Upper School Placement Exams

Nearly all private and parochial schools use standardized tests as a component of admissions.  The three primary tests are the ISEE, SSAT, and HSPT.  A little uncertain about this alphabet soup?  Don’t worry – we have you covered with a primer below.

Our upper school placement prep typically starts with a testing plan based on target schools.  We then help students gain familiarity with the test, focusing on strategy, building core skills, and developing study skills that will last beyond the test.  This allows students to enter test day confidently and do their best.

The Testing Plan

We work with families to develop a testing plan for the student that fits in with already-busy schedules, but maximizes the student’s chance for success.  By having a plan in place, the student has a clear path forward that helps to lower the stress level for everyone.  Below is a typical schedule for a student taking the SSAT or ISEE (the HSPT has different scheduling requirements)

Summer before 8th grade – create testing plan
September / October – Begin test preparation
November / December – take the test
January – take the test again, if needed

If you are a little behind this schedule, don’t panic!  You can give us a call at 610.688.6441 to talk through options.



1-1 Instruction

Our instructors work with students in a low-pressure, positive environment.  A big part of our job is to not only to teach students the correct concepts, but also to give them the confidence to perform their best.  Our instruction is built around Mastery Learning, a pedagogy that focuses on breaking down concepts into small, easily-learnable pieces, coupled with clear feedback and correctives.  As students master each concept, they move on to the next, so that they are always working on achievable challenges.  With our 1-1 instruction, parents and students can schedule flexibly for as much or as little instruction as they need.



Small Group Instruction

Create your own group and students can come with 2-3 of their friends!  For some students, attending classes with peers allows for learning by observing as well as doing.  Others are motivated by competition and enjoy friendly games in the classroom environment.  Some just feel more comfortable when they can let other students jump in at times.  Whatever type of student you have, our small group classes can start on a flexible schedule and have the students ready for test day.  Classes run for 5 weeks, and are 1.5 hours per class.

Ready to get started?  Register here.  Have questions?  Give us a call at 610.688.6441.




About the Tests

The SSAT is produced by the Enrollment Management Association (EMA).  It is not an achievement test that measures knowledge gained to date about specific subjects.  Rather, it is an ability or aptitude test that measures basic skills and creative problem solving important for success in academics. If you live near Newtown Square, West Chester, or Chester Springs, PA and you need some help getting ready for this type of test, Crimson Review has all the tutoring you’ll need to succeed.

  • The SSAT Upper Level has sections for Math, Reading Comprehension, and Verbal (synonyms and analogies) and an unscored essay.
  • There are 3 levels of SSAT tests for elementary, middle, and upper schools admissions.
  • Unlike most other standardized tests, there is still a guessing penalty on the SSAT.
  • A student may take multiple SSATs in a year, with no limitations. It is given 8 times on national dates with one flex date per year.

The ISEE is produced by the Educational Records Bureau (ERB).  Similar to the SSAT, it is an aptitude test and not a curriculum-based achievement test.

  • The ISEE Upper Level has sections for Verbal (synonyms and sentence completion), Math (quantitative reasoning and math achievement), Reading Comprehension, and an unscored essay. Of the three tests, the ISEE tests the largest range of math skills.
  • There are three levels of ISEE tests for elementary, middle, and upper school admissions.
  • There is no penalty for guessing
  • Students can take the test once per testing window (4 month period), for up to 3 times in a year.

The HSPT is produced by Scholastic Testing Services (STS).  It is primarily used by Catholic schools and given at the school on a specific date.  STS is a for-profit company and provides test materials for a variety of schools.  They allow schools to alter the order and sections of the test so that they can have a unique “entrance exam”.

  • The HSPT has sections for Verbal (analogies, synonyms, logic), Math (quantitative and conceptual problem solving), and Language (grammar and usage)
  • There are also optional (based on the school’s choice) sections for Science, Mechanical Aptitude, and Catholic Religion.
  • There is only one level for the HSPT (for students entering high school).
  • There is no penalty for guessing.
  • Because each school gives their own administration of the test, a student applying to multiple Catholic schools will end up taking the test more than once.

Below is a table that lists some local schools and their required entrance exams.  Please note that while we make every effort to keep this list up to date, it is imperative to confirm with the school admissions department on their specific testing requirements.

Academy of Notre Dame de NamurHSPT*
Agnes IrwinISEE / SSAT
BaldwinISEE / SSAT
Country Day School of the Sacred HeartHSPT*
Devon PrepHSPT*
Episcopal AcademyISEE / SSAT
Friends CentralISEE / SSAT
Malvern PrepHSPT*
Merion Mercy AcademyHSPT*
ShipleyISEE / SSAT
St. Joseph’s PrepHSPT*
The Hill SchoolISEE / SSAT
Villa MariaHSPT*
William Penn CharterISEE / SSAT

*Schools marked with an asterisk give their own entrance exams. This may be a standard HSPT test or a modified version of it.