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Editor's Note: We're thrilled to welcome Leo Marshall as a contributor to onBoarding Schools. Leo is the Director of Admission and Financial Aid at The Webb Schools in Claremont, CA- a coed, boarding school offering grades 9-12.

It seems inevitable at the end of any presentation about our school that we face questions about test scores. Perhaps, it's because we are selective (i.e. there are more applications than available space) that families are attempting to discern the exact requirements that might guarantee admission. They don't always have a clear idea of how all this works and can see test scores as, perhaps, the only hard criteria that they might understand. Unfortunately, most do not understand the purpose of admission tests or their place in the admission process.  

Admission tests like the Secondary Schools Admission Test (SSAT), which are required by virtually every selective boarding school, are what we call aptitude tests. They do not measure what a student knows about history or science, for example. Those are called achievement tests. What aptitude tests tell is exactly what their name implies: they tell us a student's relative aptitude for doing the kind of work necessary to find success in a college preparatory school. Every school, therefore, usually has a good sense of what scores predict relative success. A student's aptitude test results, however, are meaningless unless they are measured against a school's own criteria for what kind of student is best suited for the school's program. Now this is fairly maddening for the average applicant parent as none of us can say categorically that there is a certain score for all schools that can guarantee their child is qualified for admission. What we can say about the matter is that such scores are only one small, albeit important, piece of the admission puzzle.

Test scores tell us where the applicant falls relative to the competition and to students who have attended our school in the past and found success. But boarding schools look for much more than a test score. We look for students who can live in a diverse community of students and adults, students who have a certain amount of emotional intelligence that is not easily measured by any test currently designed for admission. We look for students who have not exemplified themselves solely by a grade point average but by what actually went into that grade average, i.e. mastery of a subject. We hope to learn that from the candidate's teachers. We also search for that student who will contribute to our schools in a profound way through, perhaps, a special talent or interest. Every school needs to fill its orchestra or choir, for example, and every school has sports teams that need athletes.

In spite of our efforts, however, to explain where scores fit in this list of criteria for admission, parents still insist on enrolling their children in test preparation courses at sometimes exorbitant costs. Perhaps more alarming is the fact that they sacrifice the necessary play time every adolescent needs in search of those elusive ten to fifteen points they think will make a difference in our admission decisions (which they won't). Instead of encouraging their children to read a variety of books, they believe memorizing vocabulary words will give their child an edge. The fact of the matter is that it works in the opposite way. When we meet a candidate whose entire after-school life centers on tutors for math, English, or SSAT preparation at the expense of engaging in that activity they find most rewarding, we become less interested in the candidate.

So, where do these scores fall in the whole scheme of things? At The Webb Schools, we know that typically a student should find success if they are in the upper quartile of those tested in a particular year. But after that we look at so many other things. Yes, we have turned down top test-takers and taken a chance on those with weaker scores because they just might add a unique spark to our community.  That is the art of admissions and, regrettably for that parent looking for a definitive answer to the puzzle, it is an art that remains abstract at best.

Editor's Note:  Visit The Webb Schools' (Claremont, CA) website to learn more about the school  and its programs.

My Introduction to Online Tutoring

I'm a relative newbie when it comes to web tutoring so I was more than happy to hop on a call with the owners of to learn about their online tutoring company.

ziizooTutors that partner with ziizoo set their own rates and students grade the quality of their work, which in turn is posted to the public tutor profiles. Think e-bay for tutoring.

It's a simple (and from what I gathered) effective way to ensure delivery of quality services to each and every client. Of course, the other thing I found very cool is their web platform that combines web 2.0 tools like instant messaging and online whiteboards.

Most tutors focus on the core academic courses (i.e. Algebra, Geometry, Calculus, High School English, etc.), but a few list SSAT prep as an offering. Let me know if you decide to check them out. I'd love to hear how ziizoo works for you.

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About onBoarding Schools

AdmissionsQuest's blog dedicated to boarding school admission & schools.

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This page is a archive of recent entries in the ISEE Test Prep category.

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