Expert Guide to ISEE Test Scores and ISEE Results


The Independent School Entrance Exam (ISEE) is the most widely used admissions test by independent schools around the world. It is available in three main levels:

  • Lower Level: Admission to Grades 5 and 6

  • Middle Level: Admission to Grades 7 and 8

  • Upper Level: Admission to Grades 9-12
  • In addition to providing independent schools with information about your child’s abilities and academic potential, ISEE test scores can also give you valuable insight into your child’s relative strengths and weaknesses.

    Of course, that’s only if you understand ISEE scoring and score reports. This article will answer all of your questions about ISEE test scores so that you can help your child ace the exam—and get the best information possible from your student’s score report.

    How is the ISEE Score Calculated?

    First, the ISEE does not give you one overall score like many tests do. Instead, the ISEE will provide you with a score for each multiple choice section of the test (Verbal Reasoning, Quantitative Reasoning, Reading Comprehension, and Mathematics Achievement).

    There is no penalty for incorrect answers on the ISEE, so scoring the ISEE begins with a simple calculation of your child’s raw score for each section. This entails tallying the number of questions your child answered correctly.

    ISEE norms are then used to determine your child’s scaled score and percentile rank per section. These norms are determined using the ISEE scores of students in your child’s grade level who have taken the ISEE within the past three years.

    Be prepared for your child’s scores to appear lower than usual. This is because the ISEE tests a more selective group of gifted students seeking admission to highly competitive schools, unlike standardized tests that are administered to all students within a particular state.

    What Is the Difference Between a Raw and Scaled ISEE Score?

    The raw score is simply the number of questions your child answered correctly. If your child answered 20 questions correctly in a section, his raw score is 20.

    This raw score is then converted into a scaled score using ISEE norms. The scaled score provides more useful information than the raw score because it takes into account the several different versions of the ISEE that are administered each year.

    While your child’s raw score may have been higher or lower if your child had taken a different version of the test, the scaled score factors in these differences to provide scores on a common scale.

    What Does the ISEE Score Report Look Like?

    The ISEE score report is divided into two main sections: a Test Profile and an Analysis section .

    Click here to see a sample ISEE score report with annotations to help you understand the numbers.

    The Test Profile provides information about your child’s performance on each multiple choice section of the ISEE. These scores are reported in four different ways:

  • Scaled Scores

  • Percentile Ranks

  • Stanine

  • Stanine Analysis
  • Scaled Scores

    ISEE scaled scores range from 760-940. As we mentioned earlier, this score is converted from the applicant’s raw score—the number of questions answered correctly.

    Percentile Rank

    The percentile rank shows your child’s performance in comparison to students who have taken the same test in the last three years. The percentile rank ranges from 1-99.

    For example, a percentile rank of 80 indicates that your child scored as well or better than 80% of all students in the norm group.


    A stanine is a score from 1-9 that is based on your child’s percentile rank.

    1-3 is generally considered below average, 4-6 is average, and 7-9 is above average.

    Stanine Analysis

    The Stanine Analysis section of the score report compares a students’ scores on reasoning sections to the scores on curriculum-based sections to determine how well the student is working to potential.

    For example, if scores are relatively close on both the reasoning and curriculum-based sections, the student is working according to potential. If scores are much lower on curriculum-based portions than on the reasoning portions, the student is not reaching her full potential.

    Following the Test Profile, the score report also includes an Analysis section.

    For each test section, the Analysis report indicates the number of questions answered correctly, the number answered incorrectly, and the number omitted or not reached.

    A plus sign indicates a correctly answered question, while a minus sign means the question was answered incorrectly. The letter S means your child skipped the question, and N means your child did not reach the question within the time provided.

    This information is broken down into the type of questions in each section, giving you a better understanding of your child’s relative strengths and weaknesses.

    For example, Lower Level Reading Comprehension questions are categorized into Main Ideas, Supporting Ideas, Inference, Vocabulary, Organization/Logic, and Tone/Style/Figurative Language question types.

    If your child doesn’t perform as well as expected, this information can help you determine what she needs to work on moving forward.

    Why Do My ISEE Percentiles Matter?

    ISEE percentiles indicate how well your child performed in comparison to other students within the same grade level. This is an important indicator of your child’s ability relative to other high achieving students.

    Another reason percentiles are important is that they are used to calculate your child’s stanine, which is the number that is most seriously considered by the majority of independent schools.

    We mentioned earlier that stanines range from 1-9. The middle 50% on any given section will be awarded a 5. Here’s the percentile range that each stanine represents:

  • 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%
  • This means that if your child performs as well or better than 75% of students in his grade level who took the test within the last three years, his stanine will be a 6.

    Keep in mind that your child will receive four separate stanines for each of the four multiple choice sections. Most schools will look at these scores and also average the four to create an overall stanine score. A high score in one section can somewhat balance out a low score in another section.

    Do ISEE Scores Measure IQ or Academic Ability?

    ISEE test scores are not designed to measure IQ. Instead, they are intended to evaluate both how well a student has learned thus far and a student’s potential for future academic achievement.

    The Verbal Reasoning and Quantitative Reasoning sections test vocabulary and the student’s ability to reason with unusual question types, both considered strong indicators of cognitive ability and academic potential.

    On the other hand, Reading Comprehension and Mathematics Achievement questions are designed to measure how well a student has grasped curriculum-based material that was taught previously.

    By measuring both potential and performance, the ISEE gives admissions committees a more complete picture of the student. Parents can also determine if their child is or is not reaching his full academic potential.

    What Is The Maximum Possible Score on the ISEE?

