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ISEE Instructor Terri of Prepped & Polished, LLC in South Natick, Massachusetts teaches you how to express your unique voice when approaching writing ISEE essay.
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“I wanted to drop you a note to thank you for all your work with our son during the recent months in preparation for the ISEE. He felt good about the test—there were certainly some difficult patches, but he weathered it all and he said he completed all of the sections in time (a fact that alone suggests that he made some good progress over recent months) and he thought he did pretty well. There is little doubt in our mind that your work with him was of great assistance to him both in terms of fundamentals—as you know, he has not yet studied at school much of the mathematics that was on the test, so your work with him gave him a fighting chance on a lot of that material—and in terms of boosting his personal confidence. Hopefully, he does well—but we of course shall see. Thanks very much for all your help.”
“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!!!”
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).
3) First Step – Read the sentence to get overall meaning; cover up answer choices until you find the clue(s) in the sentence: Mentally fill in the blank(s) with your own answer that makes sense. Then, find the answer choice that is closest in meaning to your own answer. You might be surprised to find the exact word that you had in mind. Select that as your answer. If the word you thought of is not a choice, look for a synonym of that word. Eliminate any that are definitely wrong; it is often easier to eliminate wrong answer choices than to pick the right choice. If you still have choices left, guess among the remaining possibilities. Sometimes it is enough to know that the blank requires a word that means something good (positive) or something bad (negative). Note: To assist you in finding the right answer among the answer choices, one-word answers are listed alphabetically and two-word answers are listed alphabetically by the first word.
Always ——-, the journalist actively questioned the relevant viewpoints on both sides of the issue.
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.
(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)
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).
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.
(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.
The skydiver was ——- to survive after his parachute operated ——-.
(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.
– Read the answer choices and select the best one.
– Check your answer by reading the sentence with your answer choice in place.
– 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?
Post your tips/comments below.
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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>
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.
For more information about the SSAT changes, visit the SSAT Official Website
Full Word-for-Word Transcription
Are you taking the SSAT? What questions do you have about the SSAT changes?
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.
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?
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.
Do you make careless mistakes on the SSAT math section? How do you avoid making careless errors on this section?
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.
Which level SSAT and ISEE test will your student take? Do you have any questions about the different SSAT and ISEE levels?
Alexis Avila Founder/President of Prepped & Polished teaches tricks and strategies for mastering the synonym portion of the ISEE test.
First, figure out the definition of the word before looking at the distracting answer choices. Dissect the word and figure out the roots of the word. If you’re not sure about the roots of the word, then use a positive, negative, neutral strategy to find a matching charge of the word.
Finally, go to the answer choices, and eliminate the three wrong choices.
Hi everyone, Alexis Avila, founder of Prepped and Polished LLC, here in
Boston, Massachusetts. Now one of the trickiest sections on the
independent school entrance examination, the ISEE test, especially for non-
native English speakers, is the synonym sections, but with a bit of help
learning tricks and strategies, you can easily make the ISEE synonym section
your most improved section.
Now the first thing that you want to do, is you want to come up with the
definition of the word before you look at the distracting answer choices.
So it’s okay if you don’t know the exact dictionary definition of each
synonym, as long as you can get the general essence of the word you’ll be
in great shape. So you do that by looking at the word’s roots. So in the
word excavate, there are two roots in this word, ex means exit, and cav,
root of cav means hull. Now if you don’t know the roots of a word, you can
still get the question right, try this approach. You might know that
excavate is not a positive word, like happy, it’s not negative word like
terror, it’s actually a neutral charge word, so if you know that, put a
neutral, a plus and minus, in parenthesis right next to the word, and when
you go to your answer choices, you’re going to eliminate any word that is
not a neutral word.
Okay, so now that you came up with some roots of the word, and you figured
out that excavate is a neutral charge word, let’s eliminate some choices.
Now we can eliminate in fact choice A, which is a negative word, and we can
eliminate C, pardon, which is a positively charged word, leaving us with
display and uncover. We’re going to go with choice D because uncover
closely mirrors the word excavate. So remember, if you take apart the
synonym and look for the roots and the charge of the word before you look
at the answer choices, then you’ll be in prime position to swiftly narrow
in on the correct answer. I wish you good luck and I’ll talk to you soon.
Did you find these ISEE Synonym tips helpful? What is your strongest/weakest section on the ISEE test?