The Independent School Entrance Examination (ISEE) is produced by the ERB (Educational Records Bureau). It is used for admission to private elementary schools, middle schools, junior high schools, and high schools. Some boarding schools will also take the ISEE, although most prefer the SSAT.
ERB offers three versions of the ISEE Primary test:
- ISEE Primary 2—for 1st graders applying to 2nd grade
- ISEE Primary 3—for 2nd graders applying to 3rd grade
- ISEE Primary 4—for 3rd graders applying to 4th grade
These tests are administered online and contain multiple-choice math and reading comprehension questions, as well as multiple-choice listening questions for ISEE Primary 2 test-takers, a picture prompt-based essay for ISEE Primary 3 test-takers, and a written prompt for Primary 4 test-takers.
There are also three versions of ISEE for older students:
- Lower Level—for students in the 4th and 5th grades applying to the 5th and 6th grades
- Middle Level—for students in 6th and 7th grades applying to the 7th and 8th grades
- Upper Level—for students in 8th grade and above applying to the 9th grade and above
The Lower, Middle and Upper Level ISEEs are now offered both online and in the traditional pencil-and-paper format. These tests consist of four multiple-choice sections: verbal reasoning (containing synonym and sentence completion questions), reading comprehension, and two math sections (quantitative reasoning and math achievement). These tests also contain an essay section in which students are given 30 minutes to write on an assigned topic; the essay is not graded but a copy will be sent to each school that receives an ISEE score report. The entire test takes approximately two and a half hours to administer.
The ISEE is administered on various dates from October through April, although students must wait six months before retaking the ISEE. The pencil-and-paper version is offered at several locations throughout New York City and elsewhere, and the online version is offered at Prometrics centers throughout the country.
For more information on the ISEE, and to register online, please visit the ERB/ISEE website, where you can also order a copy of their study guide, What to Expect on the ISEE.
The Secondary School Admission Test (SSAT) is produced by the Secondary School Admission Test Board. It is used primarily for admission to boarding schools and military schools in the U.S., Canada, and elsewhere. Some private elementary and secondary schools also accept the SSAT. There are three versions of the test:
- Elementary—for students currently in grades 3-4
- Middle Level—for students in grades 5-7
- Upper Level—for students currently in grades 8-11
The Elementary version of the test, new as of the 2012-2013 school year, consists of an essay section and three multiple-choice sections: a 30-minute, 30-question math section, a 30-minute, 28-question reading comprehension section, and a 20-minute, 30-question verbal section (containing 15 synonym questions and 15 analogy questions). In the essay section, students are given 15 minutes to write on an assigned topic; the essay is not graded but a copy will be sent to each school that receives an SSAT score report. The Elementary version of the SSAT takes a little more than one and one half hours to administer.
For students taking the Upper Level and Middle Level (formerly Lower Level) versions, the test consists of an essay section and four multiple-choice sections: two 30-minute, 25-question math sections, a 40-minute, 40-question reading comprehension section, and a 30-minute, 60-question verbal section (containing 30 synonym questions and 30 analogy questions). In the essay section, students are given 25 minutes to write on an assigned topic; the essay is not graded but a copy will be sent to each school that receives an SSAT score report. The Middle and Upper Level versions of the SSAT take slightly under three hours to administer.
The SSAT is administered once a month from October through April and once in June. It can be taken at various locations throughout the New York City and elsewhere.
For more information on the SSAT and to register online, visit the SSAT website, where you can also order a copy of their study guide, Preparing and Applying for Independent School Admission and the SSAT.
The Bespoke Approach to Preparing for the ISEE or the SSAT
For many students, the ISEE or the SSAT represents their first experience with a high-stakes standardized test. Some students lack the academic maturity to demonstrate their full potential on these tests; these students can score poorly on certain sections because they are moving too quickly through the test. Other students have trouble getting through the sections; they may need help with reading passages or learning how to recognize and save the hardest questions for last. Some students are not natural standardized test takers; they will benefit from learning strategies specific to these kinds of exams. Our tutors can also help students who require specific content tutoring or vocabulary drilling to address areas of deficiency in their math or verbal skill sets.
The Bespoke approach begins with an assessment of the student’s test-taking issues. We then make sure that the student is matched with a tutor suited to his or her needs. By working one-on-one, our tutors are able to adjust their teaching methods to the different learning styles of our students. They can focus on students’ areas of weakness while building on their areas of strength. Students are encouraged to take several practice tests, which allows them to gain confidence through repeated exposure to the test. Feedback from these practice tests also allows tutors to locate areas where students can still do better. Our approach provides structured study with homework assignments that students complete between tutoring sessions. The end result of this mentoring relationship is that students acquire the test-taking skills, strategies, content knowledge, and confidence that will allow them to maximize their performance on the actual test.