Posts Tagged ‘SSAT Weston’

How to Showcase Your Writing Skills on The SSAT Creative Essay Prompt

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SSAT and ISEE Tutor Terri K. of Prepped & Polished, LLC in South Natick, Massachusetts teaches you six strategies and one bonus tip for the SSAT Creative Prompt in the SSAT Essay Section.

1. Prewrite your response.
2. Use a clear structure.
3. Decide what point of view and tense you will use.

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4. Use effective imagery and vocabulary.
5. Use effective grammar, punctuation, and sentence structure.
6. Read.

BONUS TIP: Do NOT underestimate the power of your writing sample.

Transcript (PDF)

Full Word-for-Word Transcription

Hi. I’m Terri, with Prepped & Polished, in South Natick, Massachusetts.
Today, I’m going to share some tips with you on how to showcase your
writing skills by crafting a superior response to the SSAT creative prompt.
Starting last testing year, a new structure was introduced for the middle
and upper-level SSAT writing prompts. For the middle level, a student has a
choice of two creative prompts from which he’ll select one and answer one.Here are two samples: ‘I looked into its eyes and suddenly . . .’ or, ‘The
classroom was empty.’ The upper level has a choice of two prompts, one
creative and one essay. Here’s a sample creative prompt: He couldn’t
believe they wanted his help. Using these sentences as your first line,
your task is to write a story, real or imagined, using these sentences as
your first line in 25 minutes. Students now have the ability to write two
pages rather than just one.Tip Number 1: Pre-write your response. Practice writing a creative essay in
advance that could be adapted to a variety of prompts. A lot of students
ask me, “Can I prepare for a creative prompt?” and you can. Think of a
story that you’ve been itching to write or an accomplishment that you’d
like an admissions officer to know about you. Research a favorite subject.
For example, ‘. . . and then she came in the door.’ That prompt could
enable you to write a variety of stories about almost anything you choose.
It could be about a teacher, a friend, a sibling, a principal, a detective,
a mother or a father. Here are some other examples of creative prompts: ‘He
was sure there was an exit somewhere.’ ‘I knew it was dangerous, but . . .’
‘It all started off Friday.’ ‘The silence was deafening.’ ‘He was hanging
by a thread.’ The possibilities are endless.Tip Number 2: Use a clear structure. Plots of stories can be divided into 5
basic parts. First, you have the exposition; this is the background, and
the setting and situation of the story. Then there’s the rising action
where characters try to solve a problem or conflict. That leads to the
climax; that’s the critical point where the tension of the story reaches a
peak. Then there’s the falling action where the tension decreases and the
conflict begins to be settled. Finally the resolution, where the conflict
is resolved and there’s a solution to the problem. In 25 minutes, it might
be difficult to wrap up the story in a neat package and have a final,
complete resolution. You can show that the characters are beginning to
change, that they’re beginning to see things differently.Tip Number 3: Decide what point of view and tense that you will use. The
first person uses ‘I’. The third person uses ‘he’, ‘she’, ‘it’, or ‘they’.
Decide what tense, past, present, or future, you will use for your story,
and be consistent. Writing in the present, ‘I see’, ‘I do’, ‘I go’ can be a
bit awkward, but sometimes, it’s an effective way of presenting the story.

Tip Number 4: Your story should use effective vocabulary and good imagery.
Your goal is clear, lively writing that uses imagery, which is the 5
senses; figurative language like similes, metaphors, personification; and
well-chosen vocabulary that shows rather than tells. Use exciting verbs to
empower your writing. For example, ‘The pitiful defendant got on her knees
and asked for mercy.’ Substitute ‘asked’ for ‘pleaded for mercy’. Instead
of ‘Linda was scared’, you could write her, ‘Hands were clammy’, or ‘Her
body was quivering like a bowl of Jell-O’. Avoid ‘he said, she said’.
Reveal a character’s tone. ‘He asked contemptuously’, or you could say ‘She
snorted in amusement’. Check for overused words like ‘things’ and ‘stuff’.

