Posts Tagged ‘SSAT Dover’

Ten Upper Level SSAT Essay Writing Tips

Prepped & Polished History Tutor and SSAT Instructor By Terri K., SSAT Essay Writing Instructor, Prepped & Polished, LLC

The SSAT includes a writing section which may be administered either before or after the multiple-choice sections of the test. Students are presented with a choice of two prompts (one essay, one creative) from which the student will choose one. You will have 25 minutes to plan and complete your writing sample which can be up to two pages.
Your essay is not scored by SSAT. Instead, a copy is sent to each of the schools that receive your score report. However, do not underestimate the power of your writing sample. Schools use your writing sample as an indication of how well you can write under controlled conditions, so approach the writing piece with this in mind. Schools use your scores to estimate your academic capability to perform in an independent school setting, to compare your performance with other applicants for admission, or with your current academic record. So, bottom line, the essay is often used as the final judgment.
Here are 10 tips to help you to be more successful on the writing portion of the SSAT:

ESSAY:
Each essay question consists of a topic (short phrase, proverb, or question) and an assignment (usually to agree or disagree with the position taken). There is no right or wrong answer.

1) Stick to the topic: So many students go off on tangents instead of discussing the topic. Rephrase the question in your own words to make sure you understand what it is asking you. You may be creative in your approach, but you need to take a clear position and support that position with specific examples from your own experience, the experience of others, current events, literature, or history. Although you do not know the topic ahead of time, you can be prepared. Prior to the SSAT, think about meaningful personal experiences and observations, favorite literature, as well as current and historical events that interest you. Read some editorials – a great way to learn how good writers give opinions and provide examples. You will be relieved if you can apply some of this information on test day.

2) Have a plan for your essay: 25 minutes is not much time, so you need to budget your time in order to complete your essay. You will need to write more than a short paragraph. A great essay lacking a conclusion will not be viewed favorably. Contrary to what many students think, planning your essay makes the writing process easier, faster, and more organized. Allow 3-5 minutes to decide on your stance, brainstorm two to three examples that support your thesis, and make a brief outline for 3-5 paragraphs. You probably will not have time to write a 5-paragraph essay. Allow 15 minutes to write your essay as neatly and legibly as you can. Allow approximately 5 minutes to revise and proofread your essay.

SSAT Writing Tips from Online SSAT Prep and Online SSAT Tips

3) Show – don’t tell: Rather than explaining why you believe a statement is true or not, use relevant examples that illustrate the point that you want to make. Preferably, use examples other than from your personal life. Reading the newspaper on a regular basis will give you material for good supporting examples for your essay while improving your vocabulary.

4) Grammar, punctuation, and sentence structure: When you proofread, check for two of the most common errors: sentence fragments and run-on sentences.
Complete sentences have a subject and verb and make sense when standing alone. Example: On that morning I sat in my usual spot. On the old wooden stool in the corner of my grandmother’s kitchen (fragment-lacks subject and verb). Correct: On that morning I sat in my usual spot, on the old wooden stool in the corner of my grandmother’s kitchen.
When two independent clauses appear in one sentence (run-on), they must be joined with a comma and a coordinating conjunction (and, but, or, nor, for, so, yet), with a semicolon, or made into two sentences separated by a period. Avoid monotony by varying the rhythm and length of your sentences.

5) Word choice: Check for the overused words – “things” and “stuff”. Replace words that do not add quality to your essay with more detailed, advanced academic vocabulary. Use exciting verbs to empower your writing. Also, check for pronouns (him, her, they, it) that have no antecedent. This error makes an essay very confusing.

6) Legibility: Remember that people who are not familiar with your handwriting will read what you write. Try to write or print so that your writing is legible to those readers. Admissions officers read many essays, and if your writing is difficult to decipher, it may not be received as favorably. Edit carefully, just putting one line through a word or phrase that you revise.

CREATIVE:
1) Pre-write your essay: The creative essay prompt is open-ended. For example, the prompt “And then she came in the door…” could be the beginning of an essay about almost anything you choose. Your essay could be about a friend, sibling, teacher, mother, detective, etc. Other examples of creative prompts are:
– “He couldn’t believe they wanted his help…”
– “The silence was deafening…”
– “He was hanging on by a thread…”
Again, the possibilities are endless. Try writing a creative essay in advance that could be adaptable to a variety of prompts. Do some research on a favorite subject or think about an accomplishment that you would like an admissions officer to learn about you. Hopefully, you can adapt this idea to a creative prompt on test day.

2) Writing a story: If you use the creative prompt to write a story, start with some tension and immediacy (the unusual, the unexpected, an action or conflict) to grab the reader’s attention. A good story has a conflict, a climax (when the rising action of the story reaches its peak) and a resolution (conflict is resolved). In 25 minutes, it is difficult to provide a complete resolution, so you want to reveal that the characters are beginning to change or are starting to see things differently.

3) Words/Imagery: Your goal should be clear, lively writing that employs imagery and well-chosen vocabulary that shows rather than tells. For example, instead of writing that Linda was scared, you could write that her hands were clammy or that her body was quivering like a bowl of jello. Instead of writing that John asked the question nervously, you could write – “Where are you going?” John stammered, staring at his sneakers. Make it riveting! Avoid he said, she said. Reveal a character’s tone; for example, “….she snorted in amusement…” or “…he asked contemptuously…”

4) READ, READ, READ: The best way to improve writing skills for either prompt (essay, creative) is to consistently read a wide selection of materials: newspapers (especially editorials), all types of literature, magazines, etc. Reading increases your vocabulary so that you can use the right word just when you need it. Reading books by your favorite authors empowers you to improve your own writing by developing the language you need.

