The reading comprehension section of the ISEE and SSAT can be quite a challenge, even for strong readers. Why? The key lies in balancing speed with understanding. 

Unlike leisurely reading, where you soak in the details, the ISEE demands students read quicker than they may be used to while retaining a few key pieces of information for later.

In school or for pleasure, we often get lost in the story, focusing on interesting parts and sometimes skimming over others. But the ISEE and SSAT reading comprehension sections are different. It’s more like a scavenger hunt!

Focus on Finding Answers, Not Memorizing Details

Many students get stuck thinking they need to remember every detail to answer the questions. Here’s my favorite strategy to help them shift their thinking and shape their approach.

Finding Your Favorite Shirt

I ask my students, “What’s your favorite shirt?” Most will answer quickly as they picture their favorite shirt’s color, team logo, or design. 

Then I ask, “Where is that shirt right now?”

Most students will think for a few seconds and say, “It’s in the laundry.” 

Then comes a tricky question, “What other shirts are around it?” That’s when I see a confused look, followed by, “I don’t know!”

“Of course you don’t know exactly which shirts are near your favorite. But if I wanted you to get it, you could find it very quickly.”

This is how you should approach ISEE and SSAT Reading Comprehension passages. 

You don’t have to remember every detail, you just need to know where to find the answer. It’s like knowing where that shirt is.

Reading so carefully that you remember unnecessary details is like memorizing the contents of your shirt drawer to find your favorite shirt. It’s a waste of time and mental energy.

The ISEE reading comprehension section isn’t a memorization test. It’s about figuring out how and where to find answers. They’re asking you five or six questions so you only need to know those five or six answers. When you know where to look, you can find those answers quickly and easily.

If your child will be taking the ISEE or SSAT for admission to competitive independent schools, it would be my honor to be their guide on that journey. 

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