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What is the ISEE®?

The Independent School Entrance Examination (ISEE® Test) is an achievement and reasoning test used by over 1,200 private schools as a factor of their admissions process. Schools can choose how much they factor the ISEE in their admissions, with other items, such as student interview and school records, also factoring into the decision.

Currently, the ISEE is administered either online or on paper, with both test formats consisting of the same number of questions and allotting the same amount of time per section. There are three levels of the ISEE:

  • Lower Level: Students in grades 4 and 5 who are entering grades 5 and 6.
  • Middle Level: Students in grades 6 and 7 who are entering grades 7 and 8.
  • Upper Level: Students in grades 8 through 11 who are entering grades 9 through 12.

Additionally, it is important to review the five sections of the ISEE.  These consist of:

  • Verbal reasoning: This section examines the range of a student’s vocabulary, in addition to their ability to problem solve. Students will often be presented with sentence completion questions, and synonym exercise. The synonym piece tests the student’s ability to choose a word (from the answer choices) that is similar to the target word.
  • Quantitative Reasoning: Students completing the Lower Level will complete word problems, while students completing the Middle and Upper Levels will focus on word problems and quantitative comparisons. Other targeted skills include:
    • Numbers and operations
    • Algebra
    • Geometry
    • Measurement
    • Data Analysis and Probability
    • Problem Solving
  • Math Achievement:This sections assesses a student’s ability to complete problems that require one or more steps in calculation. These questions focus in on skills sets such as decimals, percents and fractions; and measurement.
  • Reading comprehension: Lower Level students will be presented with 5 passages, each with five questions. Students completing the Middle and Upper Level will be presented with six passages that are accompanied by six questions. These questions focus on topics such as main ideas, supporting ideas, vocabulary, organizational structure, tone and figurative language.
  • Optional writing exercise: Students will be asked to plan and organize a well formulated essay. The writing sample is given to the school in which the student is applying to. This will provide the school with a better sense of how the student writes. Essays will not receive a score .

Methods of Preparing for the ISEE

In preparation for the ISEE, the ERB offers an online interactive practice exam that is attached below. Your child should complete the practice questions by their designated grade level.

Lower Level: Candidates for Grades 5-6

Middle Level: Candidates for Grades 7-8

Upper Level: Candidates for Grades 9-12

The ISEE materials provided are extremely helpful, as they provide your child with customized questions (by grade level) that are accompanied by answer explanations. These explanations are important as the child will gain a better sense of the reasoning behind each question. It will also allow your child to reverse any misunderstandings or confusion before the day of the exam. Additionally, the student may find it beneficial to gain a sense of the structural formatting and timing of each of the sections before taking the exam.

As the parent, it may be helpful to encourage your child to approach a few practice questions, or content areas per day. Consistency is key! Your student may prefer to put in a few quality hours per day, rather then putting in hours of practice. This may leave your child feeling slightly overwhelmed and unfocused. By the day of the test the goal is that your child go in feeling fresh, ready and motivated! In addition to the ISEE practice materials (provided by the ERB) you can find ISEE practice questions here on the TestingMom Website: ISEE Practice Questions!

As parents, there are a few more tips that you can give your child as they continue to study for the exam:

  • Encourage the child to not rush through each question, but rather read each question fully. The student should have a solid understanding of what the question is asking before they approach the answer choices.
  • Don’t skip over answer choices if you are not confident that they are incorrect. Test each answer choice before eliminating it.
  • Never be afraid to take an educated guess on the ISEE. This advice is crucial because there is no penalty for answering incorrectly. Your best guess could lead to a correct answer!


Individual Student Report

The goal of the test profile is to offer information about the student’s performance across each section of the ISEE. These scores do not capture the student’s performance on the essay which is unscored and shared with the schools to which the student is applying. The test profile will report percentile ranks with a reference to ISEE norms. These norms are based on independent school applicants in the same grade who have taken the test during the past three years. A student will only be compared to another student who is in that same grade.

Scaled Score: ISEE scaled scores for each section range from 760 to 940. The scaled score is based upon the raw score, which is the number of questions that the student answers correctly.

Percentile Rank: The percentile rank compares the student’s standing when compared to other students in the norm group. Percentile rank scores will range from 1 to 99. For example, if a student scores a 66 on mathematics then that means that the student scored as well or as better than 66 percent of all students in the norm group and less well than 33 percent (out of a total of 99 percentile points).

Stanine: A stanine is classified as a score from 1 to 9, with a midpoint of 5. Stanines are established by dividing the full range of students’ scores into 9 segments. Below is an example of this concept:



  • Stanine Analysis: A stanine analysis compares a student’s performance on the ability tests and the related achievement tests. These comparisons are made between verbal reasoning (V) and reading comprehension (R), as well as between quantitative reasoning (Q) and mathematics achievement (M).

If you’re interested in more about the ISEE, visit the following links:

ISEE® Test (Independent School Entrance Exam)

ISEE Practice Questions

How is the ISEE Scored?

Independent School Entrance Exam® (ISEE®) is a registered trademark of the Educational Resource Bureau (ERB) or its affiliate(s), or their licensors. Test Prep Express is not affiliated with nor related to the Educational Resource Bureau (ERB) or its affiliates (“ERB”). ERB does not sponsor or endorse any Test Prep Express product, nor have Test Prep Express products or services been reviewed, certified, or approved by ERB. Trademarks referring to specific test providers are used by Test Prep Express for nominative purposes only and such trademarks are solely the property of their respective owners.