Comparing The ISEE And The SSAT

Which is better: the Independent School Entrance Exam (ISEE) or the Secondary School Aptitude Test (SSAT)? Well, both are used for entrance into private/independent schools, but they’re not exactly interchangeable.

Some independent schools will accept only the ISEE, others only the SSAT, and some will consider whichever test you scored higher on. But, before you spend tons of hours prepping for one test, make sure the school(s) you’re interested in accept it.

Test levels: First of all, the ISEE has three levels: lower for students currently in grades 4-5, middle for grades 6-7 and upper for grades 8-11. The SSAT only has two levels: lower for students currently in grades 5-7 and upper for grades 8-11.

Test format: Both tests have five sections with multiple choice questions (Verbal Reasoning, Quantitative Reasoning, Reading Comprehension, Mathematical Achievement and an optional essay). You can opt to send your essay to schools, or you can leave it off from your scoring report entirely. But, it’s in your best interest to prep for the essay and include it.

The main difference is that the ISEE has synonym recognition and sentence completion questions in its Verbal Reasoning Section, and the SSAT has synonym recognition and analogy questions instead of sentence completion. Analogies will ask you to compare meaning of words.

Score reporting: This is the biggest difference between the two tests. You can take the SSAT multiple times per year, and combine your best section scores from the separate tests. But, you can only take the ISEE once every six months, meaning you can only report one set of scores.

Scoring: For each test, you will be given a numerical score and a percentile rank. But, schools really only look at your percentile rank. Top schools expect students to score in the top 90th percentile – better than 90 percent of your peers. Average schools want scores in the top 75th percentile, and some below-average schools will accept students in the top 50th percentile.

When to guess? There is no penalty for an incorrect answer on the ISEE, but you will be penalized 0.25 points for one on the SSAT. So, if you can narrow down to three possible answer choices, then guess.

Which is easier SSAT or ISEE? The questions should be equally difficult on each test, although there might be slight variations. But, some students find the ISEE easier because there is no penalty for guessing.

Which test to take? First, you need to find out which test the schools you’re applying to accept. But, if they accept both and you’re serious about preparing, the SSAT might be your better choice because you can take it multiple times. This will give you more time to prepare and learn from your mistakes.

SSAT/ISEE prep: The prep can be totally different for each test. For the ISEE, you need to prepare to ace the test the very first time you take it. So, you need to take multiple, full-length practice tests. But, because you’re allowed to combine scores on the SSAT, you could prepare for a couple sections at a time. However, you still need to form a preparation plan and adhere to it. That’s why many students opt to work with a private tutor who can create a plan that will ensure you succeed.