Case Study: ISEE preparation

Case Study: ISEE preparation


Kyle was a bright, articulate, and inquisitive sixth-grader, interested in science and math, and an excellent lacrosse player. He was an exemplary student, achieving near-perfect grades on all of his schoolwork, and his knowledge of facts and trivia was impressive. Kyle and his parents felt he would be more challenged and better served by a more selective private school in his area. He had applied for admission in sixth grade, but his scores on the ISEE were not high enough for him to gain acceptance. Kyle decided to reapply in seventh grade, but he knew he needed to boost his score on the ISEE to make his application more competitive.

The Challenge

Although Kyle had taken the Lower Level ISEE before, his age required him to take the Mid-Level ISEE, designed for both sixth and seventh grade students. When he took the Lower Level ISEE as a fifth grader, he was on the higher end of the curve, but for the Mid-Level test, he would have to familiarize himself with seventh grade concepts as well as sixth grade material he had yet to cover in school. In addition, Kyle came to Signet only four weeks before his exam date and would be on vacation for a week during this short period. It was critical for his tutor to create a fast-working curriculum and maintain momentum during and after Kyle’s vacation. 

After conducting diagnostic tests, Kyle’s tutor observed that Kyle was very capable of scoring well and often answered many of the more difficult questions correctly. However, Kyle struggled to maintain focus and often made careless errors. He needed to improve his vocabulary and learn some new math concepts to score higher on those sections. Kyle’s biggest challenge was that he liked to feel smart, so he often tried to complete questions in his head or try to outsmart the test by over-thinking the questions. He would get frustrated when he felt his score didn’t reflect his actual abilities. Kyle’s tutor needed to design a comprehensive tutoring curriculum that introduced new concepts and vocabulary while also addressing Kyle’s unique challenges.

The Signet Solution

Kyle’s tutor began by assigning Kyle timed practice tests and instructing him on how to approach each question thoughtfully and thoroughly by evaluating relevant information and writing down his work to minimize mental error. Kyle’s scores improved immediately, but some of the more abstract math problems and unfamiliar vocabulary were still preventing Kyle from achieving higher scores. Kyle’s tutor showed him how to draw conclusions from the material he was given and apply what he deduced to answer the more sophisticated math questions. Kyle’s tutor created games and clever mnemonics to illuminate the vocabulary words he was learning and relate them to his own experience. This allowed Kyle to incorporate the words into his own lexicon and better remember them. To prevent Kyle from getting discouraged or bored, Kyle’s tutor rotated short practice sections in each subject, reinforcing material that Kyle already knew well, while boosting his confidence and keeping him engaged.

Kyle received an excellent score on the ISEE, far above even what he received the previous year on the Lower Level test. Better yet, he was accepted into his target school in a particularly competitive year and is excited to begin in the fall. After witnessing Kyle’s success, his parents even gave us the opportunity to work with his younger sister, too!

Picture of Katie Williams

Katie Williams

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