The Best Review Books for the ISEE and SSAT

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Students applying to private school for admission into grades five through twelve and the postgraduate year must take private school admissions tests such as the ISEE and SSAT. Each year, more than 60,000 students take the SSAT alone. These tests are considered to be a crucial part of the admission process, and schools consider a student's performance on the test as an indicator for potential success. As such, it's important to prepare for the tests and do your best. 

The ISEE and SSAT are slightly different tests. The SSAT contains sections that ask students analogies, synonyms, reading comprehension, and math questions, and the ISEE includes synonyms, fill-in-the-sentence-blanks, reading comprehension, and math sections, and both tests include an essay, which is not graded but is sent to the schools to which the students are applying.

Students can prepare for these exams by using one of the review guides on the market. Here are some of the guides and what they offer to prepare students for these tests:

This book includes review sections and practice tests. The section on word roots is particularly helpful, as it introduces students to common word roots that they can use to build their vocabulary. The end of the book includes two practice SSAT tests and two practice ISEE tests. The only drawback is that the practice tests are only for students taking the middle- or upper-level tests, meaning that students taking the lower-level tests (students who are currently in grades 4 and 5 for the ISEE and students who are currently in grades 5-7 for the SSAT) should use a different review guide that includes lower-level tests. Some test-takers have reported that the math problems on the practice tests in the Barron's book are harder than those on the actual test.

McGraw-Hill's book includes a review of the content on the ISEE and SSAT, strategies for test-taking, and six practice tests. The practice tests for the ISEE include lower-level, middle-level, and upper-level tests, meaning that students can get more specific practice for the test they will be taking. The strategies for the essay section are particularly helpful, as they explain to students the process of writing the essay and provide samples of written and revised essays.

Written by the Princeton Review, this study guide includes updated practice materials and a review of the content on both tests. Their "hit parade" of the most commonly occurring vocabulary words is helpful, and the book offers five practice tests, two for the SSAT and one for each level of the ISEE (lower-, middle-, and upper-level).

Kaplan's resource offers students a review of the content on each section of the test, as well as practice questions and strategies for test-taking. The book contains three practice tests for the SSAT and three practice tests for the ISEE, covering the lower-, middle-, and upper-level exams. The exercises in the book provide a great deal of practice for potential test-takers. This book is especially good for lower-level ISEE test-takers, as it provides practice tests geared to their level.

The best way students can use these books is to review unfamiliar content and to then take practice tests under timed conditions. Students should be sure to look at not only the content of the tests but also the strategies for each section, and they should also follow sound test-taking strategies. For example, they should not get stuck on any one question, and they should use their time wisely. Students should start practicing several months in advance so they are prepared for the test. Students and parents can also learn more about the way the tests are scored so they can prepare for their results.

Different schools require different tests, so be sure to check with the school you are applying to about which tests they require. Many private schools will accept either test, but the SSAT seems to be the more preferred option for schools. Students applying as juniors or older often have the option to submit PSAT or SAT scores instead of the SSAT. Ask the admission office if that is acceptable though. 

Article edited by Stacy Jagodowski