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ISEE Tutoring Advice

jcparentjcparent 36 replies6 threads Junior Member
My elder daughter (starting Grade 5 in Sept) is going to be applying to NY/NJ private schools for Grade 6 admissions next fall. I am looking for advice in finding a good ISEE prep tutor and also on private schools to target.

She just took the official ISEE Lower Level test offered by TestInnovators and got the following stanine scores: VR 8, RC 6, QR 3, MA 6. I should point out that in the Grade 3 CTP set which is very similar to ISEE from what I can tell and also administered by ERB her stanines on the Independent School norm were VR 9, RC 9, QR 6, MA 7. So there has clearly been some slippage on Math in Grade 4.

The issue with QR is that she is not fast enough, she left 12 questions out of 38 unattempted because she ran out of time, she got 20/26 on attempted questions. On about a third of the questions she attempted she took an average of 2 minutes, which is why she ran out of time. Algebra and Geometry seem to be the problem areas (although in Algebra she got 5/6 questions correct on the MA section).

She has been doing some prep over the summer focused on Math, about 30 minutes of Math self-practice using iXL/Khan Academy 3-4 days a week and I also work with her 1-2 days a week for 30-40 minutes), so this is not from a blank no-prep state although for English it is from a no-prep state.

I think if she got a couple more questions correct on MA and RC she could get a 7 on both instead of a 6 and with QR I am not sure what is realistic, maybe a 5.

With VR/RC/QR/MA scores of say 8, 7, 5, 7 would she have a shot at Pingry, Newark Academy, Riverdale and Rye Country Day? I assume she would not have a chance at places like Horace Mann, Dalton, Brearley.

Her extracurriculars include Track and Piano. She just started sprinting last year and she has done well without much training, her timings are just shy of qualifying times for AAU Junior Olympics in her age group. In Piano she won the first prize in her age group in the Little Mozarts competition this year.

My daughter is a diligent and hard worker and I am proud of her attitude no matter what the results. I have been involved in her Math education since Grade 2, and to be honest she has always struggled with word problems that involve applied thinking vs straightforward computational problems. She is not a naturally gifted student at Math although through Grade 3 she has done very well in standardized tests. She is at a point where she is much better, but speed is slow on some of these applied problems. I I have to give her credit that she has never hesitated to work hard and seems to enjoy Math learning.

Thanks for any advice both on how to go about finding a ISEE test prep tutor and also on schools to target!

As I closed this I realized that I had not mentioned anything about our background, which in today's hyper racialized environment seems relevant. I am a first generation Indian immigrant (although I have now lived in the US for ~25 years) married to an Indian origin woman who was raised in America, and both of my daughters were born here. We are both working professionals with MBAs and fortunate enough that we would be paying full freight tuition.
11 replies
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Replies to: ISEE Tutoring Advice

  • jcparentjcparent 36 replies6 threads Junior Member
    Hmmm ... no replies, slow summer days or a reluctance to comment? I understand that people might not feel comfortable commenting on someone else's scores or implications for admissions, but any advice on how to find a tutor would be greatly appreciated as well. I am located in Jersey City and am also wondering about pros and cons of in-person vs remote tutoring.
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  • parentofnicekidparentofnicekid 51 replies3 threads Junior Member
    Hi JC parent. I will try to help; I'm guessing since this is mostly a boarding school forum, most people don't know too much about the ISEE since it's a day school test.

    For tutoring in person v remote, I guess that would depend on your kid and if she prefers one method over the other. Maybe you have a sense of this based on how your kid did this year with DL due to covid? There is Bespoke (I've never used them, but have heard good things), Applerouth (which would be remote only I think) and Advantage in Westchester as well as Private Prep. Ultimately, I would suggest googling for a list of companies and then asking around about specific ones (either here or elsewhere). You can kind of get a sense of how competent a company is and there isn't any secret magical method to prep for the test.

    I would offer that if math is an issue for your kid, maybe consider taking the SSAT. It's a less math heavy test (I can't remember why, but I'm sure you can google it, or someone can chime in). I know day schools prefer the ISEE, but will also accept the SSAT. If you find a tutoring place you like, I'm sure they can guide you on this.

