Guide To Private School Admission

Guide To Private School Admission

If you’re in the process of applying to a private middle school or high school, or if you’re considering applying to a boarding school, it’s natural to be nervous about how the application process works and how selective admissions committees are.

The most prestigious schools typically have applications that are longer, more involved, and require more information than other schools, so be prepared by taking the time you need to gather all of the information and materials you’ll need ahead of time.

Not every private school is equally as prestigious as others. Some have been around for a long time and have excellent reputations for turning out successful alumni; others are newer but have been making a name for themselves as innovative or exciting learning environments. And in many cases, the more prestigious the school is—which often means that its students go on to do exciting and lucrative things with their lives—the more selective it will be.

Similarly, these schools have their own admissions processes that can differ greatly from one another. Take some time to study each individual school’s website and look over their policies and procedures carefully.

The application process can be stressful for both parents and students alike. It helps to acknowledge this upfront so that you don’t end up feeling like a failure if your child doesn’t get into their dream school.

Rest assured: you can get into a private school even if it’s highly selective. It just takes some preparation and understanding of what they’re looking for. 

In this post, we’ll give you an overview of the application process and how to make yourself stand out from the crowd.


Putting together a standardized test prep plan might seem intimidating at first, but it’s actually pretty straightforward. 

Step 1: Take full-length practice tests early. You should take these as soon as possible to determine which test is the best fit for you, establish a baseline that shows where you need to improve, and give yourself an idea of how long it will take to reach your score goals.

Step 2: Talk to your schools. Find out what the admission requirements are and what average scores they look for in successful applicants so that you’ll know exactly what you need to aim for. 

Step 3: Consistently apply prep and practice. The only way you can achieve your score goals is by practicing consistently and applying prep on a regular basis.


It’s never too early to start preparing for your child’s admission process.

The highly competitive admissions process of most private schools typically requires students to take one or more standardized tests as part of the application. 

We have collated the most common admission tests Private Schools administer to guide you and child in getting good scores.


When your child goes off to kindergarten, you want to make sure they’re ready. But what does “ready” even mean?

The Kindergarten Readiness Assessment (KRA) is a tool that helps teachers assess each child’s school readiness across four domains: social foundations, mathematics, language and literacy, physical well-being and motor development, and physical development and motor skills.

With this information, teachers can help parents understand where their children are in the process of becoming school-ready. It’s not just about test scores—it’s about whether your child can confidently tie their shoes, follow directions from their new teacher, and get along with other children in the classroom.


  1. How old are you? Are you a boy or girl? 

2 pts: Knows both 

1 pts: Knows 1 or other 

0 pts: Knows none

  1. Draw a picture of a person.
  1. Write your first name.

2 pts: Letter reversal OK, nickname OK, letters in correct order. 

1 pts: Some letters, missing letters, letters out of order. 

0 pts: Refusal, no letters of name, scribbles.

  1. Identifies basic colors.

2 pts: 8 or more 

1 pts: 4-7 

0 pts: 0-3

  1. Identifies at least 4 basic shapes.

2 pts: 4 or more 

1 pts: 1-3 

0 pts: None

* These are just samples. It does not include the total number of questionnaires. Depending on a private school’s assessment, the evaluation may not be the same as others.

20-30 Ready for Kindergarten
10-20 Moderate Support Needed
0-10 Extensive Support Needed
  1. ISEE

If you’ve recently received your child’s acceptance letter to a private school, you can breathe a sigh of relief. The hard work is done.

But if you’re preparing for the process, then you know it’s far from over. Applying to private school can be stressful—for both students and parents. In addition to researching schools and writing essays, there’s also the test: The Independent School Entrance Exam (ISEE).

Admissions tests for the Educational Records Bureau (ERB) are known as the ISEE (ERB). Private schools all over the world use the ISEE exams to determine whether or not their applicants are academically prepared. An ISEE exam may be required for students currently enrolled in grades one through eleven when applying to a private school for the upcoming school year.