Tip Number 5: Use effective grammar, punctuation, and sentence structure.
When you proofread, look for the two most common pitfalls which are
sentence fragments and run-on sentences. A sentence fragment is part of a
sentence that is punctuated as if it were a complete sentence. For example,
‘On that morning, I sat in my usual spot on the old wooden stool in the
corner of my mother’s kitchen.’ That fragment lacks a subject or verb. We
can correct that by saying, ‘On that morning, I sat in my usual spot, on
the old wooden stool in the corner of my mother’s kitchen.’ Run-on
sentences are two complete sentences that run together as if they are one.
If there’s two independent clauses in one sentence, you must make them into
two sentences separated with a period, joined with a comma and a
coordinating conjunction: And, but, or, nor, for, so, and yet, or connected
with a semicolon.

For example, here’s a run-on sentence: ‘Michael Jordan played for the
Chicago Bulls he was the team’s star player’; definitely a run-on sentence.
Here are 3 ways you could correct that: You could add a period and a
capital letter. You could put a comma and a coordinating conjunction ‘and’,
or a semicolon and have a lower case ‘H’. Then you would eliminate the
problem of a run-on sentence.

The best way to excel on the creative prompt is to read a wide selection of
materials to increase your vocabulary; this will enable you to select just
the right word whenever you need it. Reading your favorite authors empowers
you to improve your writing skills and develop your own writing style and
language.

Here’s a bonus tip for you: Do not underestimate the power of your writing
sample. Schools use the writing sample as an indication of how well you
write under controlled conditions, to estimate your academic capability to
perform in an independent setting, and to compare your performance with
other applicants for admission or with your current academic record. Bottom
line, the essay is often used as the final judgment. I hope these tips
today will help you to write your best creative response on the SSAT. Good
luck.

Are you getting ready for the SSAT? Which of Terri’s creative prompt tips did you find most helpful?

Post your tips/comments below.

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November 20th, 2013
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Power Strategies to Master Synonyms for ISEE and SSAT

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SSAT and ISEE Tutor Terri K. of Prepped & Polished, LLC in South Natick, Massachusetts teaches you five power strategies and one bonus tip for the SSAT and ISEE Synonym section.

1. When you know the stem word, cover the choices. Think of the word phrase or definition closest in meaning to the stem word. Then look for that word among the answer choices.
2. If you don’t know the stem word, put it in context.

ISEE Test Prep and Online SSAT tutor

3. If the stem word is positive then the answer choice must be positive. If the stem word is negative then the answer choice must be negative.
4. Use prefixes and suffixes to provide clues to figure out the meaning of words.
5. Use all the power strategies to help you eliminate. Cross out answers that are farthest from the meaning of the stem word. On the ISEE always guess. On the SSAT guess after eliminating at least two answer choices.

BONUS TIP: The best way to excel on the SSAT and ISEE synonyms is to READ and look up unfamiliar words right away to increase vocabulary knowledge.

Transcript (PDF)

Full Word-for-Word Transcription

Hi. I’m Terri, with Prepped & Polished in South Natick, Massachusetts.
Today, I’m going to share some power strategies with you to help you master
synonyms on the ISEE and the SSAT. Synonym questions make up 50% of the
verbal reasoning portion on both tests. It’s to your advantage to
assimilate these power strategies and make them work for you.Let’s talk a little bit about format. All synonym questions have a stem
word in capital letters, followed by 4 answer choices on the ISEE and 5
answer choices on the SSAT. Your task is to select the answer choice that
is closest in meaning to the stem word. Let’s try that out with Power
Strategy #1.When you know the stem word, cover the answer choices, and then think of a
word, phrase or definition closest in meaning to the stem word. Then look
for that word among the answer choices. For ‘bizarre’, you think to
yourself, “Strange is close in meaning,” then you’re going to uncover the
answer choices. ‘Only’ doesn’t work, ‘unable’, ‘found’. The closest in
meaning to ‘strange’ is ‘odd’; there’s your answer.Power Strategy #2: If you don’t know the stem word, try to think of a
context that you know. Have you heard the word before? Have you read the
word before? Let’s try two examples. ‘Abate’: Maybe you’ve heard a weather
person say, “The storm will abate by midnight,” and you took that to mean
‘reduce in intensity’ or ‘lessen’. Let’s see if any of the choices match
that. Not ‘pretend’, not ‘finalize’, not ‘endanger’, or ‘oppose’.
‘Decrease’ would be the right answer. How about ‘surrogate’? Perhaps you’ve
heard of a surrogate mother, a substitute mother, and we actually see that
word for Choice E. We know right away, right off the bat, that that’s the
correct answer. Done.Power Strategy #3: Positive/Negative. If a stem word is positive, then the
answer choice must be positive. If a stem word is negative, the answer
choice must be negative. Let’s look at an example: ‘Belligerent’, is a
negative word. I don’t know if you’re familiar with ‘bell-‘, a word part,
but that means war-like. Belligerent is a negative word. It helps if you
put + and – signs next to the words to see which are positive and negative.
We can get rid of A, C, and E right off the bat, and we’re less with
‘messy’ and ‘antagonistic’. Belligerent is closest in meaning to
antagonistic, so D is the correct answer.Power Strategy #4: Word Parts. Word parts can give you powerful clues to
figure out the meaning of words. Prefixes come at the beginning of words,
suffixes are at the end, and a root can be in any part of the word. Let’s
look at a few examples. Apathy: The prefix ‘A’ means without, ‘-pathy’
means feelings or emotions, so ‘without feelings or emotions’. Let’s look
at the choices: Sorrow, ability, sickness, inconvenience; indifference is
the closest in meaning to ‘without feelings’, so E would be the correct
answer.How about monotonous? ‘Mono’ means one and ‘tone’ has to do with sound. If
you heard one sound over and over, it would be annoying and it would also
be repetitious. We know that D, ‘repetitious’, would be the correct answer,
and that’s how word parts can help you.

