Effective SSAT & ISEE Homework Habits

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Effective homework for the SSAT and ISEE means working smarter, not working harder. While breezing through half a box of flashcards in a week may give you a fleeting sense of accomplishment, try remembering those words in two weeks. Now, try remembering them in two months, when it’s time to sit for your first official test. Chances are they’ve left your brain entirely!

Your tutor will help design a homework plan each week that’s tailor-made for you. If you’re struggling with analogies, they may assign you a practice set of analogies, with specific instructions to focus on your bridge sentences and to skip a certain number of questions. If time management in math is your trouble spot, they’ll likely ask you to time yourself for a math section so you grow more comfortable with the test’s time constraints.

As for vocab, daily practice is always best. However, it’s about the quality of your practice, not the quantity of words you attempt to cram into your brain! I often set the goal of 20 new words per week – from your flashcards, your vocabulary workbook, or the new words you’ve discussed in session. Really try to learn those 20. Write sentences with them. Try to see how many you can use in one dinnertime conversation. Then, incorporate them into your practice in later weeks. Ask your parents, siblings, or tutor to “pop quiz” you each week, to keep yourself accountable. Soon, you’ll be sauntering through the halls, dazzling your teachers and classmates with a formidable lexicon.


  • Do make a homework plan. Pick a day (or days) and time each week that you’ll have free to dedicate to the SSAT homework your tutor assigns. Have soccer practice every day after school except Wednesday? Maybe Wednesday right after school is a good time. Do you normally zone out in front of YouTube every night after dinner? Pick a night or two where you’ll tackle your homework instead. Make it specific and write it down.
  • Do find a quiet place to work. Sitting at the kitchen counter to work on math is great…until your little sister starts performing her latest hip-hop dance routine and your dog starts whining at you, wanting to play. Pick a place where you can focus, undisturbed, for one hour, and your homework will be done (and done well!) before you know it.
  • Do ask for help. Are you totally frustrated by percentages and wish they would disappear from the test entirely? Ask a parent or older sibling or math-guru friend for their tips and tricks. You may learn a technique that makes the topic really click in your brain! Remember to mark the problems you received help on and to mention them to your tutor – they’ll want to know about these problems so they can best help you, too.
  • Do tell your tutor if you feel overwhelmed with schoolwork, sports, or school-play rehearsals during a given week. They’ll understand and will adjust your homework accordingly! Likewise, it’s good to be honest with your tutor if you didn’t get to your homework one week. They’re there to help, and, rather than getting mad, they’ll help devise a plan that can work with your busy schedule.


  • Don’t wait until the last minute to sit down with your homework. An hour before you meet with your tutor, the drive to PrepMatters, the ten minutes you lounge in the lobby – none of these is ideal for focusing and doing your best work. (Also, your tutor can totally tell you did your back-solving problems in the car.)
  • Don’t work in front of a screen – not a phone, a computer, or a TV.
  • Don’t forget about sleep! Is it 10:30 pm the night before you meet with your tutor, and you’ve just remembered you’ve got synonyms to work on? Get in bed anyway. The best thing you can do for your brain and body’s health is get 8-10 hours of sleep EVERY night. Let your tutor know you opted for sleep, and together you can make a concrete game plan for how to be well-rested AND complete next week’s assignment.

Kate Kula

Senior Tutor/Resume Specialist

SAT, ACT and PSAT prep tutor Kate Kula was born and raised in the Chicago area. She headed east for college and has been here ever since. Kate earned a B.A. in Art History from The College of William & Mary, and an M.A. in Art History & Archaeology from the University of Maryland-College Park. As a Ph.D. candidate at Maryland, she specialized in 19th-century European and American art. K...

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