SSAT Exam Preparation at Pear Tree vs Cram Schools

Paul Romani

SSAT exam preparation requires having realistic expectations of a child’s abilities.


One question parents often ask is: “Are 4 x classes enough to get a good score on the SSAT?”

This question comes with an evident assumption that exam preparation is designed to improve students’ academic performance.

However, this is not a realistic expectation given the fact that their child has spent literally years at school to get to the level they are at! How could a few extra hours make a dramatic improvement in their academic ability?!

So, why do many parents make this assumption about exam preparation classes?

Blame the Cram Schools

For me, cram schools give tutoring a really bad reputation. While not as prevalent here in Vancouver, they still exist, playing on the expectations of families who grew up in countries where cram schools are the norm.

Such cram schools generally make unrealistic promises about results, which ultimately require their students to do absurd amounts of rote practice, rote memorisation, etc. They turn education into a tortuous, unenjoyable aspect of life, instead of the rewarding, life-changing experience that it is / should be!

What is more, their focus is almost always on results regardless of the needs or realistic abilities of the student.

This, consequently, puts tremendous pressure on children to achieve results that are simply not possible in the timeframe they are given.

How Pear Tree Is Different

At Pear Tree, we have a very different approach to SSAT exam preparation.

Our approach is to enhance a child’s love of learning! If a child wants to learn, they naturally achieve better results.

Secondly, we work within realistic expectations. If a child is weak at reading or vocabulary, there isn’t very much we can do to change that within a few classes.

It can take years of hard work and dedication to improve reading and vocabulary skills!

This is why early childhood literacy is so important, and why parents / schools should foster the love of reading.

It’s also why we quiz some families about their child’s reading habits.

Presenting Other Math Approaches

Nevertheless, while academic skills take years to develop, we still try to develop their general abilities in math by providing alternative methods of answer the same questions.

Finding approaches that work for all students is essential.

Clearly if the traditional approaches don’t work for students, doing more of the same doesn’t fix anything!

So often, students say “Why didn’t we learn this method at school?! It’s so much easier!”

At the same time, we find the students end up not only with stronger math foundations, but also the ability to handle higher-level math questions.

Ultimately, though, it takes a long time to solidify one’s understanding of new concepts. As such, our courses are designed to familiarise students with all aspects of the SSAT exam, teach them a ton of tips and strategies, and help them put their best foot forward.