted, scores will appear on all score reports sent to schools over the next five years; the GMAT does not offer the option to pick and choose which scores are submitted.

Registration and Test Dates

A student can retake the GMAT once every 16 calendar days but no more than five times in a rolling 12-month period and no more than eight times total. The test is administered frequently and on all different days of the week, so a student’s testing schedule is typically determined by business school application deadlines and availability of seats at nearby test centers. Students can search for nearby test centers and register to take the test at the GMAC’s website using their mba.com account. If requesting accommodations for a disability, that request must be processed prior to scheduling a testing appointment

Inspirica’s Approach

Inspirica’s approach to tutoring the GMAT starts with recognizing the differing needs of students applying to graduate programs. We’ve seen every type of student, from those who are in college and want to enroll in business school immediately upon graduation to those who have been out of college and working full-time for years. Our team will work with you to find a tutor who fits your availability, and your tutor will focus both on teaching strategy and technique and on guiding your independent preparation as you practice those techniques and review content on your own, in whatever proportion is optimal for you.

More than most other standardized tests, there are certain aspects of taking the GMAT that are impossible to replicate through homework alone, which is one of the reasons that regular practice tests are a staple of our programs. Your tutor will help you set up a schedule of periodic mock tests that will give you the opportunity to practice the techniques you’ve learned in the context of a full test while also familiarizing you with the experience of taking the full test straight through. This practice with the test-taking experience is particularly important in GMAT programs, as students need to become comfortable with the question-adaptive computer interface. After each mock test, you and your tutor will go over the results together in detail, using them to revise your practice plan; you’ll be able to see the product of your hard work and determine what part of the test to attack next.

For GMAT programs, you’ll take official practice tests released by the GMAC using the same software that you’ll use when you take the real test. The practice version of the software scores the test in the same way the actual GMAT is scored but still allows you to review each question individually, giving you and your tutor the opportunity to deconstruct your results in order to pinpoint exactly why and how your right answers were right and your wrong answers wrong.

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To learn more, schedule a free phone consultation with our team of Program Coordinators today!

An Overview of the GRE

Overview

The Graduate Record Examination General Test, or GRE General Test, is a standardized-test created by the Educational Testing Service (ETS), the firm behind the previous versions of the SAT. As a central component of the graduate school application process, this test is taken by students who have either completed or are close to completing their undergraduate degrees. It is required by nearly every graduate program in the United States as part of their application processes, and it is also often accepted by business and law schools in place of either the GMAT or LSAT. Students interested in pursuing advanced degrees should therefore expect to prepare for and take this test, which is often thought of as the “big brother” of the SAT: a 3-hour and 45-minute challenge that tests your algebra, geometry, data analysis, vocabulary, and advanced reading comprehension skills. Unlike the SAT, however, the GRE is typically administered via computer, so Inspirica’s approach to the test includes a mix of content, structure, and strategy, preparing you for the variety of complex tasks you will face on test day.

Format

The GRE is comprised of five scored test sections and one unscored section across three categories. These sections each test a different aspect of the test-taker’s readiness for a graduate program:

  • One Analytical Writing Section: This is an essay section in which students have 60 minutes to answer two questions designed to challenge their analytical reasoning abilities. On the first question-type, which the test calls Analyze an Issue, students are asked to take a position on an issue presented to them in text. On the second question-type, which the test calls Analyze an Argument, students are asked to evaluate the components of a short, argumentative essay.
  • Two Verbal Reasoning Sections: These sections are designed to test a student’s ability to quickly read and comprehend graduate-level texts, to analyze and draw conclusions from those texts, and to understand logical relationships between component sentences of those texts. Each section is 30 minutes long and includes several question types, including text completion, sentence equivalence, and reading comprehension.
  • Two Quantitative Reasoning Sections: These sections are designed to test a student’s competencies in math, and can include basic arithmetic, algebra, geometry, and data analysis questions. Most of the topics in these sections were covered in high school, and there is no higher-level math typical of college courses found here. Questions include both the numeric-entry and multiple-choice question types that will be familiar to most students, as well as the unique Quantitative Comparison format, which requires students to determine the relationship between two quantities or sets of equations.
  • One of two unscored section-types is usually included with each test:
    • Unscored Section: An unidentified section that is identical in format to one of the above sections but does not count towards a student’s the final score is usually included among the sections. It may appear in any order after the Analytical Writing section, and is used by ETS to test future questions and benchmark the current test against past offerings. Because this test section will be indistinguishable from the other sections, students must complete it assuming that it is real,
    • Research Section: An identified section that does not count towards the final test score and that features questions and question-types dissimilar to the rest of the test. This section, should it appear, will always appear after all other sections.