Power Strategy #5: Eliminate. Use all of the power strategies to help you
eliminate. Cross out answers that are farthest from the meaning of the stem
word. This is a real timesaver and will keep you on track. Remember on the
ISEE, always guess. There’s no penalty for guessing so you can even take a
wild guess if you don’t know the answer. On the SSAT, guess after
eliminating at least 2 answer choices.

Here’s a bonus tip for you: Of course, the best way to excel on the SSAT
and ISEE with synonyms is to read all kinds of material, whether it be
literature, magazines, editorials, newspapers. Look up unfamiliar words
right away and add them to your growing vocabulary. You never know, you
might see one of those words on the ISEE or SSAT synonym portion. I hope
these power strategies will help you to get your best score on the synonym
section of the ISEE and the SSAT. Power-up and good luck.

Are you preparing for the SSAT or ISEE? Which of Terri’s power strategies did you find most helpful?

Post your tips/comments below.

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November 6th, 2013
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SSAT/ISEE Reading Comprehension: A 4 Step Strategy for Success

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Terri K. ISEE/SSAT Tutor of Prepped & Polished, LLC in South Natick, Massachusetts teaches you a four step strategy for mastering the ISEE and SSAT Reading Comprehension section.

1. Skim the questions first to focus on info you will need.
2. Read the passages quickly to get the big picture.
ISEE Test Prep and online SSAT prep
3. Read the questions and answer choices.
4. Answer every reading comprehension question on the ISEE, even if you have to guess. (on the SSAT-guess if you can eliminate one or two answer choices)

Transcript (PDF)

Full Word-for-Word Transcription

Hi. I’m Terri from Prepped and Polished in South Natick, Massachusetts.
Today I’m going to share some tips with you on how to improve your reading
comprehension score on the ISEE and the SSAT. Although both tests are very
similar, there are some key differences on the reading comprehension
component that could impact your score and perhaps influence which test you
decide is best for you.Let’s talk about guessing. The ISEE has no penalty for guessing, which
means that omitted questions and wrong answers are weighed the same. The
number of correct answers becomes your raw score, and that’s converted to
your scaled score. So if a student has a strong inclination toward a
certain answer, he or she can guess without fear. By contrast, the SSAT
subtracts a quarter point for each incorrect answer. So a student has to be
much more strategic about guessing.Let’s talk about the passages. The SSAT utilizes various passages from
fiction, nonfiction, and poetry, whereas the ISEE, the reading’s comprised
of nonfiction only. So now I’m going to talk to you about your reading
comprehension four-step strategy for success for either the ISEE or the
SSAT. Step number one: Skim the questions first to focus on the information
that you’ll need. Step number two: Read the passages quickly to get the big
picture. Why did the author write the passage? Be an active reader, and
that means marking up the passage, making notes in the margin as you read,
underlining main ideas, supporting ideas, word choices that are special,
etc.

Step number three: Read the questions and answer choices. Do not spend more
time on the passages than the questions. Spend about a minute per passage
and a minute to a minute and a half per question. Focus on answering the
questions, not studying or learning the text. Do not keep rereading
portions that you don’t understand.