A total of four levels of testing are offered by the ISEE: primary, lower, middle, and higher. The primary level covers grades two through four, and each grade has its own exam. As an alternative, each level’s assessment is made up of a single exam that covers material from multiple grades.


If you prefer to take the ISEE online, you can do so. Only the lower, middle, and upper levels of the ISEE are available in paper format, whereas the online format is available for all levels.

There is no paper format option for the primary ISEE tests. Testing location may further limit the format’s availability.

In both the online and paper exams, students are presented with the same questions and given the same amount of time to answer them. There is a difference in the testing experience based on the format.

Students respond to an essay prompt while taking the ISEE computer exam, which requires them to read and interact with questions that appear onscreen. Scratch paper and pencils are provided for students who need to work out problems off-screen.

There will be no difference between taking the ISEE paper exam and taking it online, other than the format of the questions.

There are four ISEE levels, each with a different length and difficulty, but they all contain a reading section, a math section, and at the very least a writing prompt. In the following tables, you will find information about the sections and question counts for each exam.

ISEE Primary Level 2 (Entrance to Grade 2)

Auditory Comprehension 6 7 Minutes
Reading 18 20 Minutes
Mathematics 24 26 Minutes
Writing Sample 1 Picture Prompt Untimed
TOTAL 53 Minutes (Writing Excluded)

ISEE Primary Level 3 (Entrance to Grade 3)

Reading 24 28 Minutes
Mathematics 24 26 Minutes
Writing Sample 1 Picture Prompt Untimed
TOTAL 54 Minutes (Writing Excluded)

ISEE Primary Level 4 (Entrance to Grade 4)

Reading 28 30 Minutes
Mathematics 28 30 Minutes
Writing Sample 1 Picture Prompt Untimed
TOTAL 1 Hour (Writing Excluded)

ISEE Middle Level

Verbal Reasoning 34 20 Minutes
Quantitative Reasoning 38 35 Minutes
Reading Comprehension 25 25 Minutes
Mathematics Achievement 30 30 Minutes
Essay 1 Prompt 30 Minutes
TOTAL 2 Hours and 20 Minutes

ISEE Lower Level

Verbal Reasoning 40 20 Minutes
Quantitative Reasoning 37 35 Minutes
Reading Comprehension 36 35 Minutes
Mathematics Achievement 47 40 Minutes
Essay 1 Prompt 30 Minutes
TOTAL 2 Hours and 40 Minutes
  1. HSPT

It can be intimidating to take the HSPT.

The High School Placement Test (HSPT) is the admissions test used by Catholic high schools around the

country for students entering ninth grade. It is administered by Scholastic Testing Service (STS).

You or your student can register for the HSPT through the school(s) to which you are applying. The test

may be included in the application fee at some schools, while it may be charged separately at others.

The HSPT consists of five multiple-choice tests (Verbal Skills, Quantitative Skills, Reading, Mathematics,

and Language). Sections for Science, Religion and Mechanical Aptitude are available as well. Check with

the schools you are considering to see if any of these optional sections are necessary. No computerized

version of the test is available at this time.

The raw score of a student is transformed into a percentile rank that can be used at the national and local levels, using a scale ranging from 200 to 800. Making an incorrect guess will not result in any penalties. Because it indicates how well students performed in comparison to other HSPT test-takers in the same school/school system, students’ local percentile (which ranges from 1–99) is the most important number for admissions offices to look at.

Verbal Reasoning 60 16 Minutes
Quantitative Reasoning 52 30 Minutes
Reading Comprehension 62 25 Minutes
Mathematics Achievement 64 45 Minutes
Essay 60 25 Minutes
TOTAL 2 Hours and 21 Minutes
  1. SSAT

The Secondary School Admission Test (SSAT) is a standardized admission test administered by the Enrollment Management Association to students in grades 3–11 in the United States. It is designed to provide a standardized measure to assist professionals in independent or private elementary, middle, and high schools in making test-taking decisions.

