How to Improve Your SSAT/ISEE Scores Before the Admissions Deadlines this Winter

With private school admissions deadlines approaching, we sat down with Premium Tutor and SSAT/ISEE curriculum writer Matthew Kiesner to answer some parent FAQs about the tests. For reference, here are our SSAT and ISEE Quick Facts sheets!

Do you have any general advice for parents of students taking the SSAT or ISEE?

The advice is really going to vary depending on which test. For the SSAT, know your options. Students can take the Jan 7th and Feb 4th paper test. There is also a paper-based flex test that can be scheduled on demand, and the digital at-home SSAT is available on most weekends. I would suggest planning to test more than once.

For the ISEE, there are only three testing seasons. The fall season is done and the Spring season is too far past application deadlines, so a student can only take the ISEE once during the current winter season. 

When are application deadlines?

This will vary by school and region, but a good generalization would be Feb 1st. Many schools will take the Feb 4th SSAT scores if you send them as soon as they are available.

What should I do if my student’s score is in a lower percentile than expected?

It’s important to understand that the percentiles are not offering a nationwide ranking, as the pool of students only includes those taking the SSAT. All and all, they tend to be a highly motivated and prepared bunch. It’s also very rare for a school to state a firm cutoff percentile, as the school needs a variety of students to create a student body. Special interests–such as sports, music, theater, and debate–can add a lot of value to the student’s admission portfolio.

But my student does well in school. Why would their score not reflect that?

Neither the SSAT nor the ISEE are well aligned to school curriculum. Both include math content that will likely extend beyond a student’s grade level. Additionally, the analogies on the SSAT and the sentence completions and quantitative comparisons on the ISEE are question types rarely used in schools. It’s fair to acknowledge that both of these tests are idiosyncratic and out-of-sync with many widely used curriculum. However, they are both coachable and with practice and instruction, many students are able to meet their true potential. 

What might a tutoring plan look like?

The first step would be to determine baseline percentiles, either by using a practice test or by looking at scores from a previous official test. The next step would be to figure out whether the student is missing content, strategies, or both. Tutoring sessions will be tailored to your student’s specific needs with focused instruction and practice. 

Schedule a call with an Applerouth Advisor to discuss SSAT and ISEE tutoring options for your child. Your Advisor will help you build a customized plan and let you know how you can get up to 6 free hours of tutoring when you enroll in private prep during our #DecemberDeal.


Applerouth is a trusted test prep and tutoring resource. We combine the science of learning with a thoughtful, student-focused approach to help our clients succeed. Call or email us today at 202-558-5644 or info@applerouth.com.