Independent School Entrance Examination - ISEE Test


ISEE exam is open to students of grades 2-12. ISEE tests their skills and knowledge in reasoning, English and math specific to their age & grade.

ISEE: Learning Before You Get There

The Independent School Entrance Examination, or ISEE, is a test that is administered to evaluate students who wish to gain admission to private schools. The results of the test are forwarded to recipient schools in an Individual Student Report, showing scaled scores, percentiles, and stanines, which is a standard scoring scheme for private school admission tests. The ISEE test includes reading comprehension and mathematics achievement, as well as a timed essay that, while not graded, is submitted with others scores. Formal ISEE practice tests are not allowed, but there are ways to prepare for the examinations ahead of time to assure that a student will do well.

The ISEE has three separate levels. The Lower Level is configured for students currently attending grades four and five. The Middle Level is for students in sixth and seventh grades (looking to attend seventh and eighth). The Upper Level is for candidates in eighth through eleventh grades seeking admission the following year. ISEE exams last for three hours and determine if a candidate possesses the knowledge and abilities required to attend the prestigious private school. The test can only be taken once within a six-month period and only if making formal application for admission to one or more schools. No practice administrations of the test are allowed.

The test consists of five portions that will measure capabilities for learning, as well as reading comprehension and mathematics achievement. Strengths and weaknesses will be assessed through the responses to the exam, and scores are arranged in three different formats: scaled scores, percentages, and stanines. All three scoring methods are included on the Student Report, which is sent to any and all schools to which the student is applying.

Between the levels, the number of questions or the time limit for each of the five sections of the ISEE may vary. However, most remain the same from one level to the next. Verbal Reasoning contains 40 questions, and students receive 30 minutes to complete the section (35 minutes on the Lower Level exam). This section includes questions asking for synonym identification and sentence completion. For all levels, the Quantitative Reasoning section contains 35 questions and is allotted 35 minutes for completion. All levels assess comprehension, interpretation, application, and higher order thinking. The Upper Level exam also covers arithmetic, algebra, and geometry concepts, as well as quantitative comparison. Reading Comprehension includes 40 questions (36 on the Lower Level exam) to be completed in 40 minutes and tests the ability to read and comprehend passages in the areas of humanities, science, and social studies.

The Mathematics Achievement section varies greatly from one level to the next, as math advances greatly from early school years into high school. The Lower Level and Middle Level exams both test knowledge and skills, as well as computation, comprehension, and application. Lower Level exam students are allotted 40 minutes to complete 35 questions, while Middle Level students are expected to complete 45 questions in 45 minutes. For the upper level exam, topics covered are more specific, including arithmetic, algebra, and geometry comprehension and skills. Students have 40 minutes to answer 40 questions. All levels include an essay, allotted a time limit of 30 minutes. While the essay is not scored, it is filed with the Student Report by the schools to which the applicants direct.

The ISEE test costs $75 for registration at this time for online or mail-in registration or $95 for phone or fax. There is also a $30 administration fee for walk-in test takers due to limited seating and resources. The test is given at many sites and takes about three hours not including instruction time and two breaks that are scheduled. ISEE test prep material is available in ISEE publications, including a book with sample questions.

The ISEE test is scored in three different fashions, all of which are shown on the individual Score Reports sent to the schools at which a candidate wishes to apply. In most cases, the score that will affect the decision of a prestigious private school is the stanines score. This is a system that ranks a child's performance on the ISEE from 1 (low) to 9 (high). While each school will have its own determination of a score worthy of admission, it is reasonable to guess upon receipt of the score whether or not a child will be admitted to the school of choice. The exam is not easy, and average scores range from 4 to 6, with 5 or 6 being a reasonable score. In most cases, however, private schools will select students with scores ranging from 7 to 8, with additional criteria pending (recommendations, interviews, etc). Parents receive a copy of their child's scores, as well. All scores are typically received by both parents and requested schools in about seven to ten business days.

In order to better prepare for the ISEE, as it is a very difficult test meant to identify the top candidates and highest achievers, individuals seeking admission to private schools who will be taking the exam are encouraged to take an ISEE practice test online prior to registering for the actual test. While the questions will not be the same as on the administered test, they will be on the same topics, formatted in the same way, and of similar difficulty. Candidates should be sure to take these sample tests with the time limits for their particular level in mind so that they receive a true assessment of their abilities prior to spending the money to take the test and apply for admission to private school. Also, a practice ISEE test can be used to identify strengths and weaknesses that must be corrected so that the student can do better on the actual exam.


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