top of page


The Independent School Entrance Exam (ISEE), created by the Educational Records Bureau (ERB), is a test used nationally by independent schools to assess prospective students’ verbal, reading, math, and writing skills. The test is administered to four different level groups: Primary (for entrance to grades 2-4), Lower (for entrance to grades 5-6), Middle (for entrance to grades 7-8), and Upper (for entrance to grades 9-12). Each level test consistents of five sections: Verbal Reasoning, Quantitative Reasoning, Reading Comprehension, Mathematics Achievement, and an Essay. 


For many students, this is their first time navigating the competitive standardized test landscape. Few are prepared for the rigor, self-discipline, and endurance it takes to achieve an ideal score. We are here to demystify this process and help your child take charge of their learning!

The ISEE's Format

              (Upper Level)

Verbal Reasoning: 40 questions in 20 minutes

This section tests a student's vocabulary through synonyms and sentence completions.

Quantitative Reasoning: 37 questions in 35 minutes

This section tests a student's knowledge of math topics ranging from pre-algebra to pre-calculus. There is no calculator allowed. There is a section called Quantitative Comparisons, which tests a student's ability to compare mathematical rules in an abstract way.

Reading Comprehension: 36 questions in 35 minutes

This section tests a student's reading comprehension with six fiction and nonfiction passages. Each passage has six questions that can touch on the main idea, supporting details, organization/logic, tone/style/figurative language, and inference.

Mathematics Achievement: 47 questions in 40 minutes

This section tests a student's mathematics knowledge of math topics ranging from pre-algebra to pre-calculus. There is no calculator allowed.

Essay: 30 minutes

This section tests a student's ability to self-reflect about their values and ideals. It is not graded, but schools will compare it to a student's application essays.

Our individualized approach and experienced expert tutors can help your child achieve dramatic score increases quickly (provided your child completes the homework we assign!).

By working with us and studying for this test, your child will see improvement in their school grades, study habits, and confidence.

Here's how we do it:

Red line of emphasis under the 3 steps for ISEE success at Andersen Education

Atena D, former student who was accepted to every school she applied to

"Being tutored by Remy for the ISEE was the best tutoring experience I have ever had! Remy makes learning easy, and gives many strategies that can help you solve various problems and equations. Studying can get stressful at times, but Remy made sure to make it fun and kept me engaged in the material. I was always looking forward to meeting with Remy and learning new things! Thanks to her method of teaching and patience, I scored 4-5 stanines higher per section on my ISEE! I wouldn’t be where I am today without her."


When should my child start studying for the ISEE?

For the best outcome with the least amount of stress, we recommend starting in January or February of the year your child is taking the test.

Why do you recommend a 9-12 month study timeline?

This is the optimal timeline for the Upper Level test, which is incredibly difficult for any 7-8th grader to prepare for. The test covers 9-12th math, which most students haven't learned yet. Our tutors will teach your child the statistics, probability, quadratics, and even trigonometry (!) that your child must know in order to score high on the math sections. In addition, the pacing of the test is quick - 30-60 seconds per question - and students need time to adjust to this. Lastly, students need time to learn the vocabulary words can appear on the test.

An optimal timeline for a Middle Level and Lower Level test might be shorter - please reach out via our Contact form to discuss your unique circumstances with Remy.

My child scored extremely low on their diagnostic test. Should I be worried?

Generally, no. Most students score very low on their diagnostic test for a few reasons. The first is that they aren't used to the format of the test. The second is that the material is hard and they need to review it or learn it. The third is that every student who takes this test is extremely bright and driven, so the percentiles are skewed lower than normal. 

That said, the lower the score, the sooner a child should start to prepare for the test!

What scores does my child need in order to be competitive for their first-choice high school?

This depends on the schools that the child is interested in. Please reach out via our Contact form and Remy will set up a free phone consultation.


When should my child take the ISEE?

A student can only take the test once per season. There are three seasons: August-November, December-March, and April-July. We recommend our students take the test once in November and once in December. Sometimes we can push the December test date back to January, but that depends on a few factors: type of test taken (online vs. paper) and school cutoffs (some schools are okay with getting the scores later than the application). Make sure to sign your child up for testing as soon as possible, as dates book up quickly.

Where should my child take the ISEE?

There are three options for your child to take the test: online at home, on paper at a school, or on paper/online at a Prometric testing center. We highly recommend taking it online at home, especially since this is how most students are preparing. Taking the test at their school would be a second great option! We do not recommend Prometric centers since they have intense policies and ask students to remove jewelry, which can aggravate some students' test anxiety.

Which materials do you recommend using?

Please visit our Books and Tools page to see which materials we use to prepare our students for all levels of the ISEE.

What about the SSAT?

There are a few major differences that make a student immediately not even want to try the SSAT, so it’s good to know these points ahead of time:

  • SSAT has a focus on poetry and ISEE doesn’t

  • SSAT has analogies whereas the ISEE has sentence completions

  • SSAT math presents as more word problems and quadratics

  • SSAT has 5 multiple choice answer options whereas the ISEE only has 4

  • SSAT has a .25 guessing penalty whereas the ISEE doesn’t


That said, every student should take a practice SSAT, as annoying as it may seem for them. Taking a practice SSAT will help the student determine which test they prefer and will eliminate any regrets/disruptive last minute changes to a prep plan. The scores won’t lie, either. 


Please visit our SSAT information page to learn more about whether or not the SSAT might be a better fit for your child.

Ready to prepare your child for the ISEE?

bottom of page