Understanding the ISEE

The Independent School of Entrance Exam (ISEE) is an admission test published by the Educational Records Bureau (ERB). This test is used by schools as a screening tool during the admission process. The ISEE test results are widely accepted by private day schools and boarding schools in United States. This test is conducted for students of all ages and has three levels i.e. Lower Level, Middle Level, and Upper Level.

About the ISEE Test:

The ISEE test is conducted for students from grade 4 to grade 12. The Lower Level of this test is conducted for students who are already in in grades 4 and 5 and are seeking admission in grades 5 and 6. Similarly, the Middle Level test is for those students who are presently in grades 6 and 7 and are applying for admission in grades 7 and 8, while the Upper Level exam is for all the students of grades 8 - 11 seeking admission for grades 9- 12.

The ISEE test is available in both paper and computer-based formats. The questions of the ISEE test are based on the following subject areas:

  1. Verbal and Quantitative Reasoning
  2. Reading Comprehension and Mathematics
  3. Essay Writing

All the questions, except the essay section, in the ISEE test are in the multiple-choice format. In general, this test lasts for two and half hours. However, the time duration and number of test questions would vary from level to level for this test. You can visit to see the details provided for the ISEE test duration at all levels.

TheISEE Test Scoring Method:

The score report of ISEE test is very extensive and provides detailed information about the students' performance in the exam and is called Individual Score Report (ISR). It should be known that there is no negative marking done for this test. However, the ISEE test scoring pattern has two unique features:

  1. It provides the details of the students' performance on a scaled score of 760-940 for every level.

  2. The score report also provides a percentile ranking of the student in comparison with the similar norm group. A norm group consists of students of the same level who have taken the ISEE test in the past three years.

This feature of comparing students in particular norm group gives enables counselors to see the student's capability. Alongside, the ISR has a detailed analysis report done on 9 parameters which is measured as a stanine. Thus, the students are divided in 9 different groups based on their performance. However, the stanine percentile is just a ranking provided to the students in comparison with other test takers of the same level. This is often misunderstood as the ISEE test score.

It should also be known that all the test sections are scored except the essays. The essays written by students are photocopied and sent to six different schools as requested along with the student's ISR during the time of registration. Parents and guardians receive a separate copy of the ISR through mail after 7-10 days from the date of the ISEE test.

The schools to whom these scores are sent utilize this information and are then in a position to screen the student's application for the interview. Thus, the ISEE test is extremely important and requires a lot of preparation.

Preparation for the ISEE Test:

ERB has created a book, "What to Expect on the ISEE" which includes sample test questions, essay writing tips along with tutorials for paper-based and computer-based tests. This is available on the ERB website at for all levels of the ISEE test.

This soft copy book is available, free of cost; however, if you wish to purchase this book, you can place an order for the hard copy for a specific charge. Apart from this, there are other study resources available on the online and offline markets.

It is suggested that you avail information about the test guidelines and apply with the ISEE test scores accordingly. Since the result of this test would determine the admission of your child, it is important to be well-informed and prepared in advance. Moreover, it is important to check the admission dates mentioned and then register for taking the ISEE test.

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