What is the ISEE Test? A Complete Overview

If you hope to attend a private school, you’ll likely need to take the ISEE test. This standardized exam helps schools understand the academic prowess of their applicants.

 

Keep reading to get up to speed on this important exam. 

 

Overview of the ISEE Test

 

The ISEE test, also known as the Independent School Entrance Exam, is used by private elementary, middle, and high schools to evaluate the core academic skills of their applicants. The exam is administered by the Educational Records Bureau (ERB) and covers students in grades two through 12 with unique tests for different grade levels. The ISEE levels are: 

 

  • Primary for entrance in grades two through four 
  • Lower for grades five and six 
  • Middle for entrance in grades seven and eight
  • Upper for entrance in grades nine through 12 

 

All levels of the ISEE test cover the same four core competencies—Verbal Reasoning, Quantitative Reasoning, Reading Comprehension, and Mathematics Achievement—however, the material and format vary depending on the group level given the test. Additionally, those taking the Lower, Middle, and Upper ISEE test are also given an essay question to answer. 

 

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. 

 

  • Verbal Reasoning: Evaluates a student’s vocabulary and problem-solving ability with questions about synonyms and sentence completion. 
  • Quantitative Reasoning: Assesses a variety of math concepts such as algebra, geometry, and statistics with word problems and quantitative comparisons. 
  • Reading Comprehension: Tests reading skills such as identifying main and supporting ideas, vocabulary, structure, and tone. Students will read passages on humanities, science, and social studies and answer accompanying questions. 
  • Mathematics Achievement: Covers skills such as algebra, geometry, measurement, and data analysis and probability. 
  • Essay: Students are given a prompt and tasked with writing a well organized and informed essay. The essay is not scored, but is given to the schools a student applies to and used as a writing sample. 

 

How Long is the ISEE? 

 

The upper- and middle-level ISEE tests share the same structure and timeframe, although the upper-level exam features more challenging questions. Below is a look at the format and time limits of the two exams:

 

Section 

# of Questions

Allotted Time

Verbal Reasoning

40

20

Quantitative Reasoning

37

35

Reading Comprehension

36

35

Mathematics Achievement

47

40

Essay

1

30

Total

161

2 hours 40 minutes

 

Here is the format of the lower-level ISEE test: 

 

Section 

# of Questions

Allotted Time 

Verbal Reasoning

34

20

Quantitative Reasoning

38

35

Reading Comprehension

25

25

Mathematics Achievement

30

30

Essay

1

30

Total

128

2 hours 20 minutes

 

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 Test Dates

 

The ISEE test dates are available throughout the year with the majority of them scheduled in the fall and early winter. The ISEE divides its test dates into three periods and a student is only allowed to take the exam once per period. The ISEE test date periods are: 

 

  • Fall: August through November
  • Winter: December through March 
  • Spring/Summer: April through July  

 

ISEE test dates are easily searchable on the ERB’s website. 

 

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 a scaled score between 760 and 940. 
  • Percentile Score: 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 into 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! 

 

Below is a look at how the ERB transforms percentiles ino stanines. 

 

Percentile Score

Stanine 

1%-3%

1

4%-10%

2

11%-22%

3

23%-39%

4

40%-59%

5

60%-76%

6

77%-88%

7

89%-95%

8

96%-99%

9

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How to Register for the ISEE? 

 

ISEE test registration is a fairly straightforward, four-step process: 

 

  • Create a parent account on the ISEE homepage. ISEE test registration is impossible without a parent account. 
    • To create a parent account, you will need to submit basic information like your name, address, and contact information.  
  • Once a parent account is created, you can add a student from your dashboard by clicking the “add a student” button. 
    • To add a student, you will need to supply information such as name, date of birth, and gender. 
    • It is possible to add multiple students, each with their own profiles. 
  • From the student profile, you can register for the ISEE by clicking the “new registration” button. 
    • Answer a series of questions asked in drop-down menus about the student’s academic history, specific test dates, sites, and methods. Pick the one that works best for you and click register. 
  • You will then be directed to the Prometric ProScheduler for the final steps of registration, such as payment and deciding which schools to send scores to. 

 

It is possible to take the ISEE at home, which is especially convenient during this current pandemic. A certified proctor monitors the exam via webcam and is available for assistance while a unique browser blocks the device the student is using from accessing any other programs. 

 

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Short Bio
A graduate of Northeastern University with a degree in English, Tim Peck currently lives in Concord, New Hampshire, where he balances a freelance writing career with the needs of his two Australian Shepherds to play outside.

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