Friday, November 22, 2013

Meet the ISEE & HSPT: Private School Placement Tests

Meet the ISEE and HSPT:
Private School Placement Tests

by Mikey Smith, M.Ed

Ninth grader Ann Bennett (not her real name) was terrified. The cause of her fear?  The ISEE, or Independent School Entrance Exam. Even though she had taken some practice tests, Ann still did not feel a sense of confidence when taking the actual exam, which she knew would play an important role in the admissions process at the high school she wanted to attend. "Whenever I took the test I was very scared," she recalls. "The first section was vocabulary. I rushed through that section really fast thinking I wouldn't have time to finish." Hurrying through the test to save time, however, was not the best strategy either. "I ended up finishing 15 minutes early. I went back to check and noticed that I got a lot wrong and had to change them."

Ann's experience is one shared by many students across the country who apply to a private school. Any parent thinking of enrolling a student in a private school will quickly become familiar with either the ISEE (Independent School Entrance Exam) or HSPT (High School Placement Test), or both. These exams are required by many private schools as part of the admissions process. While no school uses a test alone to determine admission, a strong performance on either or both tests certainly can help a student's chances of getting in to a particular school.

Here's how the tests stack up:


The ISEE test is a timed test with several distinct parts. It features verbal and quantitative reasoning questions which assess a student's learning capability,  reading comprehension and math achievement tests which pinpoint areas of strengths and weaknesses in those subjects, and an essay. There are 3 different levels of the test (Lower Level, Middle Level, and Upper Level) based on the grade level of the student at the time of administration, but each level of test has the same basic blueprint. Basically, the time allotted and the amount and difficulty of questions per section differ from level to level. This test is not usually given at a particular school but at a local testing center.

The multiple-choice sections of the ISEE test are scored by the ISEE Operations Office, not by individual schools. The essay is not scored at all, but is copied and submitted to each school indicated by the student at the time of the test administration. A Student Report is generated and sent to parents and to each private school the student has selected. The ISEE test scores are based on the number of correct answers, so there is no penalty for guessing.

For more information on the ISEE, click here:


The HSPT is typically given to 8th graders to determine placement in 9th grade. Because it is only given to one group of students, not multiple grades, there is only one level of test; however, there are two versions of it.

The Open HSPT is usually given at a particular school and scored by that school's personnel. Skills tested include verbal and quantitative skills, reading, mathematics, language, and at some schools, science.  Testing time for the Open HSPT is close to 2 hours and 30 minutes.

The Closed HSPT is administered at a particular school, but the tests are not scored by school personnel. Instead, test materials are returned to Scholastic Testing Service and an individual report is generated for each student. In addition to the areas tested by the Open HSPT, schools may also include tests in mechanical aptitude and Catholic religion.

Whether tests are scored at the school itself (Open HSPT) or at the testing service (Closed HSPT), the results are forwarded to parents and schools. Like the ISEE, there is no penalty for guessing on either version of the HSPT.

For more information on the HSPT, click here:

Although Ann was nervous when she took the ISEE, she did end up doing well on the test and was accepted to the private school she wanted to attend. Why take a chance on your student's ISEE and/or HSPT performance? Enrolling in a targeted test prep program can give your student the tools needed to perform confidently and capably on any private school exam.

With most testing dates in the Houston area scheduled for January 2014, now is the time to start preparing for success!

Raising the Bar offers test prep for both the ISEE and HSPT. For more information, contact us at:

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Decoding the NNAT, by Mikey Smith, M. Ed.

Decoding the NNAT
by Mikey Smith, M.Ed

SAT, STAAR, AP, PTO. . . the World of Education is filled with some fairly familiar acronyms. One acronym, however, may not be so familiar: NNAT. It stands for Naglieri Nonverbal Ability Test, a test that might play an important role in your student's academic life. Jennifer Smith, veteran educator and administrator, helps break down the basics of the NNAT (or Naglieri) test.

In a nutshell, what is the NNAT?

The NNAT, also called the Naglieri, is a test commonly used for identification of students for Gifted and Talented programs. This test assesses a child's spatial intelligence (visual skills).

How is the NNAT different from other standardized tests?

It is different from other tests because there are no passages to read or math questions to answer. In fact, there are no words at all! The test is made up of only pictures that students have to analyze.