The test is divided into three levels: the Elementary Level (EL), which is intended for students in grades 3 and 4 applying to grades 4 and 5; the Middle Level, which is intended for students in grades 5–7 applying to grades 6–8; and the Upper Level, which is intended for students in grades 8–11 applying to grades 9–12 (or PG (Post-Graduate year before college). The SSAT includes a brief unscored writing sample, multiple choice sections covering quantitative (mathematics), reading comprehension, and verbal questions, as well as an unscored experimental section at the end. The English-language test is administered at hundreds of test centers worldwide, the majority of which are independent schools. Students may take the exam on any or all of the eight standard test dates; the SSAT “Flex” test, which is administered by approved schools and consultants on a flexible schedule, is available only once per testing year.

Although each year, several different SSAT forms are used, the SSAT is administered and scored consistently (or standardly). The reported or scaled scores are equivalent and can be used interchangeably regardless of the type of test taken by students. This interchangeability of scores is accomplished through a statistical procedure known as score equating. Score equating is used to account for minor differences in form difficulty so that the resulting scores can be directly compared.

The SSAT assesses three constructs: verbal, quantitative, and reading abilities that students acquire over time, both in and out of school. The SSAT’s overall difficulty level is set at 50–60 percent. The distribution of question difficulties is chosen in such a way that the test effectively distinguishes between test takers with varying levels of ability. The SSAT is developed by review committees comprised of standardized test experts and select independent school teachers.

Elementary Level SSAT Test Breakdown

Elementary Level is for students in grades 3–4. Timing may vary for students with approved testing accommodations.

Quantitative/Math 30 30 Minutes
Verbal 30 20 Minutes
Break   15 Minutes
Reading 28 30 Minutes
Writing Sample 1 Prompt 15 Minutes
Experimental 15-17 15 Minutes
TOTAL 2 Hours and 5 Minutes

Middle/Upper Level SSAT Test Breakdown

Middle Level is for students in grades 5–7.  Upper Level is for students in grades 8–11. Timing may vary for students with approved testing accommodations.

Writing Sample 1 25 Minutes
Break   10 Minutes
Quantitative 25 30 Minutes
Reading 40 40 Minutes
Break   10 Minutes
Verbal 60 30 Minutes
Quantitative 25 30 Minutes
Experimental 16 15 Minutes
TOTAL 3 Hours and 10 Minutes

Imagine you’re a high school senior looking to apply to college. You’ve been studying for the SAT for months and are finally ready to take it – but you find out that your test center is closed due to COVID-19. You have no idea when it will reopen. Or, maybe you’re able to take the test, but you know there’s a chance that your score will be delayed because of the pandemic.

Test-blind is a term used to describe a school’s admissions policy in which test scores are not considered at all. You will not be considered for admission to any test-blind schools even if you take both the SAT and the ACT and have your scores sent to the admissions office of a testing institution.

If you are applying to an institution that uses a test-blind admissions policy, your SAT or ACT scores will not even be considered by the admissions committee.

Test-blind admissions are not the same as test-optional policies, which you may be more familiar with. When a school claims to be test-optional, it most often means that the applicant has the option of submitting their test scores with their application, rather than having to do so.

If you choose to submit your SAT or ACT scores, the admissions team will use a “holistic admissions” approach to evaluate your application. Essentially, this means that schools that do not require standardized tests will not prioritize your test scores over other components of your application (such as essays or letters of recommendation), and you will not be given an unfair advantage or disadvantage in the admissions process based on your test scores.

Test-blind schools, on the other hand, believe that other aspects of your application provide more accurate information about you as an applicant than test scores.

As a result, test-blind schools do not allow you to submit SAT/ACT scores, and they do not factor into your admissions decision at all. You don’t have to worry about taking a test, but you also don’t have to worry if your score isn’t great! Now all you have to do is focus on putting together a stellar application.


