At Greenwich Education Group, we often field questions from prospective parents who want to know if their kids should take the Independent School Entrance Exam (ISEE), or the Secondary School Admission Test (SSAT). As with the more widely known SAT and ACT college entrance exams, it’s not immediately clear what differentiates one test from the other. In this article, we’ll provide some advice about how to determine which test best suits your child. In a future article, we will offer tips that your child can use to master each section of the exam.
First, assemble a list of the schools that your child is considering. Then find out if any schools prefer one entrance exam to the other. Often, schools will accept either, though boarding schools typically only accept the SSAT. Figuring out if a school requires a particular test will be the most important distinction in this process.
If you have reviewed the entrance requirements for your child’s select schools and you are still unsure about which test your child should take, have no fear! There are several important factors that will help you to determine which test your child has the best shot of acing.
Differentiating Between the ISEE and SSAT
The ISEE and SSAT each include five sections: two verbal, two mathematical, and one essay.
Generally, the ISEE is regarded as the better test for math whizzes, while the SSAT is thought to be the better test for bookworms. That said, those are oversimplified summaries, so I’ll go through some concrete examples from each test to give you a feel for what your child will face on test day.
To begin with, let’s compare the math sections on each test.
Both tests contain straightforward questions that students will be familiar with from their math classes, such as:
Heather has ⅓ of a pizza and Maria has ¼ of the pizza. Between the two of them, how much of the pizza do they have?
Or a simple algebraic expression that students must solve:
The expression 5(x+7) is equivalent to…
Of the two exams, the SSAT places a greater emphasis on “Quantitative Reasoning.” In this section, students will encounter word problems, diagrams, and scenarios with which they are unfamiliar and be asked to figure them out.
When not written as an explicit mathematical expression like: Solve for x when x+5=17, Quantitative Reasoning problems usually take a form similar to this:
Michelle asked 500 students at her school which of them had at least one sibling. If 150 students said they had at least one brother, and 370 students said they had at least one sister, how many students have at least one sister and at least one brother?
Such Quantitative Reasoning questions require students to extract an algebraic equation from text. These questions seek to evaluate a student’s underlying comprehension of math, versus his/her ability to compute explicit math problems, such as the above algebra question.
While the ISEE has its own Quantitative Reasoning section, only a portion of the section is comprised of such word problems. The other part of this section consists of “quantitative comparisons,” in which students are asked to choose the larger of two mathematical expressions.
For example: Which is larger?