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Private school applications: facing test results

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Kids might dread them, but tests also help give schools a sense of the students applying. Many schools will rely on past report cards but depending on the school and student's age, independent schools will use in-house or standardized testing to determine where your child stands academically compared to other students of his or her age. How much weight each school puts on the test's final outcome varies across the board, but it's only one factor in the overall assessment of a student. "We're looking at the whole student," says Kenny. "We weigh all of the criteria equally."

While Kenny herself discourages any special tutoring - it often just creates anxiety - in the case of standardized tests familiarizing your child with the format of the exam they'll be taking might help to make them feel more comfortable come test day. For example, the SSAT - or Secondary School Admission Test - is one of the more popular standardized tests that independent schools use anywhere between Grades 5 and 11. Prep materials for that test are available online to help students familiarize themselves with its format, says Karen Smith, communications director with SSATB, the non-profit organization that runs the test.

"For the parent, what they can do is go over test-taking strategies with their child, help them practice," Smith says. "Simulate an actual test in a timed environment, go over errors that your child makes on the test and help them see if they can figure out the right answers."

Parents should also help kids keep the importance of the test in perspective, Smith adds. "It is only one part of the application," she says.

A waiting game

With your applications in, and the tests and interviews done, the next step is just waiting it out to see if your child gets into their school of choice. But don't sweat it too much, Winberg suggests. "I always say the year before they get into a private school, the child should be concentrating on that year. If the kid's in Grade 3, they should be thinking about Grade 3 and not Grade 4," she says.

—Lisa Van de Ven
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