The GRE is nearly always administered digitally, with test-takers viewing one question at a time on a computer screen and either choosing a multiple-choice answer or inputting a number using the mouse and keyboard. Questions can be marked for review within a section, allowing students to skip and return to them before time runs out. This computer-delivered version of the test is section-level adaptive, meaning that the computer selects the second Verbal and Quantitative sections based on the student’s performance in the first. The better one does in the first section, the more difficult the second section and the higher the final section scores are likely to be. Finally, although students are not allowed to bring personal calculators with them into the testing center, they will be provided with a basic calculator on-screen during the test along with the scratch paper necessary to do work by hand.

Scoring

At the end of a computer-delivered testing session, students are given the option of validating the test-session and viewing their scores or cancelling the without the scores. There is no option for seeing the scores prior to making this selection. Once validated, students are presented with an unofficial versions of both their Verbal Reasoning and Quantitative Reasoning scores, which are broken down as follows:

  • a Verbal Reasoning score on a 130–170 score scale and in 1-point increments
  • a Quantitative Reasoning score on a 130–170 score scale and in 1-point increments
  • an Analytical Writing score on a 0–6 score scale and in half-point increments

On computer-delivered tests, the Verbal and Quantitative sections are section-level adaptive, which means that the version of the second section each student receives depends on their performance in the first. By calculating the number of questions correctly answered in both sections and using a statistical process known as equating, the system is able to calculate two scaled scores that take into account the adaptive nature of the testing software. The results in both sections are non-linear scoring curves and scales that require multiple official PDFs to explain. For example, although the mean score in both sections is in the very low 150’s, the 90th percentile is in around 161 for the Verbal Reasoning section but around 166 for the Quantitative Reasoning section. When combined with target scores from the graduate programs to which you intend to apply, the in’s and out’s of these scales become an essential part of any preparation process.

The Analytical Writing score does not appear among the scores on the unofficial report presented to students on test day. Because scoring in this section involves the input of both a human and machine grader, this score will not be available until several weeks after the test day. Essays are graded holistically on a six point scale, first by the human grade and then by the e-rater. If the two scores are equal or within one point of one another, then the final score is calculated by averaging the two; if the two disagree by more than a point, then the e-rater score is rejected, a second human score is obtained, and the two human scores are averaged to produce the final, official score.

Registration and Test Dates

The GRE is offered year-round at more than 1,000 private testing centers around the world, and reservations for a specific center at a specific date and time must be made in advance. While you may take the GRE once every 21 days, you may not take it more than five times in a single 12-month period. Because students may tests several times, and because there is no penalty for doing so, it is nearly always a good idea to test more than once. For complete details on the registration process, see the official GRE site.

Requests for accommodations for students with disabilities or health-related needs must be made prior to scheduling a test date and using the procedures detailed on the ETS site. Once accommodations have been approved, ETS will provide instructions for completing the registration by email.

Paper-delivered tests are only available to students in areas of the world where the computer-delivered test is unavailable, and registration for these can be completed online or by postal mail.

Inspirica’s Approach

Inspirica’s approach to tutoring the GRE begins by identifying the needs of each individual student and finding the perfect tutor match for them. The GRE covers a wide range of topics, which often poses a challenge for undergraduates who spent their time in college specializing in a field of interest. Given this, many students who come to us have not studied math or English grammar since high school yet still need to perform well in those topics on the test. As a result, most of our GRE programs are somewhat lopsided, focusing much more on one section of the test while still working to fill in any gaps in knowledge in the other.