    I'm not that familiar with the NJ schools you listed, but Riverdale, while it's not HM, would need very good scores. That being said, HM takes a lot of kids for middle school (more than typical), so if your kid can raise her math stanine, she has a reasonable chance.

    Another option would be to consider a school like Elisabeth Morrow. While I know you would have to apply out again for 9th grade, you will have their help with the process and they know what they are doing. Take a look at their list of schools of where kids go and see if this is what you want. The application process would be, I think, less arduous than, say Riverdale or HM, so it might be an easier way to go. Other schools to look at might be Marymount/CSH, Grace Church High School, Hackley, Masters, Columbia Prep, Dwight-Englewood, UNIS, Trevor Day...

    Good luck jcparent. Your family sounds lovely and I hope it turns out as you wish!
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  • jcparentjcparent 36 replies6 threads Junior Member
    Hi JC parent. I will try to help; I'm guessing since this is mostly a boarding school forum, most people don't know too much about the ISEE since it's a day school test.

    Hi parentofnicekid, first thanks so much for taking the time to post a thoughtful response with tons of good advice. I was beginning to wonder about the silence but like you say this forum is Boarding School oriented so people are probably not as familiar with the ISEE.

    Overall my elder daughter seems very comfortable with remote learning and I looked at a few options and decided to sign up with Compass Education Group for online tutoring. They were the most responsive in setting up consultation appointments and I liked the Director we spoke to. I also like that they send you a document camera so that the tutor can look at the students paper work in real-time and that they make recordings of all sessions available to the parents. We are only locked in for 4-5 sessions starting in about a week so we will see how it goes.

    Looking more carefully at the timing analysis of what my daughter did, if she can cut down the kind of QR questions on which she is taking longer by just 20%, she would have had enough time to finish. The problem areas are Geometry (which I did not study much with her), Algebra, Fractions.

    So I am hopeful the QR score could be raised from 3 to as high as a 6 with practice and focus, and that the MA could be raised to a 7 (she doesn't have a timing issue there). I think on the VA and RC she should be able to do an 8 on both or a 8 and a 7. So hopefully that will keep her competitive.

    We were thinking that it would be top private day schools in NJ or NY or bust (move to a suburb with a great school district) but you reminded me that I should consider some other private schools for Grades 6-8, Dwight-Englewood and Elisabeth Morrow are both options that would involve the least disruptive move to our current lifestyle of apartment living. They both seem to have decent athletic facilities and a larger plant/infrastructure than our current school so would address my biggest issues.
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  • AltrasAltras 404 replies7 threads Member
    Just FYI, many BS families are familiar with the ISEE, but not necessarily the lower or middle level tests. JBS families may be more familiar with those exams. Best of luck!
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  • CalliemomofgirlsCalliemomofgirls 515 replies21 threads Member
    Please know you weren't be ignored on purpose. I'll jump in and add that the silence is probably due to a variety of factors:
    1. her age (many of us here are secondary BS families, so we may not have great advice for test prep for such a young kiddos),
    2. local school recommendation request (most of us don't live in that one specific area so we don't have any helpful insight)
    3. It's summer so application season isn't quite in full swing yet. Applications are just being released this month so we will see a big uptick I think!
    4. Day school test (ISEE) versus BS test (SSAT) expertise, as previously mentioned.
    5. I do wonder also if BS culture might be a tad less intense in terms of preparation, so that may also be at play? Of course, some BS families are super heavily involved in application prep, the amount of prep involved in the NYC-day-school application cycle feels way more intense than what I read about with the BS application crowd.

    I hope it comes as comfort to know -- As anyone who has been here awhile might recall, my DD bombed her first SSAT test (last November), and we took the "unplug-relax-replug" approach and let her scores just naturally head north as she got used to the test. (She ended up with 8 great school offers and is headed to a "top" BS in a few weeks.). So, I hardly felt like my advice would mesh with the NYC day-school crowd where spending one's summer doing math at the age of 10 is the norm.