Academics, social maturity, and emotional awareness. These are the key ingredients that make up a student’s success at school. But it can be so hard to track these things; there are various different tests for each one, and it can get complicated and confusing for schools, teachers, and parents.

The ERB is a leading independent educational advisory organization in the industry. Using an integrated service, it tracks the entire student journey from Grade 1 through Grade 12, assessing and improving academic ability, social maturity, and emotional awareness along the way. ERB provides schools, educators, and families with the tools they need to maximize the potential of their students.


In areas such as reading, listening, vocabulary, writing, science (online only), and mathematics, the Comprehensive Testing Program (CTP4) is a rigorous assessment for students who achieve high levels of success in school. The CTP4 includes subtests in verbal and quantitative reasoning that are administered beginning in Grade 3. Comparing content-specific performance with the more conceptual knowledge base found in reasoning tests is made easier with the CTP4.


It is possible to compare the relative performance of an individual student or a group of students on a standardized test if it satisfies two conditions:

First, every single student needs to be required to answer the same question (or a selection of questions drawn from a common bank of questions) in the exact same way.

Second, the test must be scored “standardly,” meaning that the score given to each student’s response must be consistent across all test takers, so that the scores can be compared between all students or groups of students.


1-2 Word Analysis • Sight words • Phonic Analysis • Structural Analysis
1-3 Auditory Comprehension • Vocabulary in Context • Explicit Information • Inference • Analysis
1-8 Reading Comprehension • Vocabulary in Context • Explicit Information • Inference • Analysis
2-8 Writing Mechanics • Spelling • Capitalization • Punctuation • Usage • Sentence Construction (Grades 7-8)
3-8 Verbal Reasoning • Analogical Reasoning • Categorical Reasoning • Logical Reasoning
4-8 Vocabulary • Word Meanings • Precision • Application
3-8 Quantitative Reasoning • Comparison • Extensions/Generalizations • Analysis
1-8 Math • Number Sense and Operation, Whole Numbers (Grades 1-4) • Number Sense and Operation, Fractions and Decimals (Grades 3-4) • Number System and Number Theory (Grades 5-8) • Numbers and Number Relationships (Grades 5-8) • Geometry and Spatial Sense • Measurement • Probability (Grades 5-8) • Statistics (Grades 5-8) • Pre-Algebra (Grades 5-8) • Data Analysis, Statistics, Probability (Grades 1-4) • Patterns, Function and Pre-Algebra (Grades 1-4) • Conceptual Understanding • Problem Solving

You might have heard about the California Assessment of Student Performance and Progress (CAASPP), but you may not know what it’s all about. We’re here to help fill you in so that you’ll feel confident when you hear your student is going to be taking this test.

CAASPP (California Assessment of Student Performance and Progress) is an online assessment that assesses your child’s knowledge and abilities. The tests contain a variety of different types of questions that require students to interact with them. The results assist in identifying gaps in knowledge or skills early on, ensuring that your child receives the necessary support to succeed in school.

CAASPP is available in grades three through eight and eleven for English language arts/literacy and mathematics. It has computerized assessments for English Language Arts, math, and science taken at the end of the school year.

Your homeroom teacher will contact you to arrange for the test. Test sessions are available in increments of 2 hours. Students should schedule 3-4 sessions to complete all test components.

Since the switch to online administration, the Department of Education has made significant changes to the length of the test. Below you will find the California Department of Education’s best estimate of testing time.


3-5 ELA 0:45 2:00 2:45
6-8 ELA 0:45 2:00 2:45
11 ELA 1:00 2:00 3:00
3-5 Math 0:45 1:00 1:45
6-8 Math 1:00 1:00 2:00
11 Math 1:00 1:30 2:30
3-5 ELA and Math 1:30 3:00 4:30
6-8 ELA and Math 1:45 3:00 4:45
11 ELA and Math 2:00 3:30 5:30

CAST (California Science Test) and CSA (California Spanish Assessment)

5, 8, and once in High School CAST 1:00 – 2:00
3-8 and 11 CSA 2:00
  1. ESSAY

There are a lot of pieces that go into a college application. You’ve got the transcripts, the recommendations, and of course, the dreaded college essay. While it may be one of the most difficult parts of applying, it’s also one of the most important. 