Programs typically meet once a week for a total of ten to twelve weeks, with the first official test taking place during the second month of preparation. Sessions are usually review a mix of strategies, structure, timing, and question-types, and homework is completed between sessions. Because these programs involve older students, they tend to be much more self-directed, with students doing considerable amounts of review and preparation between sessions on their own. Our tutors therefore take on the roles of coach and mentor throughout these programs, guiding the self-directed student in their work towards what are usually very specific goals.

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An Overview of the SAT Subject Tests

Overview

The SAT Subject Tests are a collection of twenty hour-long, subject-specific tests that focus on subjects traditionally offered to students in high schools throughout the United States. The results of these tests are used in the college application process in a variety of ways, with many schools requiring the submission of two different SAT Subject tests along with their application. These tests are therefore best understood as an opportunity for each student to demonstrate his or her skills in specific subjects in order to differentiate themselves from the competition. Preparation for the SAT Subject Tests is typically done over the course of four to six weeks and involves two full-length mock tests, and most students take each Subject Test no more than twice.

Here is the complete list of Subject Tests we tutor:

  • Mathematics Level 1 and Level 2
  • Biology E/M
  • Chemistry
  • Physics
  • United States History
  • World History
  • Literature
  • Latin
  • Spanish

Format

While each SAT Subject Test is different, each is an hour long. The tests also vary in number of questions, but most have between 60 and 80 questions. Most of these questions are traditional multiple-choice questions, but several of the test have “matching” questions in which students match multiple-choice answers to a list of definitions, and the Chemistry test has a unique 15-question true/false section that usually requires extensive preparation. Finally, six of the nine language tests can be taken with or without listening sections.

Scoring

First, testers receive a raw score that is the equal to the number of questions correctly answered minus a fraction of a point for every wrong answer: 1/4 point is subtracted for incorrect five-choice questions, 1/3 point is subtracted for incorrect four-choice questions, and 1/2 point is subtracted for incorrect three-choice questions. No points are deducted for unanswered questions, making guessing and skipping strategies essential to test-day success.

The resulting raw score is then converted to a scaled score of 200 to 800 points, the same scale used on the SAT. As with that test, the statistical process known as equating is used to ensure that scores are comparable across five years’ worth of testing results. Among other things, this guarantees that there is no advantage to taking the test on one testing date over another. Each Subject Test has its own scale and its own dataset, so the raw score required any given scaled score varies widely from test to test. In some instances, such as the Math Level 1, a near-perfect raw score is required to get a perfect scaled score, but in others, such as the Math Level 2, students can miss a number of questions while still receiving a perfect scaled score. Finally, percentile ranks are used to compare these individual scaled scores to the entire group of testers.

Once you receive your scores, usually two weeks after testing, you may send them to the college of your choice using the College Board’s website. This process is typically all you need to do in order to include test scores as part of your college application, but check with your school college counselor to make sure you haven’t missed anything. SAT Subject Test results never expire, so you can use results for years after you take the test.

There is only one reported score on each SAT Subject Test, so there are no opportunities for superscoring. However, if you decide to test more than once, you may choose which of the scores you send using the College Board’s Score Choice program as part of your application. Many students therefore take each test twice in order to take advantage of the opportunities this program provides.

Registration and Test Dates

The SAT Subject Tests are administered six times each year at the same times and places as the SAT, with only the March test date not offering these tests. Because the SAT and the SAT Subject Tests take place at the same time, students cannot take both on the same day, requiring advanced planning for those students intending to submit scores from both tests with their applications. Further complicating things, testers may take up to three Subject Tests on the same day, but not every topic is offered on every test date, so students need to carefully plan their testing calendar out well in advance.

Students can register for as many SAT Subject Tests as they like, though most students take no more than three subjects during the entire testing process. Up to three tests can be taken on any given test date, although we recommend most students limit themselves to two, as fatigue often affects performance on the third test of the day. Scores are usually reported to students within two weeks of testing, with only the June results typically taking longer. Visit the College Board website for more information or to register for tests.

