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ISEE Prep for Students with Disabilities: Part I

The demands of the ISEE can be overwhelming for any student, but it can be especially difficult for students with a learning disability and/or ADHD. Part I of this post will address the unique requirements and characteristics of the ISEE, along with the process of applying for accommodations.

While there is no magic formula to help a student get a high score, there are steps to help every student get the highest score possible, especially those with learning differences.

  1. Make sure students understand that the ISEE is different from other tests

Most students, especially younger ones, are used to standardized tests (such as the CTP—commonly referred to as the “ERBs”—or the California state tests) that measure the concepts they have learned that year. The ISEE is different. First, students from multiple grade-levels take the same test. The Middle Level ISEE, for example, is given to students applying to enter either seventh or eighth grade (currently in sixth or seventh grade). This means that a sixth grader will encounter questions about concepts he may not learn until seventh grade. That sixth grader’s scores will be based on how he compares to other sixth graders, not to the seventh graders who take the same test. Even when accounting for multiple grade-levels, ISEE questions are designed for a group of higher-than-average achievers. If students understand that no one gets every question correct and they can miss several questions without destroying their chances at a “good” score, it can increase their confidence and reduce their frustration.

  1. Apply early for accommodations

ERB, the company that administers the ISEE, will grant accommodations to students who fit their criteria and send proper documentation. It’s important to apply early so the student can prepare for the test under similar conditions as he or she will be taking it. Also, the locations and test dates available will be more limited when the test is taken with accommodations.

The requirements for accommodations, as listed on the ERB website, are:

The student must:

  • have a disability that necessitates testing accommodations.
  • have complete and specific documentation that establishes a current need for the requested accommodations.
  • currently receive and utilize the requested accommodations, due to the disability, on a regular basis for school-based testing in the student’s present school environment.

Types of Supporting Documentation That May Be Submitted for ISEE Accommodations:

  • Formal Testing – a complete psycho-educational evaluation dated within the last three years
  • An Individualized Educational Plan (IEP) or 504 Plan from the current calendar year
  • A School Accommodation Plan from the current calendar year
  • Physician Letter – a letter from a medical doctor if the accommodations are required due to a medically treated issue such as an injury, a vision impairment, deafness, paralysis, ADD or ADHD (treated with prescriptions), a psychological condition, or a physical disability.
  1. Register early for a test date that allows for a retake

Last year, the ISEE changed its policies to allow students to take the ISEE once per “testing season”: Fall (Aug.-Nov.), Winter (Dec.-March), and Spring/Summer (April-July). For a student with a disability, it can be especially reassuring to know he or she has the option to take the test again. The best month is probably November, which allows both time to prepare and the option of a retake in December or early January. The November test dates fill fast, so it’s important to register early!

  1. Consider whether the computer or paper test is best for the student and practice with that format

The ISEE is now offered on paper, with group administration, or on the computer (individually administered) at Prometric testing centers. The computer-based test requires all test-takers to type their essay (without spelling or grammar check) and might allow students to proceed to the next section if they finish early. (A student with an accommodation to type his or her essay may also be able to do so during the paper test while completing the rest of the test on paper.) There are currently practice materials available both online and on paper, and many online practice tests can be printed. Work with your student to decide which version would work best for them, then practice with that format.

Students can begin test preparations at the same time they register for the test and apply for accommodations. Private tutoring, such as the services offered by LA Tutors, is a great way to guide students and parents through the test preparation process. Part II of this post will discuss test preparation strategies that are useful for most standardized tests, along with some suggestions specific to the ISEE.

Katherine Friedman

Author Katherine Friedman

As the Program Co-Director at LA Tutors, Katherine is responsible for developing LA Tutors' curricula and contributes to the LA Tutors educational resources and blog. She has over ten years of classroom teaching experience in a variety of settings with diverse groups of learners: in the United States and internationally, special and general education, and public and private school. With a Masters degree in Education, she has been tutoring throughout her career and loves the opportunity to reach students in a one-on-one or small group setting. She began working as a test preparation tutor in graduate school and enjoys helping students build their understanding and confidence of standardized tests, including the ISEE, SAT, GRE, and CBEST.

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