The Independent School Entrance Examination (ISEE) is a standardized test that is used by private and magnet schools throughout the United States to determine eligible candidates for enrollment. It is divided into three levels for candidates entering different grades. While the material in each test is unique, they cover the same comprehension and critical thinking skills. This test was created and is administered by the Educational Records Bureau (ERB). It was developed by ERB to meet standards as defined by the National Council of Teachers of Math (NCTM) as well as standards set by the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE). ERB has employed a number of statisticians to confirm that every item on the test is suited to providing the most accurate assessments. Students can ensure success by knowing what to expect from the ISEE.
Three Levels of Testing
Each level of testing takes between two hours and 20 minutes (lower level) and two hours and 40 minutes (middle and upper level). The extra 20 minutes are split between Reading Comprehension and Mathematics Achievement in the middle and upper levels. Below are the grade distinctions:
- Lower Level (Entering grades 5 and 6)
- Middle Level (Entering grades 7 and 8)
- Upper Level (Entering grades 9 through 12)
All three levels test the same four areas of learning and comprehension with appropriate levels of material. Below is a concise definition of each area as provided by ERB on the ISEE website:
- Verbal Reasoning – This is the ability to interpret words and infer meanings of words to find the overall message of a passage. Students must be able to see comparisons and contrasts and follow logic to critically think about what is being expressed in a given passage. There are two types of questions on the ISEE in this area: sentence completion and synonyms. In each area, the vocabulary of the student and his or her verbal reasoning skills will be tested in different ways. The synonym section requires students to select a word that closely matches the meaning of a given word. The sentence completion section tests the student’s ability to functionally use their vocabulary.
- Quantitative Reasoning – This area tests the student’s ability to solve word problems with mathematics. This section is one of two mathematic sections in the ISEE. This section tests the development of the student’s reasoning skills by asking them to analyze and interpret data, estimate numerical values and understand concepts of measurements and their applications. At the lower level, the questions require simple calculations. Higher levels will require a functioning knowledge of algebra, geometry and data analysis.
- Reading Comprehension – In this section, students are asked to read five select passages ranging from literature, science and history. They are then asked a series of questions about the passage they read. Questions will test the student’s ability to find the main idea, supporting idea, organizational logic and tone/style of the overall passage.
- Mathematics Achievement – This section tests the mathematical skills gained from the very beginning of formal education. Every question is aligned with standards set by the NCTM. Areas that will be tested include order of operations, geometry, algebra, measurement and problem solving.
Basic Preparation Strategies
Robert Kennedy, a former private school admissions administrator, suggests that preparation is key to success. He suggests the basic strategies below to help prepare future students.
- Take Multiple Practice Tests – Practice tests help create a level of comfort and familiarity with the ISEE. Tests are formatted identically to the ISEE, so students will enter the real exam knowing what to expect. The exact test questions will vary, but the overall structure and ways of thinking will be familiar. Kennedy suggests beginning to take practice tests six months to one year before students will be taking the actual test.
- Study, Study, Study – Students can be ready for the exam by properly pacing study sessions over the course of six months to a year. Kennedy suggests that each study session range from 15-30 minutes per day, five days a week. This gives students a break on the weekends and doesn’t consume a large amount of the day.
- Utilize Others’ Knowledge – Students should seek assistance from current teachers and tutors to develop knowledge in the areas that will be tested. Students may wish to consider hiring an ISEE tutor to help them develop specific test taking strategies and focused mentoring. Tutors can be found through http://www.varsitytutors.com.
Success is Within Reach
Students can be prepared for the exam simply by knowing what to expect from the ISEE. By practicing basic test preparation strategies and one-on-one tutoring, success is inevitable. With hard work, determination and preparation there is nothing to be feared from the ISEE.
About the Author: Alexander O’Neil is a contributing writer and an independent success counselor. He created a business that specializes in advising parents on how to ensure their children’s success from an early age.