High school entrance exam prep

Test prep that has a lasting impact on your child’s academic future.

Which test is for you?



The Independent School Entrance Examination (ISEE) is used for admission to private middle schools and private high schools. Students in fifth grade take the Lower Level, and students in eighth grade or above take the Upper Level.

Learn more about the ISEE



The Secondary School Admissions Test (SSAT) is used primarily for admission to boarding schools and the military. Some private secondary schools also accept this test. Students in eighth grade or above take the Upper Level.

Learn more about the SSAT



The High School Placement Test (HSPT) is a comprehensive placement test for students applying to ninth grade. It is often used for admission into parochial schools. The HSPT is offered at the school to which you are applying.

Learn more about the HSPT

Proctored practice exams are included!

Taking a high school entrance exam is often a young student’s first experience with a high-stakes standardized test. Practicing the exam in a realistic environment reduces stress and improves performance. Our proctored practice exams are included in the cost of tutoring for all our ISEE, SSAT, and HSPT students.


The advantage of a great ISEE, SSAT, or HSPT prep

At AJ Tutoring, we know that middle school and high school entrance exams are important to a student’s future.

They are also an opportunity to pinpoint and remedy content or test-taking gaps before your student heads into middle school or high school. If your student needs more practice, we offer academic tutoring to boost math, reading, writing, or general study skills.

In addition to working toward a great score, preparing for the ISEE, HSPT, or SSAT is a way to boost confidence and learn valuable skills. When viewed as a challenge that can be overcome with hard work and skill-building, your student’s standardized test prep becomes a fun and challenging opportunity to develop test-taking strategies and executive skills. The right test prep can set your student up for test-taking success for years to come.

AJ Tutoring is invested in your student long-term.

We speak constructively with students and communicate frequently with parents. Thus, when issues arise, a collaborative basis is already established to support our students.

No false promises. No shortcuts. Just knowledgeable and friendly educators, completely dedicated to your success!

Frequently asked questions (FAQs)

What are the major differences among the three exams?

The tests have different kinds of questions. The SSAT, ISEE, and HSPT are similar in the verbal and reading sections of the tests, but vary broadly in their quantitative sections.

The ISEE covers more advanced algebra and geometry than the SSAT does. The ISEE also includes a Quantitative Comparison section that is not present in the SSAT. This Quantitative Comparison section can be one of the ISEE’s most challenging portions.

Many students comment that the HSPT is easier than the ISEE and the SSAT; however, it is faster-paced and places a greater emphasis on percentages and sequences in the quantitative section, and it includes an additional Language Skills portion that is not present on the other exams.

What do the scores mean?

The ISEE, SSAT, and HSPT scores compare your student’s performance against that of other students applying to private schools. This is a competitive group of test-takers, so percentiles may be lower than those on previous standardized tests the student has taken at school.

Each section of the test (ISEE, SSAT, and HSPT) will be given a raw score, scaled score, and percentile rank, and ISEE and HSPT scores are given stanine ranks.

We’d be happy to help you make sense of your score report. Call or email one of our directors with the score report so that we can take a closer look at the types of questions missed and help recommend a test preparation plan.

How important are entrance exam scores to the admission process?

It is hard to say exactly how big a role these scores play in application decisions. Each school uses the exam scores differently, and there are many factors involved in admissions decisions, including grades, application essays, interviews, and school visits.

What is a good ISEE, SSAT, or HSPT score?

Keep in mind that these scores compare your student to a highly competitive group. Only a small fraction of students sit for private high school placement exams.

Percentiles of 75-99/stanines of 7-9 are generally considered “above average” and will be seen as very strong scores.

Percentiles of 25-75/stanines 4-6 are considered “average,” and should not prevent a student from gaining admission.

Percentiles of 1-25 / stanines 1-3 are considered “below average” and may raise questions about whether the school would be a good fit for the student.

Remember: Schools are primarily focused on finding great students to fit within their school culture. Whether a student and school will be a good match depends on many factors, and we have seen students with lower than average scores gain admission to highly competitive schools.

What is a stanine?

A stanine is another way of ranking percentiles.


If you score in the 98th percentile, for instance, you’d receive a 9 stanine score.


Did you know that you can retake the ISEE and SSAT?

As of August 2018, a student may now take the ISEE more than once. This reduces young students’ anxiety, reduces the score variability induced by a single testing environment, and gives you a better idea of what schools may be a good match for your student.

Each exam has its own rules about multiple testing.


A student may take the test once in each of the following four-month windows:

  • Fall: August-November
  • Winter: December-January
  • Spring/Summer: April-July


The SSAT is offered 8 times each year. A student can sit for as many test dates as he or she likes.


The HSPT may be taken again at the discretion of the individual school where a student is applying.

Our recommendation:

At the beginning of the process, sign up for the test twice: first in November and then in January. Then, if your student scores well the first time, you can cancel the later date and tutoring sessions. Register early to guarantee your child a seat at a convenient location.

Say hello to a better way to prepare for your private school entrance exams.

We're here to help you master testing taking strategies and the core content on these exams.

Talk to a Director
Peninsula Main Phone Number (650) 331-3251
Free Consultation