The Lower Level of the ISEE

All about the ISEE Lower Level

The Lower Level of the ISEE refers to the examination that students wanting admission in the 5th and the 6th grades of American schools should take. Students who are in the 4th and 5th grades are eligible to take this test. This test has all the sections that are common to all the three levels of this exam, namely, the Quantitative section, the Verbal Reasoning section, the Mathematics Achievement section and the Essay section. As this section is meant for students of the 5th and 6th grades, the standard of questions is much lower than that of the higher levels. The number of questions is also lesser in comparison to those of the corresponding sections of the higher levels.

A student can take the Lower Level examination only once a year.

Let us look at the different sections of this examination:

  • Verbal Reasoning- This section consists of questions that need to be answered with grammatically and conceptually appropriate words in the Sentence Completion section, and with synonyms in the other parts. This test consists of 34 questions that need to be answered in 20 minutes.

  • Quantitative Reasoning - This section tests basic Mathematics skills. It consists of 35 questions that have to be answered in 30 minutes. The standard of the questions is compatible with that of the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM). The Lower Level Mathematics consists of questions from a standardized 4th and 5th standard syllabus. For example, order of operations of mathematical signs (addition, multiplication, subtraction and division), Conversions, and Basic Algebra and Geometry.

  • Reading Comprehension - The Reading Comprehension section consists of 25 questions that have to be answered in 25 minutes. There are 5 passages that have to be answered with alternatives from 5 answer choices provided at the end of each passage.

  • Mathematics Achievement- This section consists of 30 questions that need to be answered in 30 minutes. Similar to the Quantitative Reasoning section, this section consists of questions from basic Mathematics, but the topics are different from those covered in the Quantitative Reasoning section.

  • Essay- The student has to write a sample essay on a topic that is allotted at random. This essay is not scored by the ISEE evaluators, but by the schools in which the student wants to take admission.

Tips to Answer the ISEE Lower Level Questions

Here are some strategies for coping with the questions of the different sections in the Lower Level test:

Verbal Reasoning Section:

Synonyms- The answer alternatives of this section are listed out alphabetically. To answer a question fast, one can think of a synonym of the question in the alphabetical order and look it up for its presence in the list.

Sentence Completion- One of the best ways to tackle this section is to first guess the overall meaning of the sentence and then try to fill it in with the given answer alternatives. Special attention should be paid to words that express relationships in sentences, such as 'though', 'even', 'if', 'because', 'unless' etc. as these will help you in deducing the intended meaning of the sentence with the blank better, before completing it with one of the given answer choices.

Quantitative Reasoning

This section involves very few mathematical calculations, though the questions are based on Mathematical reasoning. It requires one to find out exactly the intent of the question asked, elimination of irrelevant information, working with the relevant information to find out if the question requires mathematical estimation or actual calculations, and actually working with the problem to arrive at the correct solution.

Reading Comprehension

Here, the student should be trained in identifying the main idea of a given passage and its supporting facts. The line numbers, given with the passage, can be used for referring to sections of the passage, as and when required.

Mathematics Achievements

The same approach as in the Quantitative Reasoning section can be used to answer this section. The answers are all listed in logical order and one can keep this fact in mind while answering questions of this section.

Essay Section

Writing a good essay requires one to first read the topic carefully, plan out its contents, mentally organize them into logical and sequential units and then finally write the essay.


This examination is meant for students of lower grades, but its content areas are quite tough. Hence, a student should be first trained by his teachers and parents to perform well in it.