Relative to grade level, the ISEE is one of the most challenging entrance exams there is. Proper preparation is key to success on the ISEE. That’s why we’ve compiled key info about the ISEE for you and your student.
The Independent School Entrance Exam (ISEE) is an admissions test created and administered by the Educational Records Bureau (ERB). Independent day schools use the test as a way to evaluate applicants.
Students applying to independent schools for entry to grades 2-12 take this exam as part of the application process. The ISEE evaluates a student’s individual academic knowledge and reasoning skills. However, the content and format of the test is different from what most students experience in school.
That’s why preparation for a test like the ISEE is key!
Students can take the ISEE once per season (Fall, Winter, Spring/Summer), for a total of up to three times per calendar year.
Many independent day schools in the United States require applications and ISEE scores to be submitted by January or February for admission in the Fall. Therefore, for most students, testing happens in the fall and early winter seasons, and prep begins 6-12 months before test day.
Paper vs. Computer
Except for the Primary Level, the ISEE is offered as a paper-based or computer-based test. Which version to take is a matter of preference. Families should consider the following conditions:
Each level of the ISEE is split into timed sections. While Primary level subtests differ, the Lower, Middle, and Upper levels of the ISEE assess students in four sections: Verbal Reasoning, Quantitative Reasoning, Reading Comprehension, and Mathematics Achievement. Additionally, there is an essay component that is not scored but sent to schools you apply to as a student writing sample.
|Primary 2||Grade 2|
|Primary 3||Grade 3|
|Primary 4||Grade 4|
|Lower||Grade 5 or 6|
|Middle||Grade 7 or 8|
|Upper||Grade 9, 10, 11, or 12|
The Verbal Reasoning section consists of two sections: vocabulary and sentence completion. In the former, students are given an abstract, grade-appropriate word and asked to select an answer choice that is most nearly the same in meaning, while in the latter, students are asked to choose the word(s) or phrase that best completes the missing word or pair of words from a sentence.
The Quantitative Reasoning section assesses a student’s ability to reason mathematically and usually requires little or no calculations. The Lower Level consists of only word problems, while the Middle and Upper Levels also include quantitative comparisons.
The actual distance between two towns that are 1 meter apart on the map
In the Reading Comprehension section of the exam, students are asked to read a passage and answer a set of questions specific to that passage. This section of the test is the most predictable as we know exactly how many passages and questions per passage to expect, as well as the expected genres and question types. This is also the section that will be most familiar to students from their everyday schoolwork.
Finally, the Mathematics Achievement section consists of questions normed to national mathematics standards that ask students to identify the problem and find a solution to that problem. These questions usually require one or more steps in calculating the answer.
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The ISEE is a peer-normed test, meaning each student will receive a score relative to a norm group of same-aged peers who have tested over the past three years.
It’s important to remember that your student’s ISEE scores are only part of their overall application, but strong ISEE scores can set him or her apart from the other applicants!
Click on the image to the right for further information on how to understand the different sections of an ISEE Score Report.
While some companies and tutors may tell you the best way to start is by having your student take a diagnostic exam, we actually believe the opposite! The ISEE is a long, competitive, and challenging exam that requires a lot of preparation and practice. That’s why we recommend that students meet with a tutor a handful of times, or attend a few small-group classes, prior to sitting for any full-length test.
The results we get from this “diagnostic” test a few sessions into the preparation program is a lot more meaningful than a blind attempt before introduction to the testing format and content. We use this data to plan each student’s ISEE course of study around specific concepts, skills, and knowledge. While every student has different strengths and abilities, we firmly believe in three interrelated and cyclical core principles when it comes to preparing for a test like the ISEE: evaluate, plan, and practice.
Preparing for a standardized test such as the ISEE can be a difficult and trying time. In addition to challenging material, preparing for a standardized test can often feel like an extra responsibility. We encourage you to reach out to trusted companies, like The Tutorverse, to help with your preparation. Strong tutors, teachers, mentors, and consultants can help you evaluating, execute, and reevaluate your needs to make the most of the limited time available.
Ready to get your ISEE prep started? Check out our Lower Level or Upper Level ISEE Boot Camps!
The Upper Level Boot Camp is also available in an on-demand format, so your student can get access to the same great materials but complete the work on an individualized timeline.
Gearing up to take your test online with the ERB? Our Digital ISEE Content is the right fit for you.
Get over 1,000 extra practice problems with our Questions Sets, and practice testing on the computer with our set of five proprietary Practice Tests!
Looking for vocabulary quizzes or other test prep content?