How is the ISEE Scored?

The Independent School Entrance Exam consists of an overall raw score and a scaled score between 760 and 940 for each of four sections – Verbal Reasoning, Reading Comprehension, Quantitative Reasoning, and Mathematics Achievement. There is also a single, unmarked “response to a prompt” essay. Each score report includes a national percentile rank for mathematics and reading. ISEE results reflect correct answers only; there is no penalty for incorrect responses. Score reports also list a stanine, or standard nine score, that segments all possible results into nine groups. Scores in stanine five or above are considered academically competitive for most schools. However, there is no “passing” level for the ISEE. Acceptable marks differ depending on the institution. Students can sit for the ISEE once every six months.

The ISEE in brief
The most challenging component of the test is its timing. The Lower Level test is only 2 hours and 20 minutes, with the Middle and Upper Levels lasting 2 hours and 40 minutes.  Each section averages roughly 30-60 seconds per question, with a half-hour essay based on one prompt. The exam relies heavily on logic, mathematics, and reading skills. Completing a full practice test and identifying weak areas will be the most helpful method to prepare for the test. You may also want to take a look at these ISEE flashcards as well. Because incorrect answers carry no penalty, do not leave questions blank, even if you are guessing.

Why isn’t the essay scored?
It may seem odd that an entire portion of the ISEE isn’t assessed. Instead, the testing company distributes a copy of this essay to each school along with the score report. The essay serves as an equally administered, timed example of the student’s writing ability for schools to review. For those students who may not perform well on standardized assessments, this is one method to show your skills outside of multiple-choice responses.

What education level does the ISEE test?
The ISEE typically tests at a level beyond what children learn in school. Here is some great information on comparing the ISEE and the SSAT that you may find useful. For example, Verbal Reasoning consists of two parts, synonyms and sentence completions. While these concepts are not especially difficult, the vocabulary surpasses average public school expectations. Therefore, students must work to expand their vocabulary outside the classroom, studying either on their own or with a tutor. At all levels, Quantitative Reasoning includes word problems, while the Middle and Upper Levels also incorporate quantitative comparisons similar to those on graduate school entrance exams. Reading Comprehension is based on specific passages, and it asks similar questions for each passage. Last, Mathematics Achievement varies depending on the specific test, but often reflects a grade level or two above the average child. Read each level’s specific requirements very carefully before embarking on a study regimen!