Inspirica’s Approach

The SAT Subject Tests are shorter than the other standardized tests we tutors and cover fewer topics but in much greater depth. Prep programs are therefore usually short, often no more than four to six weeks, with only the science tests usually requiring multi-month programs. When students plan to take these tests in conjunction with their Advanced Placement (AP) Tests , however, preparation tends to be longer, with programs usually beginning in February or March and continuing through the May, June, or August test dates.

In sessions, tutors begin with a brief overview of all the main content areas covered by the test, then use the results of a diagnostic test to focus in on specific problem areas. In the early sessions, work focuses on understanding the role of the structure of the test in test scores, including the roles of timing, question sequencing and skipping, and the importance of avoiding the penalty for guessing incorrectly. As students become more comfortable with the test’s structure, tutors spend more time on specific content areas, grounding practice in official published test questions as often as possible.

The best time to take an SAT Subject Test is at the end of the school year in which a student took the subject, maximizing the likelihood that the information will still be fresh in each student’s mind. Because each school system and each teacher offers their own take on each subject, no student comes in having covered every topic in school that will on the test. New concepts will therefore often be covered in tutoring sessions, each of which will require additional study between sessions.

Prep will also include a number of practice tests using official materials. Although these tests can be taken at one of our testing centers, because they are each only one hour in length, most students find it more convenient to take these tests at home. Your tutor will work with you to determine the best schedule for taking these tests prior to your first official test date.

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To learn more, schedule a free phone consultation with our Program Coordinators today!

An Overview of the ISEE

Overview

The Independent School Entrance Exam is used for admission to private elementary and secondary schools throughout the United States. There are four levels of the test – Primary, Lower, Middle, and Upper – each used in the admissions processes for students of different grade levels. Each level of the test is taken by students representing a range of ages, with the Middle Level test taken by students applying into grades 7 and 8 the most common. Inspirica’s approach to the ISEE starts with the fact that a student’s experience with the test will vary significantly depending on their age, which means that the optimal course of preparation will vary as well. Your tutor will help determine the best way for your child to prepare and then use that plan to ensure that your child is in the best possible position going into test day.

Format

Each of the Lower, Middle, and Upper Levels of the ISEE is composed of four multiple-choice sections followed by an essay prompt. The four multiple-choice sections are, in order, Verbal Reasoning, Quantitative Reasoning, Reading Comprehension, and Mathematics Achievement; the length of the sections, in terms of both the number of questions and amount of time allotted per section, differs significantly among the three levels. The Primary Level test is entirely distinct from the others, as it’s structured very differently and has several subtypes depending on the age of the student. Visit the ISEE’s website for detailed information on the level of the test that your child will be taking.

The defining feature of the ISEE is the difficult blend of content knowledge and testing techniques that it requires from students. This is best seen in the Quantitative Reasoning section of the Upper and Middle Level tests, where the quantitative comparison question-type tests challenging math concepts using a format that is entirely foreign to most students, making preparation twice as difficult. Don’t stress, though: our ISEE programs blend content and technique in whatever proportion is optimal for each individual student, so we’ll make sure that your child goes into test day as prepared as possible.

Scoring

First, your child’s raw score will be calculated for each of the four multiple-choice sections on the ISEE; this raw score is simply equal to the number of questions that your child answered correctly in each section, as the ISEE does not apply a wrong-answer penalty.

Then, using a process called equating, the ISEE will produce a scaled score for each section; these scaled scores take into account the difficulty level of the sections that your child completed relative to the difficulty levels of sections that previous test-takers have completed.

Finally, the ISEE will compare your child’s scaled scores to those of previous test-takers and produce a percentile and a stanine for each section. A stanine is a score from 1 to 9 that is relates a student’s raw score to its location on a bell curve. More than half of all students will score in the 4-6 range, with progressively fewer students obtaining a given stanine as the scores get further from the mean of 5. A student with a stanine of 8 will be among the top 11% of testers; a student with a stanine of 9 will be among the top 4%.

