The HSPT and ISEE are the two most common standardized tests used to determine admission to private schools. Their purpose is to determine a student’s aptitude for math and language and his/her ability to keep up with a particular school’s curriculum.
Particularly if a student has not had much experience with standardized testing, he/she will want to prepare for these exams; even if the material is familiar, the test format will not be, which can greatly hinder a student’s performance.
While the tests are offered in different levels for different grades, their breakdowns are also slightly different, as outlined below:
The HSPT (High School Placement Test) is specifically for eighth grade students who are seeking admission to certain Catholic High Schools. The HSPT is unique in that different concepts are tested simultaneously within one section. The typical HSPT exam spans for two and a half hours and contains 298 multiple choice questions. The exam consists of the following sections:
- One 16-minute Verbal section, which is designed to test a student’s knowledge of synonyms, antonyms, analogies, and his or her ability to make verbal classifications. This section contains 60 questions.
- One 30-minute Quantitative section, which contains 52 multiple choice questions. This section tests a student’s knowledge of how to complete number series, geometric and non-geometric comparisons, and number manipulations.
- One 45-minute Mathematics section, which contains 64 multiple choice questions. This section tests knowledge of more linear math skills, including arithmetic, algebra and geometry.
- One 25-minute Language Skills section, which contains 60 multiple choice questions. This section tests a student’s ability to identify grammar, usage, spelling and punctuational errors.
The HSPT does not penalize students for wrong answers, so it is better to guess than leave a question blank. Each correct answer is worth one point. The total number of points a student earns is then converted into a scaled score, which ranges anywhere from 200-800.
The ISEE offers a Lower Level test for 4th and 5th graders, a Middle Level for 6th-8th graders, and an Upper Level for 9th-12th graders. The ISEE is most commonly used by private and parochial schools. The ISEE consists of five sections that span 2 hours and 40 minutes:
- One 20-minute Verbal section, which tests vocabulary through synonyms and sentence completions
- One 35-minute Quantitative Reasoning section, which tests the ability to reason mathematically and arrive at statistical solutions to problems given
- One 35-minute Reading section, which tests reading comprehension
- One 40-minute Mathematics Achievement section, which tests arithmetic, algebra, and geometry (depending on the level)
- One 30-minute Essay, which tests your overall writing skills and ability to present and defend a thesis
Similar to the HSPT, the ISEE does not penalize students for wrong answers, so there is no reason to ever leave a question blank. Scaled scores for each section range from 760 to 940, and stanine scores range from 1 to 9.