The ISEE: what to expect from the ISEE

The Independent School Entrance Exam (ISEE) is created by the Educational Records Office (ERB). It is used as a component in the admissions process of many private schools. There are three levels of testing. The Lower Level is for students going to the fifth or sixth grade; the middle level is for students going to the seventh or eighth grade; finally, the upper level is for students in grades nine through twelve. Each level assesses students’ knowledge in four areas: verbal reasoning, quantitative reasoning, reading comprehension, math performance, and essay writing. Although the format of each test is the same, the material covered in the higher level tests will necessarily be more difficult than that of the lower levels. This article will discuss the material found on the test, what to expect on test day, how to prepare, and how to interpret an ISEE score.

The Verbal Reasoning section of the ISEE contains three types of items: synonyms, single word sentence completion, and sentence sentence completion. The next section, quantitative reasoning, is made up of essentially logical problems. Arithmetic calculations may not be required. In the reading comprehension section, students are expected to read a passage and then identify main and supporting ideas, infer conclusions from the text, define words based on context, identify the organization and logic of the passage, and identify the tone, style and figurative language as personification and irony. Finally, the math achievement section assesses students in grade-appropriate math; In general, the problems involve arithmetic, algebra, geometry, measurement, and probability. Finally, the essay is based on a guideline and is not graded, but is sent to the school the student is applying to.

When taking the test, students should know its structure. Each of the sections is timed. Hours vary for the lower, middle and upper levels, so parents should find the appropriate information on the ERB website. All tests have two five-minute breaks for students during the test. On test day, students must bring four # 2 pencils and two black or blue ink pens (erasable ink is allowed). Most other items, including waste paper, calculators, and reference materials, are not allowed. Cell phones and other electronic devices are strictly prohibited and cannot be brought into the exam room.

Preparation is essential to be successful at ISEE. The ERB does not recommend preparing students for the levels they are not taking (that is, teaching a fifth grade student higher level test material). There is an official guide to help students prepare for the ISEE on the ERB website. If your student requires further assistance, you should consider an ISEE exam preparation program to help reinforce your student’s knowledge and increase their confidence in their skills prior to the exam. A test preparation program will help your student learn test-taking strategies and apply them on practice tests, ideally tests that accurately reflect the time constraints and other constraints of the actual test. Taking the ISEE can be stressful for a student, and preparation will help them get the most out of it.

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