The essay is unscored and will simply be included as a timed writing sample available to schools along with submitted scores.

It is important to note that the scaled scores, percentile scores, and stanines your child receives are calculated by comparing their results only to students of the same grade and gender. Because of this, a 6th grader does not need to get nearly as many questions correct on the Middle Level test as a 7th grader does in order to attain a given stanine.

The ISEE itself does not superscore, or combine individual section percentiles from multiple test dates to obtain a maximum overall percentile; if you wish to send scores from multiple test dates to schools, you must send the entire score report from each test date.

You can pick and choose which test dates you send to schools through your account on the ISEE’s website, however; additionally, many schools will perform their own version of superscoring by combining the highest score for each section from the score reports that you submit in order to get a picture of your child’s “best” performance on the ISEE. For the most accurate information about how an individual school handles superscoring, be sure to contact that school’s admissions department directly.

Registration and Test Dates

The ISEE is administered using a testing seasons calendar that divides the year into three 4-month periods: August-November, December-March, and April-July. A student may test once in each of the three seasons for a maximum of three times per calendar year. Tests can be taken at a variety of ERB-approved sites that include both schools and Educational Consultants’ offices.

It is generally to your child’s advantage to test more than once. Part of beating any test is giving yourself as many opportunities as necessary to succeed, and taking the test multiple times can be a great way for your child to maximize their improvement. To register for the ISEE, visit their website and follow the corresponding instructions.

The ISEE makes every effort to accommodate students who are unable to take the ISEE under standard conditions due to documented learning differences or physical challenges. Accommodations that a student receives are not flagged on score reports. To request ISEE accommodations, you must create a parent account and submit your application directly through the ISEE website. Complete instructions can be found here, along with information on how to contact ERB should you have any questions or concerns.

Inspirica’s Approach

For most students, the ISEE represents a challenging combination of entirely unfamiliar material and familiar material presented in an entirely unfamiliar way. Homework in our ISEE programs includes drills centered on specific content areas, practice with individual question-types, and perhaps the most important component – timed test sections. This blend of practice will ensure that your child is addressing every element needed to be successful on the ISEE, from content to timing to overall strategy, and your child’s tutor will go over each assignment with your child question by question to maximize its impact.

There are certain aspects of taking the ISEE that are impossible to replicate through homework alone, which is why regular practice tests are a staple of our programs. Your tutor will help set up a schedule of periodic practice tests that will give your child the opportunity to practice the techniques they have learned while also familiarizing them with the experience of taking the full test straight through. Then, your child and their tutor will go over the results together in detail, using them to craft an updated practice plan.

For ISEE programs, students take practice tests using the Test Innovators platform. This system constructs its practice tests using an extensive pool of data gathered from students, parents, and counselors, allowing them to mirror the question-types and content that appear on the real test. The platform tracks a student’s work in real time on a question-by-question basis, allowing your tutor to deconstruct their results in order to pinpoint exactly why and how the right answers were right and the wrong answers wrong.

Get Started Today

To learn more about our ISEE tutoring, please schedule a call with one of our Program Coordinators.

An Overview of the SSAT

Overview

The Secondary School Admissions Test is used for admission to private elementary, middle, and high schools throughout the United States. There are three levels of the test – Elementary, Middle, and Upper – each corresponding to one of the aforementioned three admissions processes. Each level of the test is taken by students across a range of ages, with the most common being the Upper Level taken by students applying into grades 9-12. Inspirica’s approach to the SSAT starts with the fact that a student’s experience with the test will vary significantly depending on their age, which means that the optimal course of preparation will vary as well. Your tutor will help determine the best way for your child to prepare and then use that plan to ensure that your child is in the best possible position going into test day.

Format

Each of the three levels of the SSAT is composed of an essay prompt and several multiple-choice sections that fall into one of three categories: Quantitative, Verbal, and Reading. The number, order, and length of the sections differ significantly between the three levels, however; visit the SSAT’s website for detailed information on the level of the test that your child will be taking.

