Ivy Bound Test Prep Blog

Does Your Child Need a Tutor?

As a parent, it can be frustrating when your child doesn’t communicate with you. Especially as they grow older, children can become more introverted from their parents. When one or two bad report cards come home, you find yourself unable to get to the root of the problem. If you think your child may need a tutor, we offer six telltale signs.

Woman studying her notesLack of Motivation

If your child procrastinates around homework time and it’s like pulling teeth to get the work started, it’s a sign that he or she needs a tutor. The lack of enthusiasm about school could be the result of a number of things, but poor academic performance due to a lack of motivation is likely. When your child has no desire to go to school, it may be time to consult the teacher.

Easily Distracted

A lack of focus goes hand-in-hand with the previous point. If your child sits down at homework time, then immediately starts to find excuses not to start the work, it could also be an indication of a learning disability. Many students have trouble paying attention in class, but it is nothing to be ashamed of when there is help available through tutoring. (more…)

How to Prepare for the SSAT

Students in 3rd through 11th grade who are considering admission to an elite, independent elementary, middle or high school will have to submit their Secondary School Admission Test scores. If you choose to take the SSAT over the Independent School Entrance Exam (for students grade 5 – 12), what should you know about the test?

What’s Tested on the SSAT?

student taking a multiple choice testThe results of the SSAT help admissions counselors assess a student’s academic abilities and whether or not they are a good fit to be enrolled at their independent school. Similar to the ISEE, there are three levels of the SSAT: Elementary (grades 3-4), Middle (grades 5-7) and Upper (grades 8-11). The test questions are written by independent school educators and test experts. The five sections are:

  • Quantitative (Math): Basic concepts, algebra, geometry and probability.
  • Reading Comprehension: Response to passages.
  • Verbal: Reasoning through synonyms and analogies.
  • Experimental: New questions for future SSATs.
  • Essay: A creative or traditional response to a prompt.


How to Prepare for the ISEE

Admission to an elite, private middle or high school can be very competitive! In addition to a student’s application, interview and teacher recommendations, a standardized test score is required for consideration. Typically, students have two choices: The Independent School Entrance Exam (ISEE) or the Secondary School Admission Test (SSAT). The ISEE is thought to be the more advanced test, but many schools accept either. If you choose to take the ISEE, what should you know about the test?

What’s Tested on the ISEE?

close up of multiple choice test Students applying to prep schools have demonstrated superior academic success. There are three levels of the ISEE: Lower (grades 5 – 6), Middle (grades 7 – 8) and Upper (grades 9 – 12). Each level has five areas of testing that vary depending on your academic year. They are:

  • Verbal Reasoning: Vocabulary
  • Quantitative Reasoning: Word Problems
  • Reading Comprehension: Response to passages
  • Mathematics Achievement: Multiple choice math problems
  • Essay: Typically a descriptive essay in response to a prompt


What Do College Admissions Officers Want?

You may not be applying to college for another few years, but it is never too early to start preparing your resume. While every college is different, there are certain trends in what admissions counselors typically look for in applicants. As test prep experts, it is our mission to help students succeed academically. We uncover the mystery of four common concerns that students have during the college application process.

filling out an online college applicationAP Classes

If your high school offers 16 Advanced Placement courses, don’t feel that you have to take every one of them. Quality trumps quantity in this scenario. Chances are, you have a weakness in at least one subject. Don’t force yourself to struggle through AP Chemistry if your true strengths lie in English and History.

Extracurricular Activities

Students who do not excel in sports or lack the time to join school clubs because of a part-time job can stop worrying. Many college admissions counselors prefer applicants to focus on their passions rather than piling on activities for the sake of it. The student who is the president of his or her class for all four years of high school shows long-term commitment and leadership skills, as opposed to the student who lists 20 activities.


Assessing the ACT vs SAT For Your Child

Choosing between the ACT and SAT is a major decision for a student. How do you decide?

student taking a multiple choice test Although a 90-minute assessment by a human tutor is better than a 3-hour test with computerized printout, students need to realize that one session is not a great litmus test, even with a very seasoned tutor.

The three-hour tests used to be very successful; Ivy Bound used them regularly with its students. However, since the modern SAT has moved closer to the ACT and the SAT itself is still undergoing changes to both its content and its scaling, a detailed assessment may be fruitless.

A student who appears to be a 700 / 650 scorer from an early assessment could be a full hundred points lower due to randomness on the actual test. Subtract another 50 if the student has a sub-optimal testing day and the result is 1200 vs 1350 – a big difference on a 1600 scale.

Is the SAT or ACT Optimal?

At Ivy Bound, our criteria for deciding between the two tests are:


Five SAT/ACT Factors That Have Changed Since 2015

Staying on top of changes in admissions criteria is part of our job at Ivy Bound. Here are five changes wrought by the SAT and college acceptance of it affecting the Class of 2017.


blog-ivyColleges that cherry-pick or super-score the best sections give an advantage to students who take the same test multiple times. Over the last few months, more colleges have embraced super-scoring the ACT. At this point, the majority are committed to super-scoring this test. By our rough survey, it’s about 55 percent of colleges. About 95 percent are committed to super-scoring the SAT, so there is still an advantage for SAT by these standards.

SAT Uncertainty

This is the big mystery; because of the new, arguably unreliable SAT scale, some colleges are downplaying SAT scores this year. At these particular colleges, this helps the 4.0 student who lacks a great SAT score, but hurts every other student. The ACT has not changed its multiple choice significantly. We have no evidence of a diminution in college acceptance of the ACT.


The Importance of Vocab in Life

Some students are rejoicing now that The College Board has eliminated directly testing vocabulary, through Sentence Completion. Others still work through their lists to build an advantage with the indirect uses of vocabulary that are still tested. Despite the elimination of Sentence Completion from the new SAT, learning vocabulary will still impact a student’s score on both the Reading Comprehension and Essay sections. These are two small reasons why a student should learn and expand his or her vocabulary.

The most important benefit of having a sophisticated vocabulary is the way it impacts all aspects of one’s life, from elementary school through adulthood! Students are doing themselves a huge disservice by eliminating vocabulary study, simply because the SAT no longer tests Sentence Completion.

Let’s review all the ways learning vocab can help in life.

person reading a dictionary Improves Reading Comprehension

This is helpful in every academic subject that requires reading – which is practically every subject other than straight-up math. Most students don’t sit with a dictionary looking up words they don’t know and rarely even check definitions electronically. Words that are unknown are too often skipped, resulting in the loss of the deeper meaning of the passage or subject matter. Students can sometimes derive the meaning of words they don’t know through the context of a sentence, but when there are numerous unrecognizable words, the chances of this undoubtedly diminish. Unfortunately, this can translate to a dramatic impact on a student’s grades in high school and beyond. (more…)

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