About ISEE Test

School education forms the foundation of a child’s future and personality. This is probably the reason why all parents want to get their children enrolled into the best school. Many, therefore, think of sending them to private schools for quality education. However, with this decision comes the thought of the forthcoming competition and the entrance exams that model private schools in the US accept.
ISEE or Independent School Entrance Examination is one of the most popularly used exams by independent schools for granting admission to promising candidates. It is constructed and administered by the Educational Records Bureau (ERB), which is a not-for-profit organization that is responsible for providing various test related services and conducting educational research for the schools registered with it.

How is ISEE Helpful?
ISEE helps private schools to admit students to various grades by measuring their level of abilities. Since each grade represents a particular level of ability gained by students with preparation as well as by undergoing schoolwork of lower grades, it is essential that any new candidate admitted to the same grade also has similar level of abilities. The scores received in this test are a reflection of individual levels of abilities, which can be used by these schools to determine the eligibility of candidates.

It is equally helpful for students to apply to various schools by taking just one administration of the ISEE. Moreover, an impressive performance here helps to put forward an impressive application that gets the notice of admission authorities. Hence, it is possible to approach the top schools for admission with high scores in ISEE.

Registration and Fees
There is a requirement of getting registered for the ISEE before taking the exam. Registration can be done in four ways as mentioned below.

  • Online  (registration fee - $80)
  • Phone (registration fee - $100)
  • Fax (registration fee -$100)
  • Mail (registration fee - $80)

Registration is accepted on a ‘first come first served’ basis. After two weeks of registration, a Verification Letter is sent to registered candidates confirming their test date and center. Registration should be done at least three weeks prior to the test. However, to secure a seat at a preferred testing center, it is advised that you register as early as possible without waiting for the deadline to approach.

The registration fee includes fees for testing, receiving the score reports and sending the score report to six schools of your choice. Late registration or any change made in the registration particulars is charged an additional fee. Fee waivers are offered by ERB to those who are in need of financial assistance.

The test's dates are set according to the schedules and plans of the admission departments of the schools conducting the test.

Format of the ISEE
ISEE is conducted at three levels as given below.

  • Lower level – For grades 5 and 6
  • Middle level – For grades 7 and 8
  • Upper level – For grades 9 through 12

The total testing time is about three hours. However, there are two breaks in between the sections of the test. ISEE tests students through 5 sections which are explained below. It is a paper and pencil test.
Verbal Reasoning
This is a test of verbal skills, which has multiple choice questions based on sentence completion and synonyms at all the three levels. There are 40 questions asked in all the three levels. However, there is a difference in the conducting time, which is mentioned below.

  • Lower level –25 minutes
  • Middle level –20 minutes
  • Upper level –20 minutes

Quantitative Reasoning
The test basically tests the reasoning and logic of students through multiple choice questions on quantitative abilities. The Lower level has questions on quantitative comprehension, interpretation and application. The Middle level questions are based on concepts and understanding as well as quantitative comparisons. In the Upper level, added content increases the difficulty level with questions also including arithmetic, algebra and geometry concepts.
A total of 35 questions are asked in all the three levels. Moreover, the testing time is also the same for all three levels, which is 35 minutes.
Reading Comprehension
This test contains reading comprehension questions based on given passages. The passages are taken from topics of Humanities, Science and Social Science for all the three levels. The number of questions and time allotment for the three levels are given below.

  • Lower level – 36 questions to be answered in 40 minutes
  • Middle level – 40 questions to be answered in 40  minutes
  • Upper level – 40 questions to be answered in 40 minutes

All questions are multiple choice questions.
Mathematical Achievement
This section tests the achievement of students in knowledge and skills related to Math. In all the three levels, the questions test the computation and comprehension skills as well as application of  knowledge. In the highest level however, questions also pertain to arithmetic, algebra and geometry. The time for Mathematics Achievement test and the number of questions in the test of each level are mentioned below.

  • Lower level – 35 questions are asked in 40 minutes
  • Middle level – 45 questions, 40 minutes
  • Upper level – 45 questions, 40 minutes

All questions in this section are multiple choice questions.

This test is about writing an essay in response to an essay prompt. All the three levels are tested in a total time of 30 minutes. However, it is not scored like the other sections. Instead, copies of the writing sample are sent to the schools along with the scores in other tests.

Scoring of ISEE and Score Reports
The four multiple-choice sections are scored, while the essay writing section is not scored. The answer sheets are machine scored and the score report is declared on the basis of which an Individual Score Report (ISR) is made. This score report is sent to up to six schools, as mentioned by the student during registration, along with the copy of his written sample within 7 to 10 working days.
The ISR copy is also sent to parents of the students. The services of ERB ISEE also include additional score reporting options to parents, like telephone reporting of scores, online reporting of scores, additional score reports, hand scoring and rescoring the test. However, these services are available on  payment of the required fees.

The following are some of the facts related to the scoring scheme:

  • The Individual Student Report includes scaled scores, percentiles, and stanines.
  • There is no passing score.
  • The schools decide their own cutoff scores to grant admission to students.
  • All the testing items are of equal marks.
  • The scores provided to correct responses contribute towards the final score.
  • There is no negative marking for incorrect or omitted answers.
  • The score report of a particular level of a test section is not comparable with the score report of a different level of the same section.

The ISEE can be taken only once in a period of six months. It is taken only when students have to apply to schools for admission, and does not allow any practice tests to be taken with normal administration of ISEE.

Preparation for ISEE
It is essential to prepare and exhibit a level of skills that is expected out of students at the three levels in order to justify the purpose of taking the test. Moreover, there is a waiting period of six months before retaking the test, which accounts for a loss of significant time during schooling years. Therefore, it calls for preparation of the topmost quality before the test.
A candidate requires more assistance for preparation at the Lower level than he does at the Upper level. However, good amount of preparation is required for all the three levels. Assistance in the form of courses, online coaching and tutorials is available for all levels, and it is up to the students and their parents to make the best utilization of the preparation help available.

In order to guide the students and parents in the right direction, the ERB publishes 'What to Expect on the ISEE' that helps them to understand the features of the test. Hence, preparation can be carried out by following these guidelines. It also has half-length practice tests for the Middle and the Upper level tests.

Making up your Mind
To provide quality education to children is the duty of every parent. Therefore, as soon as you decide to get your child enrolled into a private school, you must start helping your child to prepare for ISEE. It not only acts as a bridge to approach the schools, but also proves to be the best decision taken by you as parents for a successful future of your child.