ISEE Test Prep | Fact Sheet on the ISEE

For many students in New York City, the experience with standardized testing starts well before the SAT exam in late high school. Students who attend independent middle schools and high schools take the ISEE (Independent School Entrance Exam) as part of the application process. Since independent school applications are generally due in the fall for the next academic year, summer is the perfect time to study for this test. Here are all the key data that you need to know to make sure that your child’s ISEE testing experience goes smoothly.

ISEE Test Prep | ISEE Test Content

There are three versions of the ISEE: Lower (grades 5 and 6), Middle (grades 7 and 8), and Upper (grades 9 – 12). All versions contain five sections, although the lower the grade level, the fewer total questions there are. The Lower Level ISEE is 2 hours and 20 minutes long and the Middle and Upper Levels are 2 hours and 40 minutes long. The sections are:

Verbal Reasoning – Synonym and sentence completion multiple choice questions. Sentence completion questions on the Upper Level ISEE may contain two blanks for the students to complete, while those in the other levels only contain one blank.

Quantitative Reasoning – Word problems and quantitative comparisons. Quantitative comparisons are questions that provide students with math formulas or information in two columns, and the students need to decide which column contains the greater value, if either. These questions are not present on the Lower Level ISEE.

Reading Comprehension – Passages from a variety of genres and related comprehension questions.

Math Achievement – Multiple choice questions on a variety of math topics (algebra, geometry, statistics, and basic arithmetic).

Writing – The essay is not scored, but the full content of your child’s response is shown on the score report .

Free practice questions are available for all levels through the ERB website. Working through the questions in this free publication is a great way to decide whether your child is prepared to test or whether you need to enlist the services of a tutor or group class. Remember, students cannot use calculators on the test, so practicing with a calculator will not be productive.

 ISEE Test Prep | Day of the Test 

Where? The ISEE is offered on-site in select independent schools, in Prometric testing centers, and in the New York City ERB (Educational Records Bureau) office. The fees range from $98 to $180 depending on test location and there are fee waivers available for families with financial need.

When? The ISEE can be taken on dates spread throughout the school year, depending on location, and can be taken in pencil and paper form or on a computer. However, students can only take the test once every six months. This means that unlike other standardized tests, there really is no second chance. Your child will have to wait until the next school year to try again. So preparation is obviously very, very important. You must register three weeks in advance (late registration is possible for an extra fee, if space permits) but in general, you should register as soon as possible to ensure you get a space in your preferred location. Make sure that you receive a Verification Letter of your registration. Without it, your child will not be permitted to take the test.

What Else? In addition to the Verification Letter, students must bring identification the day of the test or they will not be permitted to take the test. They should also bring number two pencils and blue or black pens. Calculators are not permitted during the test. As with all standardized tests, if your child needs testing accommodations for a documented disability, apply early to make sure that you get the documentation mailed in on time and ERB has ample time to make its decision on your child’s eligibility.

ISEE Test Prep | How ISEE Scoring Works

What exactly does prepared to test mean? Prepared is whether your child has a score that will, in combination with the rest of his application package, make him a competitive candidate. Scoring for the sections ranges from 760 to 940, which really doesn’t mean anything to most people. The percentile is more meaningful because it explains where your child scored in comparison to everyone who took the ISEE over the last three years. The ISEE score report also provides your child’s stanine, which is a grouping of students into nine relative score groups, rather than 99 percentile ranks. Stanines also represent your child’s standing in his specific grade level, not ISEE test level. This provides a more equitable evaluation of his performance since students from a variety of grades all take the same test, especially in the Upper Level ISEE. In general, a student needs to land in the 8th or 9th stanine to be accepted to the very best schools, but there is no official cut off score. Grades, interviews, and a student’s other activities are all evaluated carefully in the admissions process.

If you believe there was an error in the scoring of your child’s test, you can request the test to be scored again, by hand, for $35.


Some students may be unsure of whether to take the ISEE or the SSAT (Secondary School Admission Test). Many schools will accept scores from either test, but boarding schools tend to prefer the SSAT, while independent schools sometimes prefer the ISEE. As a rule, the SSAT tends to be a better fit for students who excel in math, while the ISEE can be a better match for students who prefer reading comprehension questions. For students who still aren’t sure which test will be better, it can be a good idea for a student to take both a practice ISEE and a practice SSAT test. After seeing the results of both tests, it will be clearer to see which test seems like a better fit. For students who decide that the ISEE will be the better option, the next step is to plan out a study schedule.

ISEE Test Prep | What To Do After the ISEE

There’s not much you need to do. The ISEE test fee includes score report submission for up to six independent schools, as well as a report that is sent to you, the parent. Schools will receive the report approximately ten days after your child takes the test. The score can be sent to an additional six schools for $25. When you register, you will receive information about entering the codes for the schools in which you are interested so that the score report will be sent to the right place.

ISEE Test Prep | Would a Private Tutor Help Your Child Prepare for the ISEE?

Standardised tests are high-stakes in NYC, and you probably have questions about how to best help your child prepare for the ISEE examYou may have asked yourself whether your child would benefit from a private tutor. If you want to learn more about  whether a private tutor could help your child prepare for the ISEE, please read our article on this topic.

Resources and helpful links

We have provided you with key ISEE information in brief. If you have additional questions, you can check out the ERB’s official guide for the ISEE . The Independent Schools Admissions Association of Greater New York also has a lot of useful information on the application process as a whole.

To find out where the ISEE is offered, go to Prometric testing centers, or the New York City ERB (Educational Records Bureau) office. You can also find a convenient location here:

More information on accommodations can be found here.

Free practice questions are available for all levels through the ERB website