What you need to know about the ISEE exam


What is the ISEE Test?

The ISEE (Independent School Entrance Examination) is a standardized assessment developed by the Educational Records Bureau (ERB) and used for admissions to private/independent schools. The ISEE scores are used as one piece of the overall student profile for application consideration. The ISEE measures verbal reasoning, quantitative reasoning, reading comprehension, and mathematics achievements.

There are different levels to this assessment based on where you are in your education: Primary Level (Entering Grades 2-4), Lower Level (entering Grades 5 and 6), Middle Level (entering Grades 7 and 8) and Upper Level (entering Grades 9-12).


When do you usually take the ISEE?

The ISEE can be taken as either a paper-and-pencil assessment or online at a testing site. The assessment can be taken up to three times in a 12 month admissions cycle or once in any or all of the three testing seasons. Testing seasons are Fall (August-November), Winter (December-March), and Spring (April-July). The ISEE scores are usually available 10-14 business days after testing, so keep this in mind when scheduling the test date.


How long is the ISEE?

The ISEE times vary based on each assessment level:

  • Primary Level 2 (entering Grade 2): 53 minutes plus time for writing prompt
  • Primary Level 3 (entering Grade 3): 54 minutes plus time for writing prompt
  • Primary Level 4 (entering Grade 4): 60 minutes plus time for writing prompt
  • Lower Level (entering Grades 5 and 6): 2 hours and 20 minutes
  • Middle Level (entering Grades 7 and 8): 2 hours and 40 minutes
  • Upper Level (entering Grades 9-12): 2 hours and 40 minutes


How much does the ISEE examination cost?

Prometric testing centers offer the ISEE test in an online format for students entering Grades 5-12.

  • The online registration fee is $200.
  • Large testing groups session at a school location costs $120
  • Small group testing session at an ISEE testing office costs $195


What are the test sections/format of the ISEE?

The ISEE has four main sections: Verbal Reasoning, Quantitative Reasoning, Reading Comprehension, and Mathematics Achievement with an essay prompt that is not scored.

The exam format is as follows for each level:


Primary Level

 Primary Level 2Primary Level 3Primary Level 4
Auditory Comprehension

6 questions

7 minutes

Reading18 questions20 minutes24 questions28 minutes28 questions30 minutes
Mathematics24 questions26 minutes24 questions26 minutes28 questions30 minutes
Writing Sample1 picture prompt untimed1 picture prompt untimed1 writing prompt untimed


Lower Level


Quantitative Reasoning
  • 38 questions in 35 minutes
  • Word problems and quantitative comparisons
Verbal Reasoning
  • 34 questions in 20 minutes
  • Vocabulary and sentence completion
Reading Comprehension
  • 25 questions in 25 minutes
  • Six age-appropriate reading passages
  • Questions relate to how much a student understands and retains after reading the passages
Mathematics Achievement
  • 30 questions in 30 minutes
  • Grade-level math questions
  • 1 writing prompt in 30 minutes
  • Specific writing prompt where you must construct a response


Middle and Upper Level


Quantitative Reasoning
  • 37 questions in 35 minutes
  • Word problems and quantitative comparisons
Verbal Reasoning
  • 40 questions in 20 minutes
  • Vocabulary and sentence completion
Reading Comprehension
  • 36 questions in 35 minutes
  • Read six passages and answer specific questions
  • Covers a variety of subject areas
Mathematics Achievement
  • 47 questions in 40 minutes
  • Math problems that require one or more steps to complete
  • 1 writing prompt in 30 minutes
  • Each prompt is one or two sentences long and requires a student to write an informed essay on a particular topic


How is the ISEE scored?

The ISEE provides several scores on the exam report:

  • Scaled score: this is a common scale that is derived from the raw score. The scaled score is constructed from a range of values. The ISEE range is between 760-940 for each section
  • Percentile Rank: the percentile rank is the student’s score based on the ISEE norm group, percentile scores range from 1-99
  • Stanine Score: this score ranges from 1-9 with 5 being the midpoint. Stanine scores are derived by dividing the entire range of students’ scores into 9 segments
  • Stanine Analysis: compares the student’s performance on all areas of the exam

For more information on how the ISEE assessment is scored and to see a sample of an ISEE report click here.


Tips and strategies for the ISEE Test Prep

Here are a few things you can do at home to better prepare for the ISEE exam:

  • Make sure to take time to practice for the exam- take ISEE practice tests to make sure you are familiar with the format and question types
  • Build your vocabulary by reading as much as possible. Look up unfamiliar vocabulary and try to recognize root words.
  • Don’t wait until the last minute to study. Take the time to improve on your weaker areas.
  • There is no penalty for wrong answers on the ISEE, so try your best and never leave a question blank


How can MINDSPIRE help with the ISEE Test Prep?

At MINDSPIRE, we provide tutoring and test prep that is tailored to specific learning styles and individual needs. If you are interested in getting a tutor for the ISEE give us a call at 844-537-PREP (7737).


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