The defining feature of the SSAT is the difficult blend of content knowledge and refined technique that it requires from test-takers. This is best seen in the Verbal section, where the analogy question-type combines challenging vocabulary with a question format that is unfamiliar to most students, making preparation twice as difficult. Don’t stress, though: our SSAT programs blend content and technique in whatever proportion is optimal for each individual student, so we’ll make sure that your child goes into test day as prepared as possible.

Scoring

First, your child’s raw score will be calculated for each of the three types of multiple-choice section on the SSAT. On the Elementary Level test, this score is simply equal to the number of questions your child answered correctly in that section; no penalty is applied for incorrect answers. On the Middle Level and Upper Level tests, however, a penalty of one-quarter point is deducted from for each incorrect answer.

Then, using a process called equating, the SSAT will produce a scaled score for each type of section; these scaled scores take into account the difficulty level of the sections that your child completed relative to the difficulty levels of sections that previous test-takers have completed.

Finally, the SSAT will compare your child’s scaled scores to those of previous test-takers and produce a percentile for each type of section, as well as an overall percentile. The essay is unscored and will simply be included as a timed writing sample if you choose to submit the score report for that test date to schools.

It is important to note that the scaled scores and percentile scores your child receives are calculated by comparing their results only to students of the same grade and gender. Because of this, an 8th grader does not need to get nearly as many questions correct on the Upper Level test as an 11th grader does in order to attain a given percentile score.

The SSAT itself does not superscore, or combine individual section scores from multiple test dates to obtain a maximum overall percentile; if you wish to send scores from multiple test dates to schools, you must send the entire score report from each test date. You can, however, pick and choose which test dates you send to schools through your account on the SSAT’s website.

Many schools will perform their own version of superscoring by combining the highest score for each section from the score reports that you submit in order to get a picture of your child’s “best” performance on the SSAT. For the most accurate information about how an individual school handles superscoring, be sure to contact that school’s admissions department directly.

Registration and Test Dates

The Middle and Upper Level tests are administered on eight Standard test dates each year, while the Elementary Level test is administered on five of those dates. Standard testing is administered at official test centers, which are typically schools approved by the SSAT. You can search for the test center closest to you using the SSAT’s test center locator.

Additionally, all students are allowed to schedule one Flex test date. Flex tests are typically administered at the offices of independent Educational Consultants rather than at schools and are therefore not bound by the same schedule as Standard tests. To register for a flex test date, you will need an access code which can only be obtained directly from the educational consultant with which you are scheduled to tests. You should therefore only register for a Flex test date after making your appointment with your EC.

Between the eight Standard tests and one Flex test, each student is able to take the SSAT up to nine times in a calendar year, school application deadlines permitting, and it’s generally to your child’s advantage to test more than once. Part of beating any test is giving yourself as many opportunities as necessary to succeed, and taking the test multiple times can be a great way for your child to maximize their improvement.

To register for the SSAT, visit their site and follow the corresponding instructions. Testing accommodations must be approved prior to test registration and will expire during the summer following the testing season. Please note that it is the responsibility of a each family to provide the equipment, materials, and personnel necessary to support approved accommodations. For more information, please refer to the Testing Accommodation Guide for Students available through the SSAT website.

Inspirica’s Approach

For most students, the SSAT represents a challenging combination of entirely unfamiliar material and familiar material presented in an entirely unfamiliar way. Typical homework in our SSAT programs includes drills centered on specific content areas, practice with individual question-types, and perhaps the most important component – timed test sections. This will ensure that your child is addressing every element needed to be successful on the SSAT, from content to timing to overall strategy, and your child’s tutor will go over each assignment with your child question by question to maximize its impact.

There are certain aspects of taking the SSAT that are impossible to replicate through homework alone, which is why regular practice tests are a staple of our programs. Your child’s tutor will help set up a schedule of periodic practice tests that provide the opportunity to practice the techniques they have learned while familiarizing them with the experience of taking the full test straight through. Then, your tutor will go over the results in detail, using them to craft an updated practice plan.