    As mentioned, the SSAT and ISEE are slightly different and it might be worth having her take the SSAT and subbing it out if it's a better result. I had my daughter take both after we were floored by her unimpressive SSAT score. (Perhaps I'm a little too lax on summer studies after all?!)

    If she is just running out of time, though, I do think that you can expect her score to go up as she takes the test a couple of times. I don't think any test she has taken before august even counts as this year, so you have lots of opportunities. She could easily take it 2-3 times. Also, did she take it on paper or electronically? You save a solid 15-20 seconds on the electronic test per question (from no penciled bubbling in), which means electronic test has more time available (in my DD experience.). Also, electronic test was easier to mark questions to come back to later, which my DD liked.

    TLDR: with the tutoring and studying you already have planned, and a couple of tests under her belt, I am confident she will get a much better score. The different between great scores and mediocre ones are surprisingly few actual correct questions.
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  • jcparentjcparent 36 replies6 threads Junior Member
    Please know you weren't be ignored on purpose. I'll jump in and add that the silence is probably due to a variety of factors:


    TLDR: with the tutoring and studying you already have planned, and a couple of tests under her belt, I am confident she will get a much better score. The different between great scores and mediocre ones are surprisingly few actual correct questions.

    Thank you for your helpful and encouraging response! We have decided to go with the ISEE as we are not applying to Boarding Schools and it would look like test shopping if we went for the SSAT. Test will be online and it is the week before Thanksgiving which allows for one more test to be taken in December in this application cycle.

    We have signed up for remote tutoring sessions that begin next week and I think they will help get her QR score up as she just needs to up her speed by 25% or so in order to complete the test.

    Once we have her scores we will fine tune our application strategy.

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  • CalliemomofgirlsCalliemomofgirls 515 replies21 threads Member
    It sounds like you have an excellent plan.
    And just btw for your info -- even if you were "test shopping," schools wouldn't know that because they only receive the test you choose to send them. So if DD really bombs ISEE, for instance, and does great on an SSAT, then you would just send the SSAT and not the ISEE. (The snag would be of course if a school doesn't accept the SSAT.) And even if they did know that, I don't think that it's a big deal to submit the test that shows one's strengths. Admissions folks are really on your side. They truly just want to get to know your kiddo in a real way and determine how they might fit into their community. (NB: reiterating that my background is colored by applying to top boarding schools; day schools may well be a whole different animal.)
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  • jcparentjcparent 36 replies6 threads Junior Member
    Wow @nmcmom21 that is a quite a stunning increase! It is possible though that the diagnostic test for your son was made intentionally hard so as to demonstrate the value added by tutoring. My daughter took what was a prior real ISEE exam now made available by ERB through Test Innovators. If she can just get QR up to a 6 I will be happy.

    I agree with you that the ISEE lower level QR definitely seems coachable as questions tend to fit into standard patterns which if the kid can recognize it, should be easier to solve. I have tended not to try to "teach to the test" but the tutor we just hired probably will give her some tips.
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  • eoliphanteoliphant 12 replies0 threads New Member
    A friend of ours used a company called Prepped and Polished to tutor/prepare their child for the SSAT and had nothing but positive things to say. I can't give you exact specifics because we haven't used them, but they raved about their tutor and the results. They said test scores went up a considerable amount, tutoring sessions were done on Skype, and their child was specifically paired up with a tutor who was familiar with the test and quickly pinpointed what their child needed to focus on in order to improve scores . Best of luck to your daughter!
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  • jcparentjcparent 36 replies6 threads Junior Member
    Thanks @eoliphant . We have decided to go with Compass Education Group as we liked our initial consultation with their Director and Assigned tutor. But always good to hear about strong references about other tutors - might help others in the future.
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  • sonatarhiasonatarhia 31 replies4 threads Junior Member
    Good luck JCParent. I'm also a JC parent whose DC got into a top NYC private last year, but for high school. We didn't use a tutor so I have no suggestions on the tutoring. But I'd recommend at looking at which schools have a large entry point for 6th grade to increase your DD's changes (eg I think Horace Mann has a big entry point at 6th grade.) Otherwise, many of the schools have big entry points at high school as well, so keep that in mind (Horace Mann, Trinity, etc).
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