Preparing for Private School Entrance Exams: Tips and Strategies

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Preparing for private school entrance exams can be a daunting task for both students and parents. Private schools often have rigorous admission requirements, and entrance exams are a crucial component of the application process. These exams evaluate a student’s academic abilities and potential, and they can determine whether or not a student is accepted into their desired school.

Understanding the Exams

Preparing for private school entrance exams can be a daunting task, but understanding the exams is the first step towards success. Private schools typically require students to take either the Secondary School Admission Test (SSAT) or the Independent School Entrance Exam (ISEE). Some Catholic schools may also require the High School Placement Test (HSPT).

The SSAT and ISEE are both multiple-choice tests that assess a student’s verbal, quantitative, and reading skills. The ISEE also includes a writing sample. The HSPT, on the other hand, includes sections on verbal skills, quantitative skills, reading, mathematics, and language skills.

Each exam is divided into sections, with the SSAT consisting of a verbal section, a quantitative section, and a reading section. The ISEE also includes these sections, but adds a writing sample. The HSPT has sections on verbal skills, quantitative skills, reading, mathematics, and language skills.

The verbal section of the SSAT and ISEE assesses a student’s vocabulary and ability to understand analogies and synonyms. The reading section assesses a student’s comprehension and analysis of passages. The writing sample on the ISEE assesses a student’s ability to write a creative response to a prompt.

It is important to note that some exams may include an experimental section that is not scored. This section is used to test new questions for future exams.

In summary, private school entrance exams are standardized tests that assess a student’s verbal, quantitative, reading, and writing skills. Understanding the content and format of the exams is crucial for success.

Preparation Strategies

Preparing for a private school entrance exam can be a daunting task, but with the right strategies, you can increase your chances of success. Here are some effective preparation strategies to help you ace your exam:

Practice Tests

One of the most effective ways to prepare for a private school entrance exam is by taking practice tests. Practice tests allow you to familiarize yourself with the format, types of questions, and time constraints of the actual exam. You can find practice tests online or in test prep books, and taking them will help you identify areas where you need improvement.


If you’re struggling with specific subjects or concepts, consider hiring a tutor. A tutor can provide one-on-one instruction and help you improve your skills in math, reading, verbal, and writing. They can also help you develop test-taking strategies and build confidence.

Test Prep Books

Test prep books are an excellent resource for preparing for a private school entrance exam. They often include practice tests, detailed explanations of concepts, and test-taking strategies. Look for books that are specific to the exam you’re taking and that have good reviews.

Writing Skills

Writing skills are essential for the essay portion of the exam. Practice writing essays and have them reviewed by a teacher or tutor. Focus on developing a clear thesis, supporting your arguments with evidence, and using proper grammar and punctuation.

Math Concepts

Math concepts are a crucial part of the exam, and it’s essential to have a solid understanding of them. Review basic math concepts such as fractions, factors, and algebra. Practice solving problems and work on developing your problem-solving skills.

Reading Comprehension

Reading comprehension is another critical part of the exam. Practice reading passages and answering questions about them. Focus on developing your ability to identify the main idea, make inferences, and understand the author’s tone.


Finally, it’s essential to approach the exam with confidence. Believe in yourself and your abilities, and don’t let anxiety or self-doubt get in the way. Practice deep breathing and visualization techniques to help you stay calm and focused during the exam.

In summary, preparing for a private school entrance exam requires a combination of practice, study, and confidence-building strategies. By using these strategies, you can increase your chances of success and feel more prepared on test day.

Addressing Test Anxiety

Test anxiety is a common issue that many students face while preparing for private school entrance exams. It can be caused by various factors such as fear of failure, lack of confidence, and pressure to perform well. However, there are several ways to address test anxiety and improve your chances of success on the exam.

Recognize and Acknowledge Anxiety

The first step in addressing test anxiety is to recognize and acknowledge it. It is normal to feel anxious before an exam, but it is important to not let it overwhelm you. Acknowledge your anxiety and take steps to manage it.

