How to Prepare for the SSAT and ISEE

The Week Before the ISEE

Is it starting to feel like as though your whole life is a buildup to the ISEE? You really want to go to a certain school, and you know your parents want you to as well. You have worried about the test for months and spent at least a few hours in solid preparation for it. As the test gets closer, you may find your anxiety is on the rise. Don’t worry. The following sections will guide you through some steps you can take the week before the test to approach the ISEE with confidence.

 

The Week before the ISEE

  • Focus on strategy and backup plans.
  • Practice strategies you had the best success rate with.
  • Decide and know exactly how you’re going to approach each section and question type.
  • Sit down and do practice problems or complete extra drills you might have skipped the first time through.
  • Practice waking up early and eating breakfast so you’ll be alert in the morning on Test Day.

Several Days Before the ISEE

  • The best test takers do less and less as the test approaches. Taper off your study schedule and take it easy. Give yourself time off, especially the evening before the exam. By that time, if you’ve studied well, everything you need to know is firmly stored in your memory bank.
  • Positive self-talk can be extremely liberating and invigorating, especially as the test looms closer. Tell yourself things such as “I will do well,” rather than “I hope things go well”; “I can” rather than “I cannot.” Replace any negative thoughts with affirming statements that boost your self-esteem.
  • Get your act together sooner rather than later. Have everything (including choice of clothing) laid out in advance. Most importantly, make sure you know where the test will be held and the easiest, quickest way to get there. You’ll have great peace of mind by knowing that all the little details—gas in the car, directions, etc.—are set before the day of the test.
  • Go to the test site a few days in advance, particularly if you are especially anxious. If at all possible, find out what room your part of the alphabet is assigned to and try to sit there (by yourself) for a while. Better yet, bring some practice material and do a section or two.
  • Forgo any practice on the day before the test. It’s in your best interest to marshal your physical and psychological resources for 24 hours or so. Even race horses are kept in the paddock and treated like royalty the day before a race. Keep the upcoming test out of your consciousness; go to a movie, take a pleasant hike, or just relax. Don’t eat junk food or tons of sugar. And, of course, get plenty of rest the night before—just don’t go to bed too early. It’s hard to fall asleep earlier than you’re used to, and you don’t want to lie there worrying about the test.

The Night before the ISEE

Don’t study the night before the test! Gather the following items:

  • Your admission/registration ticket

  • Photo ID

  • A watch (choose one that is easy to read)

  • Slightly dull No. 2 pencils (so they fill in the ovals faster)

  • Pencil sharpener

  • Erasers

  • Clothes you’ll wear (Dress in layers! The climate at the test location may vary, as may your body temperature. Make sure you can warm up or cool down easily.)

  • Snacks (easy to open or partially unwrapped)

  • Money

  • Packet of tissues

Relax the night before the test. Read a good book, take a bubble bath, watch TV. Be sure to get a good night’s sleep and go to bed at a reasonable hour to leave yourself some extra time in the morning.

The Morning of the ISEE

Eat breakfast. Make it something substantial and nutritious, but don’t deviate too much from your everyday pattern.

Dress in layers so that you can adjust to the temperature of the test room.

Read something to warm up your brain before the test starts.

Be sure to get there early. Leave enough time to allow for traffic, mass transit delays, your dad getting lost en route, and any other snag that could slow you down.

During the ISEE

Don’t be shaken. If you find your confidence slipping, remind yourself how well you’ve prepared. You know the structure of the test; you know the instructions; you’ve studied for every question type. The biggest stress monster will be the test itself. Fear not; there are methods of quelling your stress during the test:

The biggest stress monster is the test itself. There are some ways to calm your fears during the test:

  • Keep moving forward instead of getting bogged down in a difficult question. You don’t have to get everything right to achieve a fine score. So don’t linger out of desperation on a question that is going nowhere even after you’ve spent considerable time on it. The best test takers skip difficult material temporarily in search of the easier stuff. They mark the ones that require extra time and thought.
  • Don’t be thrown if other test takers seem to be working more busily and furiously than you are. Don’t mistake other people’s sheer activity as a sign of progress and higher scores.
  • Keep breathing! Weak test takers tend to share one major trait: They don’t breathe properly as the test proceeds. They might hold their breath without realizing it or breathe erratically or arrhythmically. Improper breathing hurts confidence and accuracy. Just as importantly, it interferes with clear thinking.

Some quick isometrics during the test—especially if concentration is wandering or energy is waning—can help. Try this:

  • Put your palms together and press intensely for a few seconds. Concentrate on the tension you feel through your palms, wrists, forearms, and up into your biceps and shoulders. Then, quickly release the pressure. Feel the difference as you let go. Focus on the warm relaxation that floods through the muscles.
  • Slowly rotate your head from side to side, turning your head and eyes to look as far back over each shoulder as you can. Feel the muscles stretch on one side of your neck as they contract on the other. Repeat five times in each direction.

With what you’ve just learned here, you’re armed and ready to do battle with the test. This book and your studies will give you the information you’ll need to answer the questions. It’s all firmly planted in your mind. You also know how to deal with any excess tension that might come along, both when you’re studying for and taking the exam. You’ve experienced everything you need to tame your test anxiety and stress. You’re going to get a great score.

Even if something goes really wrong, don’t panic. If the test booklet is defective— two pages are stuck together or the ink has run—try to stay calm. Raise your hand and tell the proctor you need a new book. If you accidentally misgrid your answer page or put the answers in the wrong section, again don’t panic. The proctor might be able to arrange for you to regrid your test after it’s over, when it won’t cost you any time.

After the ISEE

Once the test is over, put it out of your mind. Start thinking about more interesting things. You might walk out of the test thinking that you blew it. You probably didn’t. You tend to remember the questions that stumped you, not the many that you knew.