ISEE Format and Test Dates

ISEE Format and Test Dates 2017-07-26T16:37:49+00:00

What is the ISEE?

The Independent School Entrance Exam (ISEE) is a test required as part of the application to many independent schools. Administered by the Educational Records Bureau (ERB), the ISEE has four different levels: Primary(2nd-4th grade), Lower(5th-6th grade), Middle(7th-8th grade), and Upper(9th-12th grade). Most students take the ISEE when applying for acceptance during their 5th, 6th, or 8th grade academic year, for admissions to schools starting in the 6th, 7th, or 9th grade.

ISEE Format

The ISEE test takes anywhere between 53 minutes and 2 hours 40 minutes to complete depending on the student’s grade and test level. All of the levels test reading, writing, and math skills, but differ in length, difficulty, and structure.

Primary Level (entering grades 2-4)

2nd grade: 53 minutes + untimed writing
3rd grade: 54 minutes + untimed writing
4th grade: 60 minutes + untimed writing

ISEE Test Section # of Questions and Types Content Timing

Auditory Comprehension

*Only Grade 2

1 passage (audio only)
6 multiple-choice (text & audio)
Auditory Comprehension Grade 2:
7 minutes

Reading

Grade 2:
18 questions / 3 passages
Grade 3:
24 questions / 4 passages
Grade 4:
28 questions / 4 passages
Main Idea
Supporting Ideas
Inference
Vocabulary
Organization/Logic
Figurative Language
Grade 2:
20 minutes
Grade 3:
28 minutes
Grade 4:
30 minutes

Math

Grades 2-3:
24 multiple choice
Grade 4:
28 multiple choice
Several picture problems
Number sense and operations
Algebraic concepts
Geometric concepts
Measurement
Data analysis and probability
Grades 2-3:
26 minutes
Grade 4:
30 minutes

Writing Sample

Grades 2-3:
Picture prompt
Grade 4:
Written prompt
Basic writing skills Untimed

Lower Level (entering grades 5-6)

Total time: 2 hrs 20 min

ISEE Test Section # of Questions and Types Content Timing

Verbal

34 Synonym/sentence completion
(multiple choice)
Verbal reasoning
Vocabulary in context
20 minutes

Quantitative

38 Word problems
(multiple choice)
Math calculation and reasoning 35 minutes

Reading Comprehension

25 Passage-based reading comprehension questions
(multiple choice)
Main idea
Supporting ideas
Inference
Vocabulary
Organization/logic
Toney/style/language
25 minutes

Math Achievement

30 questions
(multiple choice)
Whole numbers
Decimals, percentages, fractions
Algebraic concepts
Geometry
Measurement
Data Analysis and Probability
30 minutes

Essay

1 Essay in response to a prompt Personal essay 30 minutes

Middle Level (entering grades 7-8)

Total time: 2 hrs 40 min

ISEE Test Section # of Questions and Types Content Timing

Verbal

40 Synonym/sentence completion(w/ one blank)
(multiple choice)
Verbal reasoning
Vocabulary in context
20 minutes

Quantitative

37 Word problems
(multiple choice, quantitative comparison)
Math calculation and reasoning 35 minutes

Reading Comprehension

36 Passage-based reading comprehension questions
(multiple choice)
Main idea
Supporting ideas
Inference
Vocabulary
Organization/logic
Toney/style/language
35 minutes

Math Achievement

47 questions (includes word problems)
(multiple choice)
Whole numbers
Decimals, percentages, fractions
Algebraic concepts
Geometry
Measurement
Data Analysis and Probability
40 minutes

Essay

1 Essay in response to a prompt Personal essay 30 minutes

Upper Level (entering grades 9-12)

Total time: 2 hrs 40 min

ISEE Test Section # of Questions and Types Content Timing

Verbal

40 Synonym/sentence completion (w/ one and two blanks)
(multiple choice)
Verbal reasoning
Vocabulary in context
20 minutes

Quantitative

37 Word problems
(multiple choice, quantitative comparison)
Math calculation and reasoning 35 minutes

Reading Comprehension

36 Passage-based reading comprehension questions
(multiple choice)
Main idea
Supporting ideas
Inference
Vocabulary
Organization/logic
Toney/style/language
35 minutes

Math Achievement

47 questions (includes word problems)
(multiple choice)
Number sense
Algebraic concepts
Geometry
Measurement
Data Analysis and Probability
40 minutes

Essay

1 Essay in response to a prompt Personal essay 30 minutes

ISEE Scoring/Guessing Penalty

Students will receive a score report with a scaled score, a percentile rank, and a stanine for the first four sections of the test.

The scaled score, which ranges from 760-940, is based on the number of correct answers but may include adjustments for slight differences in the tests administered on different dates. The ERB does not deduct any points for incorrect answers, so you should not leave any questions blank on the test. With that in mind, pacing and timing will play a big role among common test-taking strategies that your tutor will review with you.

The essay is ungraded, but is sent to each school to which the student is applying.

The percentile rank shows how the student compares with other students in the same grade who have taken the test over the past three years. For example, a student who scores in the 58th percentile on the math achievement section scored better than 58% of students in his norm group.

The stanine score is often used as the primary indicator of a student’s performance by a school’s admissions department. Here is a table which breaks down each stanine score in terms of percentile.

Stanine Percentile Rank
1 1-3
2 4-10
3 11-22
4 23-39
5 40-59
6 60-76
7 77-88
8 89-95
9 96-99

Order of Difficulty

Questions on the ISEE are not arranged in order of difficulty. A simple, yet effective strategy is to skip difficult questions and return to them at the end of the test in order to avoid wasting time unnecessarily.

ISEE Test Dates

The ISEE is offered on paper at sites around the country as well as on a computer at Prometric Testing Centers, with the exception of the Primary level ISEE, which is only offered on a computer. Students may take the ISEE once per “testing season” as follows: Fall (August–November), Winter (December–March), and Spring/Summer (April–July). This means that if a student wants the option of retaking the test for the current application season, he/she must take it by November to then have the option of retaking it in December or January. The deadline for students to take the test varies by school, so you should check the deadlines of the schools you’re interested in before scheduling a test.

For dates and locations of the paper-based test, click here.

For information about, or to schedule a computer-based test, click here.