## Cathy N. (Natick, MA)

“We are so grateful that we found Prepped and Polished online tutoring services, and that Alexis set us up with our ISEE and Writing tutor, Terri! Terri, you have been such a huge help for our daughter—both in her confidence level and her academics!!! We can’t thank you enough!!!”

December 13th, 2013
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## Six Insider Tips to Attack and Master the ISEE Sentence Completions

By Terri K., ISEE Test Prep Instructor, Prepped & Polished, LLC

The ISEE has a Verbal Reasoning section that contains 20 sentence completions. These questions are designed to test a student’s vocabulary and reasoning ability. Each sentence completion item consists of a sentence with one missing word or pair of words followed by four potential answer choices. The student is the “detective” who must decipher the clues and select the correct word or pair of words that most appropriately completes the context of the sentence (keeping the sentence clear, logical, and consistent in style and tone). Sentence completion questions are arranged in order of difficulty from easiest to hardest. (Tip: Sentence completion questions come after synonym questions in the ISEE Verbal Reasoning section, but you can choose to do these questions first if you find them easier to answer).

Here are some tried and true tips and elimination strategies that will help you to more quickly attack and master the 20 sentence completions, since you only have approximately 30 seconds for each question:

1) A Strong Vocabulary: First and foremost, a strong vocabulary is an essential skill for the ISEE sentence completions. The best way to prepare and to strengthen vocabulary is to read all types of material as part of your daily routine. Take the time to look up unfamiliar words that you encounter and to make flashcards. Making connections with words helps to remember them (include definition, sentence, root, history, and even a picture, synonym or trigger word as a memory aide).

2) Look for Familiar Word Parts (Roots, Prefixes): Knowing roots of words is a great aid in figuring out correct answers. Again, looking up words in the dictionary and adding roots to your flashcards will make a huge difference. For example: the root MOR (or MORT or MORS) means death in Latin. Now, even if you do not know the definition, you can more confidently guess the meaning of words such as mortuary (dead bodies are kept in a mortuary), mortician (prepares dead bodies for a funeral), immortal (cannot die). Other common roots are sub (under as in subterranean or submarine), extra (beyond – as in extraterrestrial), terra (Earth – as in terrain), geo (earth, ground as in geology), mar (sea as in maritime), anima (spirit as in animated), mal (bad as in malevolent).

Example:
Always ——-, the journalist actively questioned the relevant viewpoints on both sides of the issue.
(A) enigmatic
(B) ignoble
(C) impartial
(D) partisan
When reading this sentence, you might recognize that the journalist is fair and unbiased. “Impartial” (choice C) is a synonym for fair.

4) Signal Words: There is almost always a word that obviously points to the correct answer. These signal words are clues that can aid you in figuring out what the sentence actually means.

– Support Signals – look for words/phrases that indicate that the blank continues a thought developed elsewhere in the sentence (examples: and, moreover, in addition, furthermore). A synonym or near-synonym should provide the correct answer. Example:
Mr. Jones is an intelligent and ——– teacher: his knowledge is matched only by his concern for his students.
(A) caring
(B) experienced
(C) unusual
(D) original
(choice A) caring is the answer, a synonym for concern.

– Contrast Signals – look for words/phrases that indicate a contrast between one idea and another (examples: but, although, however, even though, despite)
Example:
Although much of the worst pollution has been ——- in the United States, traces of many toxic chemicals still ——-.
(A) discussed . . . escape
(B) eliminated . . . persist
(C) exaggerated . . . remain
(D) foreseen . . . arise
(choice B) is the correct answer. “Although” is the clue that indicates a contrast and signals you to look for words with opposite or different meanings (eliminated, persist).

– Cause and Effect Signals – look for words/phrases that show that one thing causes another (examples: because, since, for, therefore, as a result, due to, though).
Example:
Because Martha was naturally ——-, she would see the bright side of any situation, but Jack had a ——- personality and always waited for something bad to happen.
(A) cheerful…upbeat
(B) frightened…mawkish
(C) optimistic…dismal
(D) realistic…unreasonable
(choice C) is the correct answer. “Because” is the clue that indicates cause and effect. Note: The word “but” indicates a contrast between Martha and Jack’s personalities.

5) Take One Blank At A Time: Double-blank sentences can seem daunting, but they are actually easier because they supply more clues. After you read through the entire sentence for meaning, insert the first word of each answer pair in the sentence’s first blank. Does it make sense? If not, you can eliminate the entire pair. Next, check out the second word of each of the remaining answer pairs. Both words must make sense when used together.
Example:
The skydiver was ——- to survive after his parachute operated ——-.
(A) unable…perfectly
(B) anxious…instinctively
(D) fortunate…improperly
(choice D) is the correct answer. It is the only choice where both words make sense.

