The Independent School Entrance Exam (ISEE) is an admissions test offered by the Educational Records Bureau (ERB) to its member schools. The ISEE choice for many independent schools throughout the country and abroad. The purpose of this exam is to quantify your academic accomplishments and reasoning ability. It’s used by private school admissions committees to predict your success at their school and is administered in either a paper or online format. ISEE registration may be done up to three times within 12 months, once in any or all of the three testing seasons. There are three seasons: Fall (August–November), Winter (December–March), and Spring/Summer (April–July).

Testing Seasons:

The ISEE can be taken up to three times a year by you (or your child). There are three seasons:

  • Fall (August–November),
  • Winter (December–March), and
  • Spring/Summer (April–July).

A student may only take the ISEE once per testing season. Although you can take the ISEE three times a year, planning in advance is essential. As an example, it is possible to schedule test dates for the ISEE in August, December, and April, but you cannot take it in August, September, and October.

Why Is the ISEE Required?

The school you are applying to has requested ISEE scores as part of the overall admissions process. By requiring admission tests for all students entering the same grade, so the school can view one common component among all applicants. In addition to your ISEE scores, the school may also look at your application, your school records, and possibly an interview.

The ISEE is administered on three levels, depending on the student’s current grade:

  • Lower Level (for students currently in grades 4-5 and are candidates for admission to grades 5 and 6)
  • Middle Level (for students currently in grades 6-7 and are candidates for admission to grades 7 and 8)
  • Upper Level (for students currently in grades 8-11 and are candidates for admission to grades 9 and 12)

What is Tested on the ISEE?

To score well on the ISEE, it’s important to understand its five sections and what they’re testing.

1. Verbal Reasoning:

Synonyms: Students are required to choose a word that has a similar or identical meaning to a given word.

Sentence Completion: Students must complete a sentence by selecting the most appropriate word or phrase.

2. Quantitative Reasoning:

Mathematical Concepts and Applications: This section assesses the student’s understanding of various mathematical concepts, such as arithmetic, algebra, geometry, and data analysis.

Quantitative Comparison: Students compare two quantities and determine their relationship, choosing from options like “greater,” “less,” or “equal.”

3. Reading Comprehension:

Students read passages and answer questions that assess their understanding of the main idea, supporting details, inference, vocabulary, and tone.

4. Mathematics Achievement:

This section focuses on assessing the student’s mathematical skills and problem-solving abilities, including arithmetic, algebra, geometry, and data analysis.

5. Essay:

Students are given a prompt and are required to write an organized and well-developed essay expressing their thoughts and ideas on the given topic.

How Long is the ISEE? 

The ISEE primary-level exam is considerably shorter and is unique to the three grade levels it covers:

  • The second-grade exam is 53 minutes 
  • The third-grade exam is 54 minutes 
  • The fourth-grade exam is 60 minutes

ISEE Lower-Level

The Lower-Level Exam is given to students applying for entrance to fifth or sixth grade. It is 2 hours and 20 minutes long.

SectionNumber of QuestionsSection Length
Verbal Reasoning3420 minutes
Quantitative Reasoning3835 minutes
Reading Comprehension2525 minutes
Mathematics Achievement3030 minutes
Essay130 minutes
Total Time1282 hours, 20 minutes

ISEE Middle and Upper-Level

The Middle-Level Exam is given to students applying for entrance to seventh or eighth grade, while the Upper-Level Exam is given to students applying for entrance to ninth, tenth, eleventh, or twelfth grade. The Middle Level and Upper-Level exams have the same number of questions, and they are both 2 hours and 40 minutes long.

Section# of QuestionsAllotted Time
Verbal Reasoning4020
Quantitative Reasoning3735
Reading Comprehension3635
Mathematics Achievement4740
Total1612 hours 40 minutes

How is the ISEE Test Scored?

Every question on the ISEE is of equal value and there is no penalty for wrong answers; consequently, test takers should answer every question, even if it means guessing. ISEE scores are represented in three ways: a scaled score, a percentile score, and a stanine score. 

  • Scaled Score: Raw scores are converted into scaled scores between 760 and 940. 
  • Percentile Score: This shows how the student compares against a “norm group,” which is made up of students who took the same test, for the same age group, over the past three years. The higher a student’s percentile score (the scale is 1% to 99%), the better they did on the exam. 
  • Stanine Score: This is the score commonly used by admissions departments. Stanines group percentage ranges on a nine-point scale. The distribution of scores into stanines remains consistent year to year—only 23% score between a seven and nine and only 23% score between a one and a three. Just 4% of students achieve a nine!

Stanine Score of ISEE:

Percentile ScoreStanine

You can also score the ISEE practice test and get a detailed diagnostic report by using the Socrato online bubble sheet grading platform.

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