Prepare and Practice

One of the best ways to reduce test anxiety is to prepare and practice. Start studying early and make a study schedule to ensure that you cover all the topics before the exam. Practice taking mock tests to get a feel for the exam format and to identify your weaknesses. This will help you feel more confident and prepared on the day of the exam.

Manage Time Wisely

Time management is crucial when preparing for private school entrance exams. Avoid rushing through the exam by managing your time effectively. Allocate time for each section of the exam and stick to the schedule. This will help you avoid feeling overwhelmed and anxious during the exam.

Get Involved in Extracurricular Activities

Participating in extracurricular activities can help reduce test anxiety. Engage in activities that you enjoy and that help you relax. This can include sports, music, or art. These activities can help you manage stress and anxiety, making it easier to focus on your studies.

Address Learning Disabilities

If you have a learning disability, it is important to address it before the exam. Speak to your teachers and school counselor to get the support you need. This can include accommodations during the exam, such as extra time or a quiet room.

Seek Professional Help

If you are struggling with test anxiety, seek professional help. A counselor or therapist can help you manage your anxiety and develop coping strategies. They can also provide support during the exam preparation process.

Overall, test anxiety is a common issue that many students face while preparing for private school entrance exams. However, there are several ways to address it and improve your chances of success. By recognizing and acknowledging your anxiety, preparing and practicing, managing your time wisely, getting involved in extracurricular activities, addressing learning disabilities, and seeking professional help, you can reduce your anxiety and perform your best on the exam.

Special Considerations

Preparing for private school entrance exams can be a daunting task, but there are some special considerations to keep in mind to help you succeed. Here are some important things to consider:

Strengths and Weaknesses

It’s important to identify your strengths and weaknesses before you start preparing for the exam. This will help you focus your study efforts and make the most of your time. For example, if you struggle with math, you may want to spend more time practicing math problems. On the other hand, if you excel at reading comprehension, you may want to focus on other areas that need improvement.

Competitive Nature

Keep in mind that private school entrance exams are highly competitive. This means that you will be competing against many other students for a limited number of spots. It’s important to be prepared, but also to keep a positive attitude and stay motivated. Remember that your hard work will pay off in the end.

Sentence Completions

Many private school entrance exams include sentence completion questions. These questions test your ability to understand the meaning of words in context. To prepare for these types of questions, it’s important to practice reading comprehension and vocabulary skills.

Test-Taking Strategies

In addition to studying the material, it’s important to develop effective test-taking strategies. This includes time management, guessing strategies, and staying focused during the exam. Practice taking practice tests under timed conditions to help you get comfortable with the format and pacing of the exam.

Holistic Approach

Many private schools take a holistic approach to admissions, which means that they consider a variety of factors in addition to test scores. This may include extracurricular activities, essays, interviews, and more. While it’s important to do well on the exam, don’t neglect these other areas of your application.


Some private schools have a specific ratio they are looking for in their incoming class. For example, they may want to maintain a certain balance of male and female students or a certain number of students from different geographic regions. Keep this in mind as you prepare for the exam and consider how you can highlight your unique strengths and experiences.

Exam Types

There are several different types of private school entrance exams, including the Independent School Entrance Exam (ISEE), Secondary School Admissions Exam (SSAT), and High School Placement Test (HSPT). Each exam has its own format and content, so be sure to research the exam you will be taking and tailor your preparation accordingly.

Preschool Admissions Assessments

For younger students, some private schools require preschool admissions assessments. These assessments may include the Otis-Lennon School Ability Test (OLSAT) or other similar tests. Be sure to research the specific requirements for the schools you are interested in and prepare accordingly.

Score Goals

Finally, it’s important to set score goals for yourself. This will help you stay motivated and focused during your preparation. However, be realistic in your goals and don’t put too much pressure on yourself. Remember that there are many factors that go into admissions decisions, and a strong score on the exam is just one of them.

Preparing for Private School Entrance Exams: Tips and Strategies

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