#12509 Reply
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Hi, MHS. I have nearly 20 years’ experience in the admission field, from both sides of the table, as well as nearly a year in my own firm, Arc PD (shameless plug: http://www.arcpd.com/sp-home). The DCSH brass asked if I’d take on your question. So here goes:

1. While Pearson, the publisher of the WISC makes the most recent iteration of the test available for students under 17 years old, I’ve never heard of a school asking for a WISC from applicants past grade 5. I don’t make any judgments about the integrity or the value of the test, but I’d still tread carefully, since most schools will have little experience with it for a rising sixth-grader.

2. There are several differences between the SSAT and the ISEE that may make it easier for your nephew’s family to decide which one would suit him better. Here are a few:

a. The SSAT reports two language-based scores (verbal and reading, in addition to an optional essay that is simply passed along to schools), plus one mathematical score. The ISEE reports two language-based and two math-based scores. If your nephew is a strong math student, that may be a reason to consider the ISEE.

b. A student may take the ISEE only once during an admission cycle. If your sister’s family is likely to want two or three swings at the piñata, so to speak, that’s worth keeping in mind.

c. The ISEE has many more test date options; the SSAT is usually administered about eight times per year. Be sure the dates work for your nephew.

d. A student may take the SSAT as many times as he’d like, and report only a single administration (i.e., report December but not October — but you cannot split subtests to submit, for example, math from December and verbal from October). A good counselor should be able to advise your nephew’s family on how to report scores, and on the practice of “super-scoring,” which most schools use.

3. If your nephew would find a traditional test center challenging, SSAT offers a “Flex Test,” which allows a student to take a test in an individual environment with a qualified administrator (qualified by SSAT, that is). The ISEE does not offer such an option. Note that a student may take only one SSAT Flex Test per year.

4. Overall, I don’t think I’d make this the biggest “sweat” in the process. Both the SSAT and the ISEE measure the same basic skill — the ability to solve logical, language-based problems quickly — and so a student who scores in, say, the 45th percentile on one test is not likely to score in the 20th or 70th percentile on the other. I’d start by looking at the online practice exercises and determine the one with which your nephew feels more comfortable; that may be enough.

5. Though it’s a little late, your sister should consider test preparation at any number of good outfits around town. (I mean “consider” as in “consider” — not as in her son must do it.) At the least, the tests are different enough, especially if your nephew hasn’t yet taken them, that he should not go in blind. That said, most students show some gains after preparation, but it is seldom inexpensive. I can provide some names if that would help; see my address below.

One last thought: There is no reason your nephew could not take both tests. However, I’d advise any family to be careful about doing so. First, it can make the test scores the most important aspect in the family’s mind, rather than what kind of habits the student has, how well he rebounds from failure, and what kind of person he is. I’d argue those are all more important indicators of how he’ll do in school — and beyond. And second, of course, it takes time, costs money, and sometimes it’s not the favorite Saturday-morning activity for an 11-year-old.

I know there’s a lot to digest here, but I hope this is helpful in identifying some basics. If you’d like any further information, feel free to contact me directly:


Good luck to your sister and nephew!
Peter Braverman

  • This reply was modified 6 months, 1 week ago by Profile photo of DC School HUB DC School HUB.