The Upper Level Independent School Entrance Exam (ISEE) is your opportunity to impress the admissions officers of some of the best independent schools in the world. You probably appreciate how important a supportive and vibrant educational environment can be. If you have ever sat through a boring lecture, you know that it doesn’t take long for your mind to wander from the classroom. Not only can your learning be enhanced by being in an innovative and interactive classroom, but so too can your quality of life.

You will be facing the Upper Level ISEE if you are in grades 8-11, and are applying to independent schools for entry in grades 9-12. This period of your academic career also corresponds with extensive time demands in the form of extracurricular activities, part-time jobs, sports, and family demands. It is important to study efficiently, maximizing what little preparation time you likely have for the ISEE.

The ISEE Upper Level consists of a series of sections:

- Verbal Reasoning

- Quantitative Reasoning

- Reading Comprehension

- Mathematics Achievement

- Essay

Since the Mathematics Achievement section tests core concepts in mathematics, you may wonder why a separate Quantitative Reasoning section is even included on the exam. The Quantitative Reasoning section tests concepts distinct from those tested in the Mathematics Achievement section, and does so in an especially tight timeframe. With 35 minutes allotted for the section, you are expected to answer 37 questions. As you can imagine, it’s not only important to study efficiently; you have to actually solve problems efficiently as well.

The ISEE Upper Level Quantitative Reasoning section includes word problems and quantitative comparisons that generally expect minimal calculations. For instance, you may see something like the following example:

The force of gravity is a force of attraction between two massive objects. It is inversely proportional to the square of the distance, d, between two massive objects.

Column A Column B

Force of gravity when d = 1 m 2 x (Force of gravity when d = 2 m)

In this example, we know that the force of gravity is inversely proportional the square of the distance. That is, if the distance between two massive objects is doubled, the force of gravity goes down by a factor of four. You may be tempted to say that Columns A and B above are equal. However, if Column A is arbitrarily assigned a volume of 1, then the force of gravity when d = 2 must be 0.25. Since 2 x 0.25 is 0.50, Column A is actually a bigger number than what is represented in Column B.

This is the kind of reasoning you need to master for the ISEE Upper Level Quantitative Reasoning section. This thinking is probably unlike anything you have done in previous classes and demands extensive practice. The good news is that, like any other skill, the ability to reason as demanded by the ISEE Quantitative section can be learned. On the other hand, this takes an extensive investment of preparation. Working with tutors and teachers, you can make the most out of your practice sessions by carefully reviewing your mistakes, identifying patterns, and informing your strategy accordingly.