Originally published October 23, 2019
Standardized testing is a long, drawn-out experience, one that can be stressful to navigate. It’s helpful to determine the right test to take and, from there, to focus the investment of time and energy into that test. Although families are balancing ever-changing schedules, current school needs, and the expectations of potential schools, it is also important that students take the test on the right day and in the right way. Various accommodations are offered for standardized testing – be it for entry into middle school, high school, or college – in order to better tailor the test to the range of students that exists. But what about time, location, and setting?
For the SSAT, there is the Flex test. While there are eight standard SSAT test dates every year, sometimes none of them are convenient. Or the crowds that can show up on a standard test date are distracting. Or the locations for the standard test dates aren’t practical. The Flex test is designed to address these issues and help more students take the test when, where, and how it’s convenient for them.
There are a few, likely predictable, caveats to this wondrous offering. First, there is an additional cost. Additionally, there is no guarantee testing will be offered individually, though families can request this. (However, if a student is granted a reader or a scribe, they will be provided individual testing. Also, please note that once students are approved for accommodations, families should contact test consultants to confirm which consultants are available to proctor when and in the methods approved.) Finally, students can only take advantage of the Flex test once per year, from August through July. The date chosen for a Flex test cannot be a standard test date.
If the Flex test seems like the right path, then where do we start? There are two kinds of Flex tests: open and closed. Open Flex tests are offered by schools and are open to everyone. Closed Flex tests are likewise offered by schools, but they are offered by educational consultants as well. A closed Flex test is the option that truly begins to offer more control over SSAT time, location, and setting. Individual and small group testing can be arranged, and educational consultants provide their office space, a venue that may set some students more at ease than a school setting. However, families should check with the consultants to confirm the details of the test conditions offered.
As one might expect, there are also fewer test seats available with educational consultants, so scheduling early is highly recommended. Educational consultants also charge an additional fee on top of the one that accompanies an SSAT test. Other limitations that come with educational consultants are that they cannot provide the Elementary Level SSAT and may not provide for all testing accommodations.
If testing with an educational consultant sounds like the best way to approach the test, then here are some options in the Maryland, Virginia, and Washington, DC area.
What if the right test isn’t the SSAT but the ISEE?
Prometric testing centers offer the ISEE under similarly customizable conditions for a fee. Students should note that at Prometric centers, they may be among test-takers varying in age. Unlike the Flex test, though, the ISEE is taken on a computer, which means the essay will be typed by default and does not require the accommodation. Prometric sites also require that a parent or guardian stay at the testing center for the duration of the test.
Whether a test is taken at a school or with an educational consultant, on a standard date or on an arranged date, or with a typical group or individually, just be sure it’s the right test, taken on the right day, in the right way.