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By: Ashley Griffin, Director of Admissions, Mount de Sales Academy // MDS Musings Blog

You have decided on private school education. You have done your research and narrowed down your school choices. It is time to apply, and you have made it to the test portion of the admissions process. If your student is like many young people these days, test anxiety is real! This article will cover how to prepare for private school admissions testing.

Things to Consider

  • Understand the cost – Some private schools have an application fee, but they also may require a fee for sitting for the entrance exam. Check to make sure you are clear on the fees involved in taking a school’s admissions test.
  • Type of test – There are several types of tests used for private school admission, all with a different focus and outcome. It is not only good to know the test name to do your own research, but also to understand whether the test will cover core subjects, identify strengths and learning challenges, diagnostically look for prior skills learned, or check for gifted. Common admissions tests include ISEE (Independent School Entrance Examination), HSPT (High School Placement Test), PSAT (Preliminary SAT), and even the TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language) for non-native speakers.
  • Class placement – Will the results of the exam be used for course placement? Typically, entrance tests do not correlate to placement in certain classes, but it can sometimes identify gifted children which would lead to an honors track of courses.
  • Does the test really matter? What value does the school place on this one test and how are the scores used. Unless there is an interview portion of the admissions process, a lot of times committee members never meet the applicants. Entrance exams offer one more piece to the puzzle of who this child really is and what type of student they will be at their new school. Many factors come into play for acceptance in addition to admission test scores, including grades in certain subjects, teacher recommendations, and extracurricular activities and community involvement. But make sure you ask! It is also important to know if, as a parent, you will receive a copy of the scores and how to interpret them, to better prepare for future tests and school success.
  • Accommodations – If your child has any type of learning challenges or test, they may be eligible to receive testing accommodations. Traditional accommodations include extended time, preferential seating, oral delivery/responses, or an online version of the exam. A professional evaluation is usually required for any child needing or requesting testing accommodations.

What to Expect

Entrance exams can vary in length, from one to four hours. Longer tests are broken into sections by subject or type. For instance, your student may have a multiple choice section and a writing section, with paper and pencil or a computer-based portion. There are varying degrees of difficulty based on the age of the child and grade in school. Even the youngest of students, entering PreK or Kindergarten, can experience a series of questions on their name, address, movement, responsibility, and fine motor skills.

How to Prepare

It is important to prep your student before the day of the exam to calm fears and reduce anxiety. In addition to ensuring a good night’s sleep and a healthy meal before the test, you also may consider reading through sample test materials online, hiring a test-taking tutor, or offering your student examples of questions to review and answer. Most importantly, let your child know that one test does not determine their worth, and as with any standardized or course test in school, encourage them to do their best!

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Mount de Sales Academy is a private Catholic school located in Macon, GA, and serves students in Bibb, Houston, Jones, Monroe, Peach and other surrounding counties. MDS is sponsored and inspired by the Sisters of Mercy. Since 1876, MDS has served a diverse college-preparatory community of learners—students and teachers alike—who are poised to discover, challenged to innovate, and motivated to serve.