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The ISEE – What to Expect on the ISEE
The Independent School Entrance Examination (ISEE) is created by the Educational Records Bureau (ERB). It is used as a component in the admission process of many private schools. There are three test levels. The lower level is for students going to fifth or sixth year; the intermediate level is for students going to seventh or eighth grade; finally, the higher level is intended for pupils going from the ninth to the twelfth year. Each level tests students’ knowledge in four areas: verbal reasoning, quantitative reasoning, reading comprehension, math achievement, and essay writing. Although the format of each test is the same, the material covered in the higher level tests will necessarily be more difficult than in the lower levels. This article will discuss the material found on the test, what to expect on test day, how to prepare, and how to interpret an ISEE score.
The Verbal Reasoning section of ISEE contains three types of items: synonyms, single-word sentence completion, and phrase sentence completion. The next section, quantitative reasoning, is made up of mostly logical problems. Arithmetic calculations may not be necessary. In the reading comprehension section, students will be required to read a passage, then identify main and supporting ideas, draw conclusions from the text, define words based on context, identify the organization and logic of the passage, and identify tone, style and figurative language such as personification and irony. Finally, the math results section tests students on grade-appropriate math – typically the problems involve arithmetic, algebra, geometry, measurement, and probability. Finally, the essay is prompt-based and is not graded, but sent to the school to which the student is applying.
When taking the test, students should be aware of its structure. Each section is timed. Times vary for Lower, Intermediate and Upper levels. Parents should therefore find the appropriate information on the ERB website. All tests have two five-minute breaks for students during the test. On test day, students should bring four #2 pencils and two black or blue ink pens (erasable ink is permitted). Most other items, including scrap paper, calculators, and reference materials, are not permitted. Cell phones and other electronic devices are strictly prohibited and may not enter the test room.
Preparation is key to succeeding at ISEE. The ERB does not recommend preparing students for levels they are not taking (i.e. teaching a fifth year student the higher level test material). There is an official guide to help students prepare for ISEE on the ERB website. If your student needs extra help, you should consider an ISEE test preparation program to help build your student’s knowledge and build confidence in their abilities before the test. A test preparation program will help your student learn test-taking strategies and apply them on practice tests, ideally tests that accurately reflect the time constraints and other limitations of the real exam. Taking ISEE can be stressful for a student and preparation will help them get the most out of it.
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