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(Independent School Entrance Exam)


The ISEE is an admission test that has four levels: A Primary Level, Lower Level, Middle Level, and Upper Level. The Primary Level is for students currently in grades 1, 2, and 3 who are candidates for grades 2, 3, and 4. This hour-long test, made up of a reading and math section and a short writing sample, is available at select schools, but only online. For more information on this test, please go to

The Lower Level is for students currently in grades 4 and 5 who are candidates for admission to grades 5 and 6. The Middle Level is for students in grades 6 and 7 who are candidates for admission to grades 7 and 8. The Upper Level is for students in grades 8 through 11 who are candidates for admission to grades 9 through 12. The ISEE has different forms at each level for security purposes.

In the Lower, Middle, and Upper levels, the ISEE consists of three parts:

  1. Carefully constructed and standardized verbal and quantitative reasoning tests that measure your capability for learning.

  2. Reading comprehension and mathematics achievement tests that provide specific information about your strengths and weaknesses in those areas

  3. An essay section. The ISEE evaluates not only your level of reading, but also your ability to comprehend material drawn from the sciences and humanities.

The ISEE essay is timed and written in response to a prompt. This essay is not scored but is scanned and sent to applicants' schools.


The ISEE testing seasons are defined as Fall (August–November), Winter (December–March), and Spring/Summer (April–July). While ISEE does not encourage multiple testing, you cna take the test each testing session once to get practice.

Test Structure


Lower Level - For Children Entering Grades 5 and 6

Section  | Questions | Time Allotted
Verbal Reasoning | 34 | 20 minutes
Quantitative Reasoning | 38 | 35 minutes
Reading Comprehension | 25 | 25 minutes
Mathematics Achievement | 30 | 30 minutes
Essay | 1 prompt | 30 minutes
Total Time:  2 hours, 20 minutes

ISEE Middle - For Children Entering Grades 7th and 8th

Section | Questions | Time Allotted
Verbal Reasoning | 40 | 20 minutes
Quantitative Reasoning | 37 | 35 minutes
Reading Comprehension | 36 | 35 minutes
Mathematics Achievement | 47 | 40 minutes
Essay | 1 prompt | 30 minutes

Total time: 2 hours, 40 minutes

ISEE Upper - For Children Entering Grades 9th and 10th

Section | Questions | Time Allotted
Verbal Reasoning | 40 | 20 minutes
Quantitative Reasoning | 37 | 35 minutes
Reading Comprehension | 36 | 35 minutes
Mathematics Achievement | 47 | 40 minutes
Essay | 1 prompt | 30 minutes
Total time: 2 hours, 40 minutes



Verbal Reasoning

This portion of the ISEE assesses a student’s vocabulary as well as their ability to reason and problem solve. The section consists of synonyms and sentence completion. The synonymt tests the student’s ability to choose a word that is similar to the given word. The sentence completion tests the student’s ability to properly fill in a sentence by picking the correct word from the answer choices.

Quantitative Reasoning

In this section, the lower level test has word problems while the middle and upper level has both word problems and quantitative comparisons. Additionally, the quantitative reasoning portion encompasses fundamental skills such as:

  • Numbers and Operations

  • Algebra

  • Geometry

  • Measurement

  • Data Analysis and Probability

Math Achievement

The questions on this section focus on multi step problems. These items target concepts such decimals, percents and fractions as well as measurement and more.

Reading Comprehension

Students completing a lower level examination will read five passages each accompanied by five questions. Students completing the middle and upper levels will read six passages that are accompanied by six questions. These questions cover topics such as main ideas, inference, supporting ideas, vocabulary, organizational structure, tone, and figurative language.


On all three levels, the student is required to plan and write a well-organized essay. This writing sample will be submitted to the school to which they are applying and allows the school to develop a sense of the student’s writing ability. While the essay does not receive an overall score, it is photocopied and sent to each school.


When it comes to actually taking the ISEE, there are a few different options. A student has the option of taking part in “large group testing” at a school, or “small group testing”, offered at various testing offices. Currently, the test is being offered in both an online and paper-based format (The Primary Level is only available online). Both formats consist of the same number of questions as well as the same timing.



The test profile provides information about the student’s overall performance on each section of the ISEE, except for the essay which is unscored and shared with the schools to which the student is applying. The test profile reports percentile ranks with a reference to ISEE norms. These norms are based on independent school applicants in the same grade who have taken the test during the past three years. The norm group for the ISEE consists of a competitive group of students who are also applying to independent schools. A student is only compared to another student who is in that same grade, and who has applied to independent schools in the last three years.  


The ISEE scores are reported in four ways in order to provide a comprehensive picture of the student:


Scaled Score

ISEE scaled scores for each section will range from 760 to 940. The scaled score is based upon the raw score, which is the number of questions that the student answers correctly. ERB will administer different versions of the ISEE each year. The scaled is able to take these changes into account and is able to allow ERB to report a score on a common scale that has the same meaning for all students. This is possible regardless of the test version that is taken.

Percentile Rank

The percentile rank is intended to compare the student’s standing when compared to other students in the norm group. Percentile rank scores will range from 1 to 99. For example, if a student scores a 55 on mathematics then that means that the student scored as well or as better than 55 percent of all students in the norm group and less well than 44 percent (out of a total of 99 percentile points).



A stanine is a score from 1 to 9, with 5 being the midpoint. Stanines are produced by dividing the full range of students’ scores into 9 segments. An example of this is provided below:

Stanine Analysis

A stanine analysis compares a student’s performance on the ability tests and the related achievement tests. These comparisons are made between verbal reasoning (V) and reading comprehension (R), as well as between quantitative reasoning (Q) and mathematics achievement (M). The percentile score is an estimate of a student’s level of knowledge. If the stanine is 5, for example, the percentile rank range is 40-59.

In the analysis portion, each section score indicates the number of questions answered correctly, the number of questions answered incorrectly and the number of questions omitted or not reached. For each section, the score is broken down by type of question, providing more specific information about a student’s relative strengths and weaknesses.

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