If you’ve been asked to describe how your life has been shaped by a particular challenge or setback, you know how hard it can be to figure out what to say, let alone how to say it. While there’s no magic formula for writing a perfect essay, these tips will help you get started on crafting something that’s compelling, memorable, and unique to you.

Personalizing a college application through an essay is a way for students to go beyond grades and scores. It is also one of the most stressful steps in the application process because of all the information you have to provide.

Applying for college is a stressful time for any high school student. So much hangs in the balance, from test scores to GPA, to the ever-elusive essay. But of all the parts of the application process, it’s the essay that allows you to really stand out and show who you are as a person and as a student.


It can be refreshing for admissions officers to read an essay that is well-written. Students should check their work against the following criteria before submitting it:

  • Is the answer to the question clear?
  • Does the essay have a strong introduction that catches the reader’s attention?
  • Does it make an argument or tell a story? Does it stay on topic throughout?
  • Does it use language naturally—language that is comfortable for you and appropriate for the subject?
  • Is its structure correct? Is its grammar correct? Are there any mistakes in spelling or punctuation?
  • Did you use effective word choice, syntax, and structure?
  • Did you keep it within the recommended length?


Writing an essay is a great way to explore an idea and to share your opinion about the topic. While writing an essay, it is important to include the introductory paragraph. The introductory paragraph should contain a forceful introduction that will keep the reader engaged in reading your essay from beginning to end. A good introduction should include a quote by a famous person, or even a brutal fact related to your essay topic will catch the reader’s attention.


A body paragraph is the part of an essay in which you explain your topic in detail. 

  • First, you need to explain what you’re about to argue about. Be sure to describe the subject clearly and well. 
  • Describe the subject for what it is, then move on to your argument. 
  • Write a single piece of evidence supporting your answer and then elaborate on it. 
  • After writing one piece of evidence, move on to the next one and describe the next issue about your topic. 
  • Use transition statements between expressing the opposing view about the subject and your own corrected opinion. 
  • Next, appeal to your readers by providing them with concrete facts that they cannot deny. 
  • Improvise with your evidence and make it more appealing. Use credible statistics and research to strengthen your argument.

You can show off your research skills through the quality of writing in your body paragraphs.


If you want your readers to change their mindsets, you need to finish your essay with a conclusion that will compel them to do so. Your conclusion should leave no room for doubt and should be forceful enough to make them take action as soon as they can. If you have included a personal anecdote in the body of your essay, consider retelling it in your conclusion paragraph and explaining why this story has inspired you to write about the given topic.

You may also find it useful to conclude with an engaging question or a hypothetical situation that dramatizes the ramifications of not taking action on an important issue. This kind of ending will help you leave a lasting impression on your readers, who will be eager to respond or act on what they’ve learned from reading your essay.


As you’re getting ready for admission to private schools, we would be happy to support you. Groza Learning Center is an expert in test preparation for your child. In fact, 97% of our students get into the top three schools of their choice.

 When you work with us, we’ll match your child with one of our talented tutors who can help them get ready for their big test. We’re committed to making sure that every child we work with has a personalized learning experience—one that’s tailored to meet their specific needs and goals.

Groza Learning Center has been offering exceptional one-on-one tutoring services for a variety of tests, such as SSAT, ISEE, HSPT, and many others. We use proven approaches to the test preparation process that help children achieve outstanding results. The secret of our success is our systematic approach to the learning process.

We are looking forward to helping your child not only get into the best private schools but also prepare for the life challenges they will face in these institutions.