London, England has a vibrant international community, which is home to over 90,000 Americans. For nearly a decade, I was one of them!
While it might be tempting to think that American and British cultures are similar, those of us who have spent time living among both cultures can tell you that there are countless differences. The cultural differences between the US and the UK touch all aspects of life – birthday cake rituals, sandwich-making preferences, how we greet each other, fashion, design, education, and, one of my personal favourite topics: exams and exam prep.
Navigating the nuances of the education systems on both sides of the Atlantic is tricky. Since 2011 I’ve been working with American and international families in London as an ISEE and SSAT tutor and test prep expert to prepare students for these crucial exams.
Let’s look at some key items to note when preparing to take the ISEE (Independent School Entrance Exam) or SSAT (Secondary School Admission Test) in London.
Who Takes the ISEE or SSAT in London?
You may wonder how these American exams are relevant in a city like London. There are generally 2 international family dynamics I encounter when tutoring London-based students.
American families who relocate to London for short or medium-term work assignments often benefit from keeping their children in American curriculum schools.
This can eliminate the challenges of transitioning between the two distinctly different educational systems, especially if they intend to return to the US within a few years.
London has a handful of US-curriculum schools, and most don’t require the ISEE or SSAT exams. The American School in London, located in the leafy neighbourhood of St. Johns Wood, requires exams for students applying to grades 5 and above. Admissions requirements change from time to time, so it’s always best to check the admission page of the website for the schools to which you are applying.
When American or other globally mobile families move to the US after living in London, they will need to prepare for the ISEE or SSAT to apply to independent or private schools in major cities like New York, Miami, Seattle, and many others.
Boarding schools in New England like Taft, Deerfield Academy, Choate Rosemary Hall, Groton School, and others will also require SSAT or ISEE scores for admissions. (Again, it’s worth noting that admissions requirements change from year to year, so it’s important to check with each school.)
Families can also hire educational consultants, who know the ins and outs of competitive middle- and high-school admissions.
Where to Take the ISEE or SSAT in London
Paper-based testing at the American School in London
The American School in London, or ASL, provides in-person, proctored testing on specific dates. The testing dates for the paper-based exams are scheduled throughout the academic year, typically once per month during the fall and winter and once during the spring.
It is crucial to note that the ERB (Educational Records Bureau), the organization responsible for administering the ISEE, only allows students to take one test per testing “season.” This means students should carefully consider testing dates and coordinate with their ISEE / SSAT tutor to allow enough time for test preparation.
Computer-based testing at the Prometric Center
Students looking for a computer-based testing experience for the ISEE will find the Prometric Center in London’s Holborn neighborhood.
While this offers greater flexibility in terms of available dates, it’s important to know that this is a generic testing site, meaning students may find themselves in a room with adults taking various computer-based exams.
Families can register for computer-based ISEE testing on the ERB website. The SSAT is not available at the Prometric Center.
Click the image for a comparison of computer-based testing vs paper-based testing.
How the Exam Compares to Familiar Assessments
Most London families are familiar with the 11+ exam, a standardized test used to assess students for entrance into selective British secondary schools. While the 11+ exam and the Lower Level ISEE differ in their structure and format, they share some similarities.
The Lower Level ISEE is for students applying to American schools in grades 5 and 6. The 11+ is used in admissions for Year 6 in the UK system.
Both exams serve as key admissions components for competitive private schools in their respective educational systems.
Both exams present advanced material, exceeding grade-level expectations. Therefore, most families find that targeted preparation is needed for their students to score competitively.
As your family prepares for these challenging entrance exams, seeking expert guidance from a tutor or coach is invaluable. Students who have the opportunity to work 1:1 with a test prep expert will develop effective strategies for understanding challenging questions and improving their overall test-taking skills.
Families who understand the significance of these exams, consider the available testing options, and seek professional guidance, can effectively prepare their children for success on the ISEE or SSAT.
If you’re preparing for a similar move or you have questions about the ISEE or SSAT, let’s chat!