There are lots of kinds of admission tests. Which ones should my child take?
For younger students, schools generally require the WISC or the WPPSI (“Whippsy”). There are many capable admission testers in the greater DC area, and I am happy to recommend at no charge a few whose work is consistently excellent. Most schools also keep their own lists of recommended testers.
For older students, almost every school requires either the SSAT or the ISEE. Unless a school specifies a particular test, they are accorded equal weight. Comparative info can be found elsewhere on this site.
Catholic schools that are governed by the Archdiocese of Washington require the HSPT, or High School Placement Test. It is administered in early December, and it may be submitted to two ADW schools. Some Catholic schools accept other tests, such as the SSAT or ISEE; still other schools require different tests altogether. Be sure you have checked carefully when you begin the process.
How important are test scores?
There is no single, definitive answer. Some schools weigh test scores very heavily in the application process; others less so. Even within a single school’s admission committee, it is likely that members regard test scores slightly differently.
That said, test scores are still pretty good predictors of admission offers, but only within broad swaths. Every school denies some applicants who have higher scores than some applicants who are admitted, and every school accepts some applicants who have lower test scores than some applicants who are denied. So we can obviously infer that test scores alone are not rock-solid guides to an applicant’s chances.
There is no question that higher is better. However, in my experience parents consistently over-emphasize the importance of test scores compared to the other sections of the application. At most schools, if your child’s scores are roughly between the 40th and 80th percentiles among students a school admits, the scores will barely count at all.
Finally, anybody who tells you that scores above the 90th percentile across the board are prerequisites for admission to any particular school is either uninformed or deliberately spreading falsehoods. There is no such school in the Washington area, and almost none nationwide.
Is special preparation for testing necessary?
Maybe. It depends on students’ scores at the beginning, the family’s view of testing, and the family’s resources. I am happy to discuss this question with any parent, and to make recommendations for those whom I consider the most effective test prep operations.
My child has already taken standardized tests. Can I use those for the admission process?
Maybe. They must be the right form of a test that the school already accepts, and they will have to be dated no more than a year before the application deadline. If you are happy with a set of test results, and they meet these criteria, it is sill imperative to check with the admission offices at any schools you’re considering.