Is your student taking the SSAT? What was your favorite SSAT essay tip?

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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>

July 23rd, 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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Janice T. (Braintree, MA)

“I hired a tutor for my son for SSAT testing for nine weeks. My son took the test and received 54 percentile in verbal, 55 in reading and 64 in math. I was disappointed in the tutoring services. I found Alexis at Prepped and Polished on the Internet and decided to give him a call. It was the best decision I made. After only FOUR sessions my son took the test again and scored 74 percentile in verbal, 75 in reading and a whopping 86 percentile in math. Alexis is very knowledgeable in the SSAT testing. My son found it easy to learn from him. Don’t hesitate and make the call to Prepped and Polished. It was the best decision I made and I’m sure it will be the best decision you’ll make too. He is worth every penny.”

February 1st, 2013
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Five Important Changes to the SSAT Test

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.

Test Preparation

For more information about the SSAT changes, visit the SSAT Official Website

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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The One Crucial Mistake You Do NOT Want to Make on the SSAT Math Section

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.

Test Preparation

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?

Post your tips/comments below.

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December 4th, 2012
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Avoid This Common SSAT Math Mistake

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.

Test Preparation

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.

Test Preparation

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

Hi, everyone. Alexis Avila, founder of Prepped and Polished LLC, here in South Natick, Massachusetts. Now, parents come to me all the time and ask me which SSAT or ISEE level test does my student need to take? So let’s get this out of the way once and for all. So let’s look on the board here. If your student is currently in 5th, 6th, or 7th grade, he or she takes the SSAT lower level test. (Update: Please note for students currently in 5th, 6th, and 7th grade, the SSAT recently renamed the test “SSAT Middle Level” and the new “SSAT Elementary Level Test” is for students currently in 3rd or 4th grade.)The ISEE lower level test is for students currently in 4th or 5th grade.Now, there is no SSAT middle level test, so we don’t have to worry about it. (Update!! There is now indeed an SSAT Middle Level Test -formerly it was called the “SSAT Lower Level Test “- and this is for students currently in 5th, 6th, and 7th grade). But there is an ISEE middle level test, and that’s for students currently in 6th or 7th grade. And finally, both the SSAT and ISEE upper level tests are for students currently in 8th through 11th grades. So this is how you’d match your student’s grade with the appropriate level. I hope this helps and I’ll talk to you soon.Updated Recap: 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?

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July 20th, 2012
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The 5 Best Tips for the SSAT Reading Section

Best Tips for the SSAT Reading Section

SSAT Reading TipsBy Grant Hanada, Tutoring and Test Preparation Instructor, Prepped & Polished, LLC

The reading comprehension section for the SSAT tends to be one of the hardest parts of the test for most students. Very few students are actually taught in school how to prepare for these types of reading passages and even fewer are given specific advice on how to tackle this in an effective way under time pressure. Here are 5 great tips for students to have when they approach the SSAT reading comprehension section:

1. You choose which passages to read.
Before the test, you should spend some time practicing all the various types of passages (historical, story, science, etc.) and know which ones you are stronger in. During the actual test, nobody will stop you from completing the passages out of order. Quickly browse each passage as soon as time begins and start answering the easier passages first and save the hard ones until the end. It is ok if you don’t have time to completely finish the hard passages, you can still get a great score!

2. Don’t read the entire passage like a book.
It is not important to know every detail like you would when doing a book report. Start each passage by doing a quick scan of only the introduction, the topics sentences of each paragraph, and the conclusion. You should be able to do this in less than 1 minute. Just gather the overall ideas and the general tone of the passage. That is it, don’t try and read the entire passage at once. When you get to the questions you will read specific parts more closely.
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3. Separate “specific” vs “general” questions.
There are always 2 types of questions—specific or general. A specific question will point you to a very specific part of the passage and often the exact line numbers. Do these types of questions first and leave the general questions for later. When you answer specific questions you should read a few lines before and after the specific area you are looking at for context, but make sure the answer you pick is directly related to the information in the specified lines from the question. General questions are much more broad and should be answered last because after you answer all the specific questions you should know the entire passage well enough to answer questions about the main purpose.

4. Be careful on “definition” questions.
Many passages will have a question that asks you to answer what a certain word means in the context of the passage. Usually the reason this word is important is because it is being used in a different manner than you are used to seeing. Be very wary of picking answers that are the typical dictionary definitions. Also, if 2 answer choices are synonyms of each other and since 2 answers can’t both be correct, most likely neither one of those answers are correct.

5. Be a skeptic.
As you look at all your answer choices you should be negative and critical toward every one. Imagine that they are all incorrect and that it would take direct evidence to convince you that an answer choice is really correct. Therefore, when deciding which answer is best, you need to find hard evidence from the passage to fully prove that an answer is the best. Also, be sure to not have any prior assumptions about topics. If you know a lot about dogs and the passage happens to be about dogs, forget everything you know. The answers must come directly from the passage alone. Remember, you are not picking a “perfectly correct” answer; you are picking the best answer.

Grant Hanada has a Bachelor’s degree in Psychobiology from UCLA, and is currently pursuing his Masters degree in Electrical Engineering from Boston University.

To know more Best Tips for the SSAT Reading Section, do write to Prepped & Polished.

Did you find these SSAT Reading Comprehension tips helpful? Which tip affected you the most?

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January 13th, 2012
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