If you don’t know the answer, go back to the passage. All the answers to
reading questions can be found in or inferred from the passages. Use line
references to help you locate information. All word-in-context questions
send you back to line reference or a paragraph indicator. Cross out all the
answers that you can eliminate. The answer choice must be both true and
must be the best answer to that particular question. Number four: Answer
every question on the ISEE, even if you have to guess. On the SSAT, guess
if you can eliminate one or two answer choices. Knowing what to expect on
the ISEE and the SSAT is half the battle to gain confidence and get your
best score possible.

One last tip: Familiarize yourself with the kind of questions that you’ll
find on either test, and it will make it much easier to handle the
questions. Is it a main idea question? Is it a supporting idea or detail
question? Is it an inference question? Is it a word context question? Does
it have to do with tone or figurative language or maybe organization and
logic? Knowing these different types of questions will help you to select
the best answer. Well, I hope this information and tips will help you to
get your best score possible. Good luck.

Are you preparing for the SSAT or ISEE? Which of Terri’s tips did you find most helpful?

Post your tips/comments below.

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October 16th, 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

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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?

Post your tips/comments below.

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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

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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

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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?

Post your tips/comments below.

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

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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?

Post your tips/comments below.

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July 20th, 2012
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The Five Best Tips for the SSAT Essay

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

You should know the essay on the SSAT test does not count toward your score at all. However, this doesn’t mean you shouldn’t care about it. In fact, you should put just as much preparation and effort into your essay as you would for any of the scored sections on the test. All of the schools in which you are applying to will have access to your essay and will most likely use it towards their decision in your admittance. Here are some great tips to help you write the best possible essay:

1. Come prepared
Some people are born gifted writers and can produce masterpieces on the first try, but for the rest of us, we need to go through many drafts to get it right. In order to write a great essay on the actual test, you should practice writing great essays beforehand. So instead of writing a first draft on the test day, you are really writing a well-practiced final draft.

2. Write a great introduction
Think about anything you have ever tried reading: literature books, news articles, magazines, comic books, an e-mail, the back of a book, or even a long facebook wall post. I bet you could tell in the first 2 lines whether or not it was going to be interesting. Maybe you didn’t even finish reading it. That is the same mentality your admission readers will have. Focus on saying something interesting and unique right from the start. Don’t just repeat the question that the prompt asks you. Be creative! Introduce a quote or ask a question to entice the reader to pay attention. Writing a catchy introduction will set the tone for the rest of your essay.

3. Prepare good, flexible examples ahead of time
Almost all the essay prompts are very general and vague. They often ask you to agree or disagree with a statement. Don’t sit on the fence, pick a side! Figure out which side you can write a better argument for. It doesn’t matter whether or not you believe the side that you pick. It matters how well you can convey your points to the reader. Since the prompts are general, you can actually prepare ideas ahead of time. Make a list of important people, historical events, current events, or literature books that you know about. Try to choose subjects that are flexible and can viewed as both positive and negative. For instance, the value of the internet is a great subject. It can be talked about positively for all the information we get out of it or it can be viewed negatively when used in ways to hurt people. You can also write about a personal experience (even if you make something up), which is a great way to prove a point and add a personal touch. Having a pre-planned list of subjects will be an invaluable tool on the actual test.
Test Preparation
4. Make clear connections
Now that you have come up with a bunch of potential subjects for your essay, practice connecting them to different prompts. It is important to do some research on your subjects and show that you know facts. Use important names and dates or significant events. After writing about the facts, it is just as important to say HOW they relate to the prompt. Be very clear in tying your subject back to the essay topic. Insert the same words that are stated in the prompt into your essay at the beginning and throughout each paragraph to really prove your point.

5. Organization and Neatness count
You should have 4-5 clearly defined paragraphs. You need to have 1 paragraph for the introduction and 1 paragraph for the conclusion. The body of your essay should be 2 or 3 paragraphs depending on how many subjects you decide to write about. Make sure you indent your paragraphs or leave a blank line between paragraphs to clearly show your organization. If you need to cross out a word, draw 1 straight line through the middle of the word. Even though you can’t lose points for not writing neatly, people can get slightly irritated when they have to struggle to read your essay. You don’t want to put your reader in a bad mood, so write as neatly as you can.

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

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January 24th, 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.

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January 13th, 2012
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