Effective Tips on ISEE Essay Questions

Scoring High in the ISEE Essay

The ISEE includes an essay section, wherein the students are provided with grade-appropriate open-ended questions or topics as essay prompts. The primary intent of this test section is to evaluate the ability of the students to compose a well-structured essay in standard American English. This article focuses on the essay questions, along with some examples of essay prompts and pointers on writing effective essays.

Types and Examples of Essay Questions:

The level of difficulty of the essay prompts differs based on the category of the exam. In general, they revolve around present-day topics or situations that are of interest to the students. Each essay question is a one or two-line prompt and may be regarding any subject. The students are given 30-minutes to provide a written response to one.

The types and examples of questions that will appear in each level of the test are listed below:

  1. Lower-level (Grades 5 & 6)Usually, at this level, the question may be single or double-line topics or open-ended questions. Some official examples of these essay topics are quoted here:
    Topic 1: Describe in detail where and how you would spend your perfect vacation.
    Topic 2: What would you like to do to make the world a nicer place in which to live? Explain.
    Topic 3: Who is your favorite relative? Why have you chosen this person?
  2. Middle-level (Grades 7 & 8)The prompts at this level are 1 or 2 line topics or open-ended questions that are grade-appropriate. Some official examples of these questions are quoted below:
    Topic 1: If you could improve your school in one way, what would that be? Describe the improvement you would make and explain how it would benefit students.
    Topic 2: What would be the perfect career for you some day?
    Topic 3: There are many problems in our world today. Name one you would like to solve and explain how you would do it.
  3. Upper-level (Grades 9-12)At this level, the topics are slightly more evolved that the ones at the previous levels so that they are more appropriate to the level of high-school students. Some official examples are listed below:
    Topic 1: Of the books you have read in the past year, which one made the biggest impression on you and why?
    Topic 2: Your school requires you to perform forty hours of community service in order to graduate. Describe which type of community service you would choose and explain your choice.
    Topic 3: Describe what you would consider a “really successful person.” Explain why you consider this person and this person’s qualities to be successful.

Recommendations on Writing an Effective ISEE Essay:

The essays are not scored by ERB but are sent to the private schools directly for independent evaluation. Hence, it may not be possible to determine accurately how each school would score the essays that it receives. However, based on the information available from ERB experts, most schools will consider the following basic guidelines while scoring an essay:

  • Clear organization and flow of ideas.
  • Usage of correct grammar, punctuation, spelling and capitalization rules.
  • Ability to stick to the core topic or ideas as stated in the question.
  • Finally, the ability to engage the reader with the help of interesting details or anecdotes as part of the essay.

Though the interpretation of the essay may vary to some extent across the schools, the students could use the above recommendations as a broad yardstick to evaluate their essays. Based on these guidelines, here is a list of 5 tips that you could use to write a winning essay:

  1. Before you start writing your essay, organize your ideas for the given essay on a scratch paper. Your essay should have a clear introduction, 2-3 paragraphs of body and an interesting conclusion. Also, all the main points or ideas of the essay must revolve around the central theme of the essay.
  2. During essay practice, you must review all the rules of essay writing and practice on improving your grammar, spelling and punctuation rules.
  3. You must practice as many samples as possible before the exam.
  4. It is highly recommended that you have your practice essay responses reviewed by your school teacher, English tutor or any professional English writer. Thereafter, you must work on the feedback provided to you and if needed, get continued help from your reviewer for the improvement of your weak areas.
  5. For the students who need extensive help, an essay writing course is highly recommended.

Thus far, we have talked about the main aspects of the essay section, along with the types and examples and certain key recommendations for writing an effective essay. We believe that following these recommendations will help students write a winning essay that will be appreciated by the scorers at the private schools to which they are planning to apply.