    The highest scaled score possible on each section is a 940. The highest possible stanine score is a 9, and the highest percentile rank is a 99%.

    What's the ISEE Score Range?

    Scaled scores range from 760-940, stanine scores from 1-9, and percentile ranks from 1-99%.

    Who Uses ISEE Scores?

    ISEE scores are used by independent schools to evaluate students for admission. Other factors may also be considered, such as an interview with the child, the child’s performance in school, feedback from teachers, the child’s essay, etc. However, the testing component provided by the ISEE is typically the most significant factor.

    ISEE test scores can also be used by students and parents to understand where a child excels and where he may need additional support to continue improving.

    Is the ISEE Essay Scored?

    No, the ISEE essay is not scored. Only the four multiple choice sections (Verbal Reasoning, Quantitative Reasoning, Reading Comprehension, and Mathematics Achievement) are factored into your child’s score.

    However, the essay is sent to your child’s preferred schools along with the score report. At these schools, an admissions committee will review the essay and factor it into the decision about admitting your child.

    The essay will give the admissions committee information about your child’s reasoning skills and ability to communicate effectively in writing, as well as fundamentals like handwriting, grammar, and spelling. It will also give the committee a glimpse into your child’s personality and voice.

    What Score Do I Need to Get Into A Private School?

    Private schools will look mostly at your child’s stanine scores. Most schools will look at the four separate stanine scores and also average these scores to create an overall stanine score.

    A score of 5 or above marks a student as worthy of consideration at many good private schools. More competitive private schools may require a score of 7 or above. Some of the most elite private schools will consider mostly 8’s and 9’s, but a great student who scores 7’s is not necessarily out of the running.

    It is always best to contact the schools you and your child are interested in and ask for information about their expectations concerning ISEE test scores, since requirements vary from school to school.

    What’s a Good Score, a Bad Score, an Average Score?

    Technically, the majority of students who take the ISEE (54%) fall into the 4-6 range. This group represents solid test-takers who are typically intelligent, capable, and prepared for private school coursework.

    23% of test-takers score a 1-3. This should not be interpreted as a lack of intelligence. At times, a low score can be a sign of test anxiety, confusion over question types, lack of focus and stamina, or poor test-taking skills. Do not be discouraged if your child receives a low score, and ensure that your child does not become discouraged either.

    An additional 23% of ISEE test-takers score in the 7-9 range. Only 7% of students score an 8, and 4% obtain the elusive 9. This is why a score of 5 or 6 can be considered “good,” and a score of 7 is exceptional. Schools understand that scores in the 7-9 range are not typical ISEE performances.

    Additionally, the test is designed for test scores to be distributed along these percentages. It is important for you and your child to understand this and to have realistic expectations about ISEE test scores.

    Low ISEE Scores - What Should I Do?

    If your child does end up receiving a low ISEE test score, don’t panic. Use the score report to determine which question types were particularly difficult for your child.

    Next, help your child work through practice test questions, specifically focusing on areas of weakness. Instead of simply answering the questions and moving on, ask your child to explain each answer. This gives you the opportunity to reinforce good, logical thinking and correct misconceptions as needed.

    When your child answers a question incorrectly, work together to come up with an approach that may be more effective in the future. Ensure that your child understands why their answer is incorrect and why the actual answer is correct.

    Parent and child working together general test materials

    You can also work with your child on general test-taking strategies like the following:

  • Use process of elimination to narrow down possible answer choices.

  • If a question is too challenging, skip it and come back to it after answering easier questions.

  • Feel free to write on provided scratch paper or in the test booklet (if applicable) to sketch out correct answers to questions, circle key words and phrases, cross out wrong answers, etc.

  • Since there is no penalty for incorrect answers, bubble in something for each and every question.
  • If your child seems to struggle with test anxiety, work on techniques to calm her nerves, such as deep breathing or even touching a “lucky charm” in her pocket, like a coin or a small family trinket.

    Addressing areas of weakness, test-taking strategies, pacing, and test anxiety can lead to a marked improvement in your child’s score.

    ISEE Test Results - How Long Do I Have to Wait to Get My ISEE Scores Back?

    ISEE School Reports are sent electronically to schools as early as the Monday following a Saturday exam. These reports may be posted on Monday, Wednesday, or Friday afternoons. For online test administrations, results may post more quickly.

    Timing for receiving a parent report varies. For paper ISEE testing, online score reports are available only for families who request “Expedited Scores with Online Access” and pay an additional $40 fee. If your family does not select this option, a score report will be mailed to the address provided on your child’s registration form. The report typically arrives 7-10 business days after the test.

    On the other hand, scores for online ISEE testing are posted online as soon as the test is scored. Your family will receive an email at the email address provided on your child’s registration form to inform you that the score report is ready. No hard copy is sent to your home address.

    How Many Times Can I Take the ISEE Per Year?

    Students can take the ISEE a maximum of three times annually. The test is administered in three different windows, and students are limited to one attempt per window. The windows are as follows:

  • Fall (August-November)

  • Winter (December-March)

  • Spring/Summer (April-July)
  • Thus your child is permitted to take a fall, winter, and spring/summer test, for a total of three attempts within a twelve-month cycle.


    The ISEE is a competitive and challenging test, and ISEE test scores are distributed accordingly, with the majority of students scoring a 4-6. Fortunately, your child can take the test up to three times annually, and schools consider more than just the test when deciding who to admit.

    If your child pays close attention throughout the school year, learns general test-taking tips, and manages to combat test anxiety, she has a good chance of earning a solid ISEE test score and a place at an independent school that is right for your family.