For SSAT programs, students take practice tests using the Test Innovators platform. This system constructs its tests using an extensive pool of data gathered from students, parents, and counselors, which allows them to mirror the question-types and content that appear on the real test. The TI platform tracks a student’s work in real time, allowing their tutor to deconstruct their results in order to pinpoint exactly why and how the right answers were right and the wrong answers wrong.

Get Started Today

To learn more about how we can help your child prepare for his or her SSAT, schedule a consultation with one of our Program Coordinators today.

An Overview of the PSAT

Overview

The Preliminary SAT, like the SAT, is a creation of the College Board, and it is generally taken by students during the fall of their junior year. PSAT scores are not used during the college admissions process; instead, the test serves both as practice for the SAT and as an opportunity for students to qualify for a National Merit Scholarship. Students seeking recognition in the annual National Merit Scholarship competition often spend a month or two preparing for the October test during their junior years in order to maximize their chances for recognition.

Format

The PSAT is comprised of four primarily multiple-choice sections and is organized as follows:

The content of the PSAT is very similar to that of the SAT; however, most PSAT sections are slightly shorter, in terms of both the number of questions and the time allotted to complete the section, and the ceiling of question difficulty is a bit lower than on the SAT. Our PSAT programs focus on mastering strategies and learning content that will both improve a student’s chances of scoring highly on the PSAT and begin preparing them for the SAT.

Scoring

You’ll receive a raw score for each of the four multiple-choice sections on the PSAT that is equal to the number of questions you answered correctly in that section; no penalty is applied for incorrect answers. Your raw scores for the two Math sections will be added together to produce a single overall Math raw score.

Then, using a process called equating, the PSAT will produce a scaled score from 160 to 760 for Math and from 80 to 380 for each of the other two sections; these scaled scores take into account the difficulty level of the sections that you completed relative to the difficulty levels of sections that previous test-takers have completed, which ensures that scores from different versions of the PSAT are comparable.

Finally, your three scaled scores will be added together to produce an overall composite score from 320 to 1520; this score is the best single measure of your performance on the test, and it’s the score that will be used to judge your candidacy for a National Merit Scholarship.

As cosponsor of the test, the National Merit Scholarship Corporation (NMSC) receives all PSAT/NMSQT scores and the information students provide on their answer sheets. NMSC then computes a Selection Index score for each student by doubling the sum of the Reading, Writing and Language, and Math Test scores. This Selection Index will appear on your PSAT score report, and it will be used by NMSX to identify program Semifinalists, each of whom will be notified directly by their high schools. Recognition is determined on a state-by-state basis, with the top 1% in each state qualifying as Semifinalists. Among that group, about 15,000 students move on to become National Merit Finalists and win scholarship money. For complete details on the program, visit the NMSC’s website or talk with your school counselors.

Registration and Test Dates

The PSAT is administered through each student’s high school on dates determined by the school. Generally, this date falls somewhere between October 10 and October 24. There is also a PSAT 10 that is sometimes taken by 10th graders and serves as a warm-up for the PSAT; the PSAT 10 is generally administered in the spring of a student’s sophomore year.

Inspirica’s Approach

Most students will not prepare for the PSAT unless they intended to seek recognition in the National Merit program. Because those students are by definition seeking scores among the top 1% of students in their state, the preparation tends to be highly customized to the needs of each student. Such programs typically begin in the later half of the summer before the student’s junior year and run right up to the test day itself. And because the significant overlap between the PSAT and SAT, most of these students then continue on with SAT preparation through the winter of that year.

When it comes to the PSAT, we understand that the structure of the test is part of the challenge of the test; it takes more than just memorizing the quadratic formula to ace the PSAT Math section. Typical homework in our PSAT programs includes drills centered on specific content areas, practice with individual question-types, and perhaps the most important component – timed test sections. This blend of practice will ensure that you’re addressing every element needed to be successful on the PSAT, from content to timing to overall strategy, and your tutor will go over each assignment with you question by question to maximize what your results.

Get Started Today

To learn more about how we can help you prep for the PSAT, schedule a free consultation with one of our Program Coordinators today.

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