6) Eliminating/Guessing: Even if you can’t eliminate any choices, you should guess. There is no guessing penalty on the ISEE. Never leave a question blank. Of course, eliminate before you guess using the strategies that you have learned. On sentence completions, you are looking for the best answer, so use the clues that must be there, in order for the question to have one answer that is better than the others. If you only have a minute left and you are not yet done, fill in all remaining sentence completions.

Summary – 6-step strategic plan to answer sentence completion questions:
– Read the sentence to get the overall meaning.
– Look for clue words that show how sentence parts are related.
– Use the clue words to anticipate the answer based on the relationship indicated.
– If you still cannot determine the best answer, eliminate answer choices that clearly do not make sense. Then guess from among the remaining answer choices.

Which level of the ISEE are you getting ready for? Did you find these tips helpful?

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Terri graduated magna cum laude, Phi Beta Kappa from the University of Connecticut, with a dual degree in Education and English. She has 15 years of teaching and tutoring experience as a licensed teacher (Grades 5-12). Terri works with students from elementary school through college, and serves as an incredible resource when it comes to preparing for standardized tests (SAT, ACT, SSAT, ISEE, MCAS). em>

August 15th, 2013
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## Mary S. (Wellesley, MA)

“Our son was accepted into Belmont Hill and St. Sebastian’s. We are thrilled with our choices!! Thanks so much for your help!!”

March 11th, 2013
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Testimonials

## New SSAT Changes

Alexis Avila Founder/President of Prepped & Polished, LLC in South Natick, Massachusetts lists the five most important changes to the SSAT test.

1. The SSAT created a new Elementary Level Test for 3rd and 4th graders.
2. The SSAT Lower Level test is now called the SSAT Middle Level Test.
3. Teachers will write the SSAT questions.
4. There is now an experimental section.
5. The SSAT Writing prompts have changed.

Transcript (PDF)

Full Word-for-Word Transcription

Hey everyone, Alexis Avila, Prepped & Polished, LLC here at South Natick,
Massachusetts, and Happy New Year. It’s 2013. There have been some changes
to the SSAT, the private school admissions test as of late. I’m going to
let you know about five of these changes.The first change is the SSAT test now has the elementary level test for
students currently in third and fourth grade. Basically, the elementary
level test is an abbreviated version of the SSAT test. It has all the
classic SSAT sections. You have the quantitative math section, verbal
section, which consists of synonyms and analogies, the reading
comprehension section, which is basically 7 passages each with 4 questions,
and then you’ll have a writing section, which is basically a 15 minute
section of a student is shown a picture and then asked to tell a story with
a beginning, a middle, and end about what happened in the picture. The
writing section, of course, is not officially scored, but sent right to
private schools.Change number two is SSAT has officially renamed what was previously known
as the Lower Level Test to the SSAT Middle Level Test. If you are currently
in grades 5th, 6th, and 7th grade, you will take the SSAT Middle Level
Test. If you are currently in grades 8th through 11th grade, you will take
the SSAT Upper Level Test as always.Change number 3 is now 100% of the test questions on the SSAT will be
written by independent and private school teachers rather than the
corporate test writing service to write the questions. The SSAT basically
wants these questions to adequately depict the material found in
independent and private schools.Change number four to the SSAT is now the SSAT will incorporate an
experimental section, but it does not count towards the student score. It’s
kind of similar to the SAT test that you find in high school, but in this
case, you’ll get 16 extra questions that the SSAT will analyze to determine
if they’re relevant for future tests.Change number five to the SSAT is in the writing section for Middle Level
and Upper Level test takers. So if you’re taking the Middle Level SSAT
test, you will be presented with two creative prompts, and you chose to
write one. If you are going to take the Upper Level SSAT test, you will be
presented with a creative prompt and an essay prompt and choose one. If you
need some examples on types of creative prompts that they might present
you, I highly encourage you to go to the SSAT.org website and order the
official SSAT Study Guide. Just look around that website to see if you can
get some free information.If you have further questions, feel free to email me at
alexis@preppedandpolished.com. I wish you good luck on the SSAT. I will
talk to you soon.

Are you taking the SSAT? What questions do you have about the SSAT changes?

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January 30th, 2013
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## Mistake to avoid in the SSAT Math Section

Alexis Avila Founder/President of Prepped & Polished, LLC in South Natick, Massachusetts shows you on his whiteboard one crucial mistake you do not want to make on the SSAT Math section.

After you do your math steps, make sure you go back to the question and answer exactly what the question is asking.

Transcript (PDF)

Full Word-for-Word Transcription

Hey everyone, Alexis Avila, founder of Prepped & Polished LLC, here in
South Natick, Massachusetts. If you want to do well on the SSAT math
section, you have to wipe out those careless errors, and do steady, careful
work on the SSAT math.Time and time again, whether you’re a lower level or upper level student, I
see the same student make the same careless mistake on this particular
problem. So let’s go to the board. I’m going to show you this problem. This
is a relatively easy problem, but almost 75% of students get this one
wrong.”A \$15 shirt is on sale for 20% off. What is the sale price of the shirt?”
Students get really happy and excited, because they think to themselves
that this is an easy and manageable problem. So, what they do is they’ll
take \$15, get the 20% discount, so they’ll multiply it by .2, and then they
will get \$3. Knowing this is a time-pressure test, they’re going to
instantly go to choice ‘A’, and circle \$3. However, you don’t want to go
with ‘A’. You don’t want to go with \$3. You went for the trap answer.You have to re-read the question every time. After doing the math, go back
to the question and make sure you’re answering what the question is asking.
They want what the sale price of the shirt is. You got the discount. Now
you have to subtract 3 from 15. The new price of the shirt is \$12. You go
with choice ‘C’ and you move on to the next question on the test.

So just remember, you could be a really good math student, but not do well
on the SSAT math if you keep making careless mistakes. Avoid careless
mistakes and you’ll do well on the SSAT math section.

I’ll talk to you soon. Good luck.

How do you avoid making careless mistakes on the SSAT Math Section? Have you fallen trap to this type of question before?

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December 4th, 2012
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Posted in
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## Common SSAT Math Mistake

Alexis Avila Founder/President of Prepped & Polished, LLC demonstrates on his whiteboard what not to do when solving an SSAT math problem.

Make sure that you pay attention to the units of measurement on a math question, and when necessary, make sure you convert the units of measurement.

Transcript (PDF)

Full Word-for-Word Transcription

Hey, everyone. Alexis Avila, founder of Prepped and Polished, LLC, here in
South Natick, Massachusetts. Now, half the battle to doing well on the SSAT
math section, pace yourself well and to avoid making careless mistakes.
Now, I often see students make the same careless mistake over and over
again with this particular problem, so I’m going to show you this problem,
so you don’t make the same mistake. Let’s go to the board.”Nick buys a piece of licorice 150 inches long. If he plans to give away
all of the licorice by giving each of his 5 friends an equal piece, how
long should he cut each piece?” So the math is really easy with this
problem. We’re simply going to take 150, which is the total length of the
piece of licorice, and divide it by the 5 friends that he shares it with.
That is going to give us 30. Now this is where students get the problem
wrong. They’re going to say, “Oh, well, I solved the problem. I got 30.”
They’re going to go to answer choice ‘B’ and circle it, which says 30 feet.
But they didn’t convert their units of measurement correctly.They forgot that they have to take 30 inches, because 150 inches divided by
five gives each friend 30 inches of licorice, and now we got to convert 30
inches into feet. So don’t forget to do your units of measurement. 30
inches, we’re going to divide it by 12 inches, and that’s going to give us
how many feet is 30 inches. 2.5 feet. The answer is ‘E’, 2.5 feet, not the
trap answer ‘B’. Just make sure you notice the units of measurement on math
problems and convert them when appropriate. And overall, don’t make
careless mistakes on the SSAT math section, and you’ll do fine.

Do you make careless mistakes on the SSAT math section? How do you avoid making careless errors on this section?

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October 25th, 2012
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## SSAT and ISEE: Matching Grade with Level

Alexis Avila Founder/President of Prepped & Polished, LLC uses his online whiteboard to show you which specific level SSAT or ISEE test you need to take.

If your student is currently in 5th, 6th, or 7th grade he or she will take the SSAT Lower Level Test.

SSAT Elementary Level is for students currently in 3rd or 4th grade, the SSAT Middle Level Test is for students currently in 5th, 6th, or 7th grade, the SSAT Upper Level is for students currently in 8th, 9th, 10th, or 11th grade. The ISEE Lower Level test is for students currently in 4th or 5th grade. The ISEE Middle Level test is for student currently in 6th or 7th grade. The ISEE Upper Level test is for students currently in 8th, 9th, 10th, or 11th grade.

Transcript (PDF)

Full Word-for-Word Transcription

Which level SSAT and ISEE test will your student take? Do you have any questions about the different SSAT and ISEE levels?