Building an SSAT or ISEE Preparation Plan

  • Posted By: Kimi Rosadini
  • May 6, 2019

Making a plan for ISEE or SSAT test preparation but not sure where to start? This article will take you through some basic information about the tests, what to consider when planning your test prep, and how the Test Innovators platform will give you the most actionable diagnostics and results.


Getting Acquainted with the SSAT & ISEE

It’s a good idea to begin your preparation by understanding a bit about how the SSAT and ISEE work. If you’re still getting acquainted with the two tests, check out our overview of the SSAT and ISEE to see their structures, content, and levels.

Depending on the schools you’re applying for and the level you’re taking, you may have a choice of which test to take and in what format. The computer or paper distinction will affect the atmosphere you take the test in and how you prepare for test day. It's helpful to know the format of the test you'll be taking before jumping into test prep and making a strategic plan.

SSAT It’s currently only administered on paper.

ISEE You may be able to choose the format depending on the level you need to take. The Educational Records Bureau (ERB), the official testing body for the ISEE, has a few options for administration of test:

  • Paper or on the computer (with the exception of the Primary level, which is only administered on the computer)
  • Either individual or group format
  • At an ERB Member school, an ERB office, or a Prometric site


Now that you’re familiar with the official testing options available to you, you’re ready to start formulating a plan for preparation!

Test Innovators and Strategic Preparation

Once you have a lay of the land, how do you make a strategic prep plan? At Test Innovators, we want to empower each student to set themselves up to succeed through strategic preparation and practice. Our platform is designed to give students as much actionable information as possible to improve learning, performance, and comfort with the test.

We stress the importance of full-length practice tests so much because they are the best way to track progress and growth over time, get comfortable with the test-taking experience, and adjust your prep plan as you improve. Think of practice tests as checkpoints in between the practice and mastery of material through exercises and studying.

Along with choosing the right resources and services to prepare, you’ll want to consider your student’s own style of learning, pace, and areas for improvement. Many students struggle with things like time management or keeping their cool when encountering new material on standardized tests.

Addressing these, and other hiccups easily conquered with time and practice, can increase performance more than you might expect. Read on to see how our platform helps you with time management skills and structuring your preparation to get you comfortable and confident before test day.


Get Comfortable with the Test


One goal with our practice tests is to help simulate the actual full-length test as much as possible in content, style, and difficulty.


So once you know whether you will take the real test on paper or at a computer, you’ll want to take at least one practice test in that same format.


Think of the first time you did a PowerPoint presentation. Even if you go over all the slides in your head and know the content backwards and forwards, that’s not the same as doing a practice run-through of the presentation out loud or in front of a friend. You want to make sure it flows, you’re comfortable clicking through at the right times, and that you know the feeling of standing next to the slides, referencing them but not reading word for word. If the first time you present it is the day of the presentation, you could easily slip up somehow.


The same applies to what might be your first important standardized test experience.


The atmosphere may be stressful and something like bubble answer sheets can be tricky to keep track of. Bubbling in your #15 answer in the #14 space, even though #14 stumped you and you were going to come back to it…continuing through to the end only to realize what you did....this is a massive mistake we only want you to make once—and certainly not on test day.


Knowing that admission to certain schools is on the line can often add stress too. With some of your at-home test prep, you’ll want to mimic the environment of the actual day as much as possible. Maybe something as small as taking a practice test in the real-day format, in jeans and a t-shirt at a table (rather than pjs on a couch), could make the difference in cultivating a focused, game-on mentality for test day.


Time Management


Effective time management is a very critical strategy for any standardized test. Every correct answer gives you the same number of points, so your goal is to answer as many questions correctly as possible. Don’t waste valuable time on a hard question when you could instead answer three easy questions correctly in the same amount of time. 


Our online platform provides an in-depth analysis of your time management, so you can determine if time management is a skill you need to work on (hint: it almost always is in some shape or form).


Test Innovators Timing Graph


For each section you complete on the Test Innovators platform, you’ll have an interactive graph, like the one below. This will give you much richer analysis than the simple scoring method you’d find in a test prep book, and it will establish a baseline to help you visualize the kinds of questions or strategies you need to hone.


Green is correct, red is incorrect, yellow is viewed but unanswered, and the x-axis shows you amount of time in minutes spent on each question (y-axis).


Here’s some sample analysis for this section and how the student can improve his/her test taking in the future:


#4&17: Great job! You quickly realized that these questions would take a lot of focus and time away from other questions you had in the bank!

#11: You got this one right but maybe want to review to make sure you have a concrete hold on the material.

#14: Nice! You knew how to do this question and answered it quickly.

#15: Oops! You used a lot of time on this one and got it wrong. Pay particular attention to studying and then practicing this concept.

#19: Unfortunately, this question ate up a lot of time and you ultimately left it unanswered. Next time you notice yourself spending so much time on a question you’re not confident about, evaluate whether you should cut your losses and move on.

#24&25: Notice that by not having concrete time management strategies in place, you ran out of time before even viewing these questions (which might have been easier than others). It’s best to leave yourself at least a few minutes at the end to review and finalize harder questions you didn’t fully complete.


Keep in mind, the ISEE doesn't have a wrong answer penalty and the SSAT does have a wrong answer penalty.


Analyzing On-Paper Practice Test Results


You may be thinking: that timing analysis looks great but I am taking their test on will I be able to gauge my time management skills?


For our practice tests, there is an online bubble sheet option that will give you the timing analysis while letting you practice with the paper format. You’ll do everything the same as a paper test, except when you bubble in your answer, it will be on the computer rather than the paper!


Getting the Most Out of Practice


Ultimately, each student will have their own process and pace for test preparation. What’s important is to adapt that enough to be comfortable with the conditions and style of the actual test. Always take at least one full-length practice test in the format you’ll see on test day and use all available practice tests as progress reports in between studying and practicing. And don’t forget to take full advantage of our timing analytics.



Get started with your prep today!