We’ll start off by saying this: we do not endorse postponing your preparation to the last minute if you have the option to start earlier. At Test Innovators, we recommend starting your preparation at least six to eight months prior to your test date. This gives you ample time to become familiar with the content and structure of the test well ahead of your test date, and to figure out what specifically you may need to work on to improve your scores.
That said, we also realize that life happens! Sometimes you don’t even know you need to take the test until a week before school deadlines (or even later). So, if you’re in this less-than-ideal situation, all is not lost! Here’s what you can do to prepare before test day:
1 Week Before the Test:
Take a full-length practice test. If you are taking the Middle or Upper Level of the ISEE, this will take you 2 hours and 40 minutes, so set aside that entire time. Taking a practice test is the most important thing you can do to prepare – not only will it help you figure out your strengths and weaknesses, it will also help you to familiarize yourself with the content and structure of the exam so you won’t see too many surprises on test day.
Optional: Get your parent to schedule a free tutoring consultation with an ISEE expert. During your consultation, a tutor will evaluate your initial practice test results and walk you through them, offering suggestions on the ways best to prepare based on those results. Try to get this scheduled for as soon as you can. You can even schedule in advance of taking the full-length practice test to ensure that you can meet with an expert as early as possible once you've completed the test.
6 Days Before the Test:
Evaluate the results of your practice test in-depth and figure out what you need to improve on.
Things to look at:
- Scoring analysis and target scores for schools you're applying to. Are there certain areas that you are weak in? If you're already doing well in some sections, do not spend time improving scores in those sections. Since you have limited time, it's critical to focus only on the areas that will see the most improvement through preparation.
- Time management. Did you spend too long on any one question? Did you run out of time on any of the sections or have to rush at the end?
- Question types per section. Analyze each individual section to figure out which question types would benefit the most from additional attention (e.g. algebra questions or sentence completions). It may help to focus on subjects that are familiar but just need a bit of review.
Determine one to three areas of improvement to work on before test day – these will be unique for each student depending on how you did on the initial practice test. For example, these areas of improvement could be a specific question subtype, a category like vocabulary, or overall time management.
5, 4, 3, and 2 Days Before the Test:
Practice daily – be dedicated!
Work on your specific areas of improvement by homing in on applicable practice exercises, watching targeted videos, or taking practice test sections.
And don’t forget to spend some time on the essay section!
Optional: Sign up for an ISEE Crash Course or One-on-One Tutoring Session. Crash courses are three-hour group classes which cover all of the sections you’ll see on the ISEE and strategies for each section. You can view class dates here. If there aren't class dates available or you prefer to work with specialists one-on-one, you can talk to a parent about scheduling a one-on-one tutoring session which can be structured to include whatever you would like to work on specifically. You can learn more about setting up one-on-one tutoring here.
The Day Before the Test:
Review a few last-minute concepts if it helps to ease anxiety, but don't feel like you need to go overboard. DO NOT cram or stay up late. Above all else make sure to get enough sleep, and leave out your materials for the morning so you can sleep well and feel prepared.
Eat a good breakfast, and ensure you are in a good frame of mind as you walk into the test. It’ll be just like what you've practiced, and you